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Inside Kelly Ripa’s Awkward Absence From ‘Live’

At the top of Wednesday’s “Live! With Kelly and Michael,” co-host Michael Strahan addressed the news that he would soon bolt the show for a full-time gig at “Good Morning America.” As the studio audience responded with a chorus of boos, at Strahan’s side nodding supportively was… guest co-host Ana Gasteyer.

Nowhere in sight was Kelly Ripa, Strahan’s co-host since he joined the show in 2012 after a lengthy search for a replacement for Ripa’s former onscreen partner, Regis Philbin. A source close to the show told Variety that Ripa was angry after ABC executives gathered her, Strahan and the show’s staff together at the end of Tuesday’s taping to reveal that Strahan would end his run at “Live” in four months, then move full time to “GMA.” Immediately afterward, the network announced the move publicly. That night, Strahan received a call from the show telling him that Ripa would not be coming to work the next day.

Sources said Ripa was surprised and angered by the lack of notice she received before the announcement. Her representatives did not respond to Variety‘s requests for comment. ABC confirmed late Wednesday that Erin Andrews will fill in for Ripa on Thursday and Friday, with the latter show pretaping tomorrow, and that “Pretty Little Liars” co-star Shay Mitchell will co-host with Strahan on Monday.

An ABC spokesperson called Ripa’s absence “a previously scheduled vacation.” No reference to a previously scheduled vacation for Ripa had been made on air in the days leading up to her absence Wednesday or in Tuesday’s announcement regarding Strahan’s move.

“Kelly welcomed me here and I’ve learned so much from her,” Strahan said on Wednesday’s show, “and she’s just been an amazing influence on me and this has truly changed my life to be with her.”

One ABC News insider claimed that the nature of the announcement—and the lack of advance notice given to Ripa and the “Live” team—was a function of how quickly Strahan’s deal came together. Strahan has served as a part-time contributor to “GMA” since 2014, appearing in the first hour of the show roughly twice a week. Freed from the “Live” daily shooting schedule, Strahan will now become a fixture on “GMA” across both hours of the show.

But the “Live” source contradicted that account, saying that Strahan had long been in talks with “GMA” about expanding his role there.

Both “GMA” and “Live” are part of the ABC family tree, but reside on different branches. While the news division oversees “GMA,” “Live” is produced by WABC and distributed by Disney/ABC’s syndication arm.

When Ripa does return to work, the plan is for Strahan to be beside her five days a week until his new job begins. Then Ripa faces a possible situation much like the one she endured five years ago. When Philbin retired from the show in late 2011, the search for his successor lasted nine months before Strahan emerged the winner, beating out a field that included comedian Seth Meyers and singer Josh Groban.

With “Live” likely to repeat that audition process, Ripa will have to carry the show aided by a series of guest sidekicks whose familiarity with the daytime talk format and with “Live” specifically will be near nil compared to her own. And once a new host is in place, Ripa will still have to help break him or her in. Meanwhile, Strahan’s departure is not believed to be due to any unhappiness on the “Live” set. So Ripa and “Live” are trading a successful co-host pairing for an unknown future. That prospect is not likely appealing to Ripa.

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