As expected, host Kelly Ripa returned to Live! with Kelly and Michael today after missing shows last week in protest of ABC and Disney. Following a near-minute long ovation from a supportive crowd, Ripa opened the broadcast by teasing, “Our long national nightmare is over!” She then went on to joke that she thought that snipers with tranquilizer darts were hiding in the studio in case she veered too far off message.
The issues of last week stem from a decision to move Ripa’s co-host Michael Strahan to Good Morning America full-time and Ripa apparently not being informed of Strahan’s departure until about 30 minutes before the media knew. Some reports indicate that the reason for the delay was that they feared the information would leak, perhaps by Ripa and hear team. However, instead, Ripa felt the late notice showed a lack of respect to her and to the program and made her voice heard by “calling in sick” on Wednesday and Thursday of last week (Friday shows are taped earlier in the week and Monday was a planned day off as the host was on vacation to celebrate her 20th wedding anniversary).
Ripa’s return speech was open and honest while still bringing some levity to the situation, reminiscent of the “late night wars” that transpired on NBC a few years back with Conan O’ Brien and Jay Leno trading biting jokes about the situation. After thanking her audience, Ripa said she needed some time to gather her thoughts and that, “after 26 years with this company, I’ve earned the right.” She then joked that half of the audience had called in sick to be at the taping so they understood where she was coming from.
The host’s speech then veered into how the story was covered in the media and the perspective she’s gained as a result. As she stated, “What transpired over the course of a few days has been extraordinary in the sense that it started a much greater conversation about communication, and consideration, and, most importantly, respect in the workplace.” Ripa went on to say that, to her, Live! was not just a workplace but a second home and thanked the staff and crew of the show which she calls family.
“Apologies have been made and the best thing to come out of this, you guys, is that our parent company has assured me that Live! is a priority,” Ripa said, speaking to rumors that Disney was considering expanding GMA to a third hour, bumping Live! in most markets. She then went on to clarify that her anger was not about the job presented to Strahan, but about how the announcement was handled. “I am thrilled for Michael. I am thrilled for you,” she said, turning to her co-host, then adding, “This is a tremendous opportunity and I couldn’t be and we couldn’t be prouder of you and everything we accomplished together.”
To close out her speech, Ripa reminded the audience that their show is entertainment and should be entertaining. But, before “getting back to what [they] do best,” the host made one more joke that might point out what some viewers are feeling about millionaires arguing with billionaires. “My dad, who was a bus driver for 30 years, thinks we’re all crazy,” she said, “and I think he’s right.”