Kelly Ripa will return to “Live With Kelly and Michael” on Tuesday, ending a leave of absence that abruptly began after ABC announced this week that her co-host, Michael Strahan, would depart to join the network’s morning-news franchise “Good Morning America.”
“I wanted to thank you all for giving me the time to process this new information,” Ripa told the “Live” staff in an email. “Your kindness, support, and love has overwhelmed me. We are a family and I look forward to seeing you all on Tuesday morning.”
Ripa stole the spotlight from Strahan last Wednesday when, the morning after ABC announced that he would leave “Live” for “GMA” this summer, she failed to show up for work. It was not until several hours later that an ABC spokesperson attempted to explain Ripa’s absence, saying she was on a “prearranged vacation” and would also be out Thursday, Friday and Monday.
Sources told Variety that Ripa was surprised and angry to find out about Strahan’s departure after last Tuesday’s show, just ahead of the official announcement. Strahan received a call from “Live” Tuesday evening telling him that Ripa would not be at work the next day. The disappearing act sparked tabloid headlines and speculation on everything from the relationship between Ripa and Strahan to the judgment of ABC top brass, including Disney-ABC Television Group chief Ben Sherwood.
While Ripa maintained media silence throughout her absence, Strahan took to “GMA” on Thursday to singe her praises. “If it weren’t for her, if it weren’t for [‘Live’ executive producer] Michael Gelman and the staff there that really boosted me up and made me look a lot better than I really am, I never would have had a chance to be here,” Strahan said.
That same day Ripa made her first public appearance since Tuesday’s episode of “Live,” photographed leaving her New York apartment holding a copy of the Malcolm Gladwell book “David and Goliath.”
Comedian Ana Gasteyer filled in for Ripa Wednesday, with sportscaster and “Dancing With the Stars” co-host Erin Andrews joining Strahan for Thursday and Friday’s episodes. “Pretty Little Liars” stay Shay Mitchell remains scheduled to guest co-host on Monday.
Ripa’s contract to host “Live” runs through the end of the 2016-17 season. ABC had indicated that Strahan will stay on as Ripa’s co-host for the next four months, then in September transition full time to “GMA,” where he has been a part-time contributor since 2014. The search for Strahan’s replacement will then begin in earnest.
Strahan joined “Live” in 2012 at the end of a nine-month search for a replacement for retired co-host Regis Philbin. Ripa has been with the show since 2001.