Michael Strahan Kisses Kelly Ripa Goodbye on Live! With Kelly and Michael: "It's Bittersweet"

Good Morning America co-host says he'll be back to co-host in the future

By Zach Johnson May 13, 2016 1:13 PMTags
Live With Kelly and Michael, Kelly Ripa, Michael StrahanDavid M. Russell, Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and TV Distribution

Michael Strahan's four-year run on Live! With Kelly and Michael ended rather unceremoniously Friday. Unlike the sendoffs given to Live!'s Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford in years past, Strahan's farewell episode was a much quieter affair—no doubt a result of the controversy surrounding his exit. Strahan preferred the "simple and low-key" approach, though. As a source told E! News earlier this week, "He doesn't need hoopla. He appreciates everyone's efforts but it's not something he expects or needs." And, as Strahan himself confirmed on Friday's show, "I don't like a big to-do about it."

Tensions have been running especially high since Apr. 19, when Strahan's co-host, Kelly Ripa, first learned that executives planned to transfer him to ABC's Good Morning America full-time this fall.

A "livid" Ripa skipped work Apr. 20, which sent producers scrambling to fill her seat. When she returned Apr. 26, Ripa insisted the dispute was about "respect in the workplace" and promised viewers she didn't blame Strahan. "I am thrilled for you," she said.

Intentional or not, the co-hosts both wore black on Friday's show; some Twitter users said it looked like they were attending a funeral. "Don't take this as a bad sign: It's Friday the 13th," Ripa said. Strahan explained that 13 "is a lucky number" for him and joked about his tall stature. "I am happy," he said. "I'm not six feet under; I'm six-foot-five above the ground."

David M. Russell, Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and TV Distribution

"It is your final day. We all came today to celebrate you," Ripa continued, promising more tributes to come later in the show. Then, she joked, "We want to remind the audience that there is a run on discounted merchandise." Strahan riffed off his co-host, saying, "They're collector's items now!"

Jokes aside, Strahan described his exit as "bittersweet."

"This is a moment that I didn't anticipate...at least at this point, but I'm going to enjoy it. I'm not dying. I'm still in the family," he said. "And I'm going to come back if I'm ever asked to co-host."

"You can fill in for me," Ripa said. "I start vacation in a couple of weeks!" She was kidding, of course, but Strahan still declined. "I don't know about that," he said, joking that it might be "too soon."

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The co-hosts went on to review some of Strahan's best moments, but the episode was not entirely dedicated to his time on the show. "Nothing makes us happier than watching flashbacks of ourselves," Ripa said at one point. Later on, they interviewed The Nice Guys actor Matt Bomer and New York Knicks player Carmelo Anthony.

Before his interview began, Bomer thanked Strahan for "helping the great unrequited love of my life, Kelly Ripa, host this show so well." He added, "Whether you're here looking all dapper or in a gold lamé thong in Magic Mike, you always conduct yourself with great intelligence and grace and generosity, and I wish you all the best."

Ten minutes before the show ended, Strahan and Ripa watched a montage of their favorite Live! moments. "A lot has happened. A lot has happened," Strahan reiterated. Then, he gave Ripa a hug and a kiss. When the show returned from commercial break, only Strahan and Ripa were left on stage. "As a going away present, we decided to commemorate some of your biggest Halloween achievements by preserving a pair of actual heels you wore on the show by having them bronzed!" Ripa said. Strahan couldn't believe it, saying, "Are you real? Seriously?" Ripa was especially pleased with the gift, telling him, "Nobody rocks a size 16 stiletto better than you!

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David M. Russell, Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and TV Distribution

Strahan also received a framed photo of himself and Ripa in shorts. "We look like twins!" she joked. "On a more serious note, we put together a photo book of memories of all us together for you to take home, so you know that no matter where you go, you're here with us always," she continued. "Always! Look at all we did together. We did everything together."

Clinking her champagne glass with his, Ripa added, "I just want to say, on behalf of myself and all of us, we couldn't be prouder of you. You have given us so much joy in the mornings, from your smile to your sense of humor to your horrible French accent. We really are so, so proud of you. We've achieved so much together and I look forward to watching you every morning and seeing what you achieve." Then it was Strahan's turn to say goodbye. "I just want to say, it is very bittersweet for me. I just want to say thank you to everybody. It's amazing to come here. You guys have let me into your homes for the last few years every day...I didn't know what to expect...it's been so overwhelming with the response that we've had over the last four years, that you guys have loved this show. It means the world that you give us an hour a day...It is not about myself, it is not about you, it's about everybody here. We have an incredible staff." To the viewers, he said, "We love you. We appreciate you. I love you." Strahan, whose closing speech was nearly cut off as credits rolled, then gave Ripa two more kisses.

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ABC had originally planned for Strahan to remain on Live! through the summer, but on Apr. 26, a show spokesperson told E! News that his last day had been moved up to May 13. The decision, it turned out, was made at Ripa's insistence. "What we've explained to them is, well, if you had asked us, we would have told you, 'Guys, we need to start looking because we have summer hiatus. We have vacation time. We need to find people. If we're going to have this list narrowed down at least to a manageable size by the fall, we need to start now,'" Ripa told People just days before Strahan's exit. "We have to now find another great person, which is fun but challenging. Our show is one based on chemistry and camaraderie and trust. All those things don't just happen; it doesn't fall out of the sky. It takes a lot of work, and it takes a group discussion."

An ABC News spokesman previously said Strahan will continue his part-time role on Good Morning America, appearing a few times a week, before his full-time role begins in September. Strahan will also tape a full season of $100,000 Pyramid this summer.

Who will succeed Strahan? Some of the scheduled guest hosts aren't in contention for the job, like Jimmy Kimmel, who joins Ripa Monday, and David Muir, who joins her Thursday. Other guest co-hosts include Jussie Smollett, Cedric the Entertainer, Daniel Dae Kim, Fred Savage, Seal and Andy Cohen. Ripa's reported first choice, Anderson Cooper, is not yet scheduled to fill in on Live!.

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