NEW YORK — Michael Strahan’s last day alongside Kelly Ripa is on Friday — and it’s not a moment too soon.
Ripa is already talking about who should replace Strahan on “Live with Kelly and Michael.” And on Thursday she was photographed wearing a jacket with the word “Freedom” written on the back.
Regular viewers of the talk show say the relationship between the co-hosts has been visibly strained ever since ABC awkwardly announced Strahan’s move to “GMA.”
Ripa wasn’t consulted, and she was informed just half an hour before the announcement on April 19. Furious about the decision and feeling disrespected by her bosses, Ripa skipped work for the rest of the week, sending the producers scrambling to fill her seat.
When she returned to the show on April 26, she said the dispute was about “respect in the workplace,” adding that it wasn’t personal with Strahan. “I am thrilled for you,” she told him.
But she didn’t want him hanging around for three more months, as ABC had originally planned. After speaking with Ripa and Strahan, ABC did a 180 and said he would leave “Live” on May 13 instead of sticking around through the summer.
The network hasn’t said much about what will happen on Strahan’s goodbye episode. (The show typically tapes Friday episodes on Thursday, but it’s unclear if this Friday’s episode has already been taped or not.)
According to the publicity listing, the show will include “a look back at some of his most memorable moments,” but the full hour won’t be dedicated to Strahan. Two guests, actor Matt Bomer and New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony are also set to appear.
Numerous viewers have commented on a perceived chilliness between the co-hosts.
Just on Thursday, for instance, Twitter user @Cajunwealth wrote that “Kelly is acting like a scorned lover” while @dfhammill wrote, “Could they be more uncomfortable with one another — painful 2 watch but can’t look away.”
@SarahLeeNY wrote, “Watching Kelly and Michael on my day off is actually like being at work. Its two people who cant stand each other pretending to like each other.”
Starting Monday, Ripa will have new companions: With Strahan gone, “Live” will start trying out possible successors right away.
ABC had originally planned to start holding on-air try-outs in the fall.
Some of the guest hosts aren’t really in contention for the job, like ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who will join Ripa on Monday, or ABC News anchor David Muir, who will join on Thursday.
But others could be. Jussie Smollett will co-host on Tuesday; Cedric the Entertainer on Wednesday; and Daniel Dae Kim on Friday.
On the week of May 23, Fred Savage, Seal and Andy Cohen will all take turns in the chair.
The name that’s come up the most, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, is not yet scheduled to fill in. But both Cooper and Ripa have signaled that it’s a possibility.
Cooper told David Axelrod on a podcast this week that “I don’t see leaving CNN. Anything I do would be an add-on.”
Ripa, when asked by People magazine if Cooper is the frontrunner for the co-host job, said only, “Stay tuned.”
The People magazine story — with Ripa on the cover of this week’s issue — may somewhat overshadow Strahan’s sign-off on Friday.
She told the magazine that she’s looking for a new host with whom she’ll have “chemistry and camaraderie and trust.”
Meanwhile, questions linger about whether last month’s dust-up with ABC makes Ripa more likely to leave “Live” when her contract is up.
As for Strahan, now he has a little bit of unexpected time off this summer. An ABC News spokesman said he’ll continue his part-time role on “GMA,” appearing a few times a week, before moving to the show full-time in September.
He also has some other projects this summer, including taping a season’s worth of “$100,000 Pyramid” game show episodes.