When will Kelly Ripa come back? The future of ABC’s mornings may depend on the answer.
Ripa was an unexpected no-show Wednesday on “Live With Kelly and Michael,” following cohost Michael Strahan‘s announcement that he would exit in September to join ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
ABC then issued a posterior-covering statement later in the day that Ripa would actually be absent until Tuesday, due to a “previously scheduled vacation.”
It seems unlikely that Ripa — whose spokesperson did not return several e-mail and phone messages from TheWrap — was so distraught by Strahan’s impending departure that she simply could not bear to do any work. The pair are said to have had a tense relationship in recent days. Strahan paid tribute to Ripa during “Live” on Wednesday, but Ripa herself remained silent, issuing no statements through her rep or via Twitter. (Such behavior wouldn’t be unprecedented: Former “Live” co-host Regis Philbin has said he hasn’t talked to Ripa since leaving the show in 2011.)
More probable is that Ripa is having a diva-like fit of pique because, insiders say, she was kept out of the loop as network bosses negotiated Strahan’s transfer to “GMA.” (Certainly, the possibility of Strahan’s switch must have occurred to her, however, given the former NFL star’s frequent “GMA” appearances lately.)
Whether Ripa is suffering a wounded ego or her absence is part of a larger negotiating ploy, she may want to think twice before extending her time off from “Live,” where she reportedly earns a $20 million paycheck.
Boosting “GMA” is a top priority for ABC right now. The morning program with George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts has lately lost much of the ratings momentum it had scored in recent years against NBC’s once-dominant “Today.” Moving Strahan over is part of a plan to get “GMA” back on track. The suits aren’t likely to have much patience with a succession drama over a much lower-priority talk show.
If Ripa is worried that the Strahan maneuvers threaten “Live,” her no-show could prove a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Her very actions could cause it,” said a source close to the show.
For now, the bosses seem willing to play along with their uncommunicative star. But their patience could wear thin.
“If you do it too long, it reverberates on you,” the source said.