Kelly Ripa demonstrated what makes her one of the most beloved TV personalities on television today, returning to her morning chat show with a healthy dose of sarcasm and humor, but also as a woman not afraid to speak out in her own defense, even at the expense of network brass. She returned to the show that bears her name after a week of speculation and gossip – the central figure in a daytime television cliffhanger that could rival any of the storylines her soap opera character once faced.
Ripa has not been seen on the show since it was revealed that co-host Michael Strahan would be leaving for a full time gig on Good Morning America – a revelation that Ripa learned about practically minutes before it went public.
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Today, after speculation that she might never be seen on set with him again, she returned to the studio with a healthy perspective, joking sarcastically, “Guys, our long national nightmare is over!”
More than aware that ABC was watching closely, concerned about what Ripa might say, she continued “I’m fairly certain there are trained professional snipers with tranquilizer darts in case I drift too far off message.”
“I first want to honestly, sincerely thank you for welcoming me back to the show,” she continued. “The love, the show of support through this bizarre time has been overwhelming.”
To an audience standing in support and cheering her on with enthusiasm, she proceeded to do, in a healthy, diplomatic way – what many viewers and TV insiders alike had hoped she would do.
She made the network squirm a little.
“I needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts,” Ripa said, referring to her time away from the show. “After 26 years with this company, I earned the right. And to be honest, I know half of you [in the audience] called in sick to be here, so we get each other.”
“In that time, I gained some perspective … I always speak from the heart. I didn’t want to come out here and just say something I regret. What transpired, though, 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.”
The crowd cheered wildly to this reference – a clear jab at ABC’s widely acknowledged mishandling of the announcement, chronicled not only in the gossip world for its drama, but in mainstream news publications for everything from a culture of sexism at the network to what was being described as ABC’s “Ann Curry Moment” – a reference to how badly Curry’s departure from The Today Show had been handled and impacted NBC… a debacle that many believed was instrumental in Good Morning America stealing the ratings lead away from its competitor.
Ripa went on: “I don’t consider this just a workplace. This is my second home. This is a place I have devoted myself to, not just because of you our loyal viewers but because of all of the producers and the crew who work on this show. We have an incredible team. We are incredibly devoted to one another. We are family. Apologies have been made. The best thing to come out of all of this, guys, is that our parent company has assured me that Live is a priority.”
The question of whether “Live!” might lose its timeslot to an additional hour of GMA had come up in the past week, and that last statement there seemed to imply that, at least for now, the show will be staying where it is, or at the very least have a prominent home on the network for the foreseeable future. (The show is renewed for several additional seasons already.)
She congratulated Strahan: “I am thrilled for Michael. I am thrilled for you. This is a tremendous opportunity. I and we couldn’t be prouder of you and everything we accomplished together.”
Brilliantly, Ripa didn’t harp on the matter. Everything that needed to be said had been said.
“Back to the show, this is entertainment, it’s supposed to be entertaining. Let’s get back to what we do best and start the show,” she said.
But before moving back to the chat area, Ripa reminded us all why audiences love her. She put it all in perspective.
“My dad, who was a bus driver for 30 years, thinks we’re all crazy. I think he’s right.”
And with that, the drama of ‘what will Kelly do?’ comes to a near close. Sort of. Now the question of how long Strahan will actually stay on the program, (we know now that his last show is May 13th) and who will be his successor.
But if the audience’s response was any indication, no matter who that may be, they’ll be staying right where they are.