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Michael Strahan on ‘Live with Kelly and Michael’ Final Show: ‘It’s Bittersweet’

Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan were all smiles and hugging on Friday at the start of Strahan’s final outing as co-host of “Live with Kelly and Michael.”

The pair spoke briefly about Strahan’s departure after nearly four years on “Live” for a permanent slot on “Good Morning America.” Strahan said showed some emotion but also sought to downplay the melodrama of the situation that was magnified by Ripa’s angry response to having been kept in the dark about the decision to shift Strahan until moments before the news was made public.

“It’s bittersweet,” Strahan said. “This is a moment I didn’t anticipate being here. (But) it’s here we’re going to enjoy it. I’m not dying. I’m still in the family. I’m still available to come back if I’m ever called to co host….I’m not going anywhere.”

Ripa held Strahan’s hand and draped her arm around his neck after they sat down at the desk. But she also opened the show with the quip: “Don’t take this as a bad sign — it’s Friday the 13th.”

The episode featured retrospective clips of Strahan’s tenure, which began in 2012 when he succeeded Regis Philbin as Ripa’s regular co-host on the syndicated morning show distributed by Disney/ABC TV.

The “Live” flap began April 19 when Ripa was informed of Strahan’s move in the fall to “GMA” after the close of that day’s installment. Ripa sat out the next three episodes of “Live” in protest for what she saw as disrespectful treatment from ABC brass, who eventually apologized to her.

With Strahan bowing out, “Live” will begin the process of auditioning co-hosts for Ripa. ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel is set to fill the chair on Monday, followed by “Empire’s” Jussie Smollett, Cedric the Entertainer, ABC News’ David Muir and actor Daniel Dae Kim. Others lined up for the coming weeks include Fred Savage, Seal and “What What Happens Live” host Andy Cohen.

Friday’s show closed with more hugs, kisses, parting gifts (including a bronzed pair of size 16 stiletto heels that Strahan wore for a Halloween episode) and Ripa and Strahan toasting each other with champagne. The clear message: No hard feelings between Ripa and Strahan, who ironically just won the Daytime Emmy for entertainment talk show hosts earlier this month.

“We couldn’t be prouder of you. You have given us so much joy in the mornings,” Ripa said. “We’ve achieved so much together. I look forward to watching you every morning and seeing what else you achieve.”

Strahan showed a little emotion as he thanked the audience and “Live’s” producers and crew. He noted that he didn’t entirely know what to expect four years ago when he extended his TV career from the sports arena to entertainment.

“Thank you to everybody,” he said. “You guys have let me into your homes, every day. “It’s been so overwhelming with the response we’ve had over the last four years that you guys love this show.”

As the outro music swelled and the credits rolled, Strahan embraced Ripa. “Kelly, you are the best,” he said. “I love you baby.”

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