How ‘Live! With Kelly and Michael’s Happy Talk Became So Toxic So Fast

Kelly Ripa

OK, now, everyone can calm down. Kelly Ripa is back at work, she’s made her speech, she’s made nice to ABC and Michael Strahan, and everyone—including them—can go back to giving us happy talk with our fourth cup of morning coffee.

Ripa made a speech Tuesday morning, almost a week after walking off Live! With Kelly and Michael following the news that Strahan was moving full-time to Good Morning America in September May, according to People. Apparently, ABC made a wee bit of a miscalculation telling Ripa and Live! executive producer Michael Gelman about the move mere minutes before the news went live across the interwebs.

Days of speculation ensued: Will Ripa come back? Do the two of them really dislike each other? Is ABC going to cancel Live for a third hour of GMA? Even Tiger Woods’ reputation didn’t take such a fast tumble down into the muck.

How did such a harmless morning show create such drama?

ABC didn’t show Live!, or Ripa, the respect they deserved.
As Ripa pointed out in her speech, she hasn’t just hosted Live for 15 years, but she’s been with them since she started on All My Children in 1990. “After 26 years with this company, I earned the right” to take some time off after the news, she said. The incident “started a much bigger conversation about communication, consideration and, most importantly, respect in the workplace.”

There was no reason, aside from fear of a leak, to not inform Ripa and Gelman a few days in advance; this felt like the executives saying to themselves, “Oh, she’ll buck up,” just like she did when Regis Philbin sprung his departure on her four years ago. Fool me once, etc. etc. This time, though, Ripa took a stand.

RELATED: Kelly Ripa Receives Apologies from Disney and ABC

Disney may be making a mistake moving Strahan off Live.
It’s not like the move was Stray’s idea; this came all the way from the top. Disney CEO Bob Iger wanted to boost the sagging ratings of his money-printing morning show, and he felt this was the best way to do it. “It’s a team. It’s ABC. It’s a group. It’s a family,” Strahan said during a talk at the 92nd St. Y on Monday, according to the Daily News. “I don’t look at it as if I’m leaving one show in a lurch. I look at it as if I’m needed in this part of the family for now. And that’s what it is.”

Yes, GMA makes about three times the money that Live! makes. Andy Cohen, though had a point on his satellite radio show when he said that you don’t “leave the greatest job in TV to be one of five people,” according to Page Six. “He was co-hosting Live! With Kelly and Michael. Your name is in the freaking title!”

Granted, Cohen is a Ripa buddy and on the shortlist of people to replace Strahan. But there’s a reason why Philbin did the show for almost 30 years and Ripa has been on for 15; the show gets shaped to your personality and you get to interact with the audience on a much more intimate level than on a morning news program like GMA, where most people watch in 15-to-30-minute bites while they get the kids ready for school or they get ready for work. Strahan might get lost in the shuffle, which is the opposite of what Disney intended with the move.

RELATED: Michael Strahan Exits Live! for Good Morning America

People love to see the dark underbelly of seemingly happy shows.
Even though we’ve seen examples of the cold business side of morning TV for decades, from Jane Pauley getting axed from Today for being “too old” to Ann Curry sobbing her way through her unceremonious departure from the same show two decades later to Rosie O’Donnell arguing her way off The View twice, we’re still shocked when we hear our morning BFFs don’t get along. So as soon as news of Ripa’s walk-off hit the press, stories of tension between her and Strahan started bubbling to the surface, and readers ate it up with both hands.

Why? Because, as comforting and convincing as it seemed that Kelly and Michael were truly friends on camera, hearing that they may have not been when the red light turned off, hearing dirt about a show and stars that have spent so much energy crafting certain images is even better. It makes us feel better about buying into the act, because we all know that people at work never get along that well, and we should have known better.

So Ripa is back, she’ll sit next to Strahan for the next few months weeks, then there’ll be another carousel of guest hosts until Gelman and ABC settle on someone else. This mini-scandal will fade. We won’t look at Live! quite the same way as we used to, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Happy talk is helpful when you’re half-asleep, but reality is always more interesting.