Live with Kelly and Michael's behind-the-scenes battle—or, as Kelly Ripa put it, "our long, national nightmare"—is finally over.
Ripa ended her week-long hiatus from Live with Kelly and Michael—after feeling blindsided by Michael Strahan's news last Tuesday that he was departing Live for Good Morning America, and that ABC kept her in the dark until the last moment—and indicated that after a week of rumors and tabloid headlines, she, Strahan and Disney/ABC execs had buried the hatchet.
"I'm fairly certain that there are trained snipers with tranquilizer darts in case I drift too far off-message," said Ripa, who came out holding hands with Strahan to a thunderous ovation. "I needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts. After 26 years with this company, I earned the right. Let's be honest, I know that half of you called in sick to come here, so we get each other."
Last Tuesday, Strahan announced he was leaving Live with Kelly and Michael after four years, to work full-time at GMA. Ripa, furious at being kept out of the loop, refused to appear on the show for the rest of the week, leaving Disney/ABC scrambling to find guest hosts like Ana Gasteyer and Erin Andrews.
That lead to a week of headlines about behind-the-scenes tensions, with some stories speculating that Ripa and Strahan would never appear on the show together again, and that ABC was looking to bump Live, which is syndicated by Disney/ABC and airs at 9 a.m. on many ABC stations, in favor of a third hour of GMA. Finally, Ripa indicated on Friday night that she would return to the show on Tuesday.
Over the weekend, Disney/ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood and other company execs apologized to Ripa and Strahan for the way the news was handled, according to CNN.
On Tuesday's show, Ripa said last week's controversy "started a much greater conversation about communication and consideration, and most importantly, respect in the workplace."
Now, "apologies have been made," said Ripa, "and the best thing to come out of all of this you guys, is that our parent company has assured me that Live is a priority. There is a commitment to this show and the people that work here and most importantly to you, the viewers."
She added that she was "thrilled" for Strahan's new GMA job. "This is a tremendous opportunity, and I couldn't be, and we couldn't be prouder for you and everything we accomplished together."
One last thing from Ripa: "My dad, who was a bus driver for 30 years, thinks we're all crazy. And I think he's right!"
Ripa delivered her opening remarks solo, in a single shot. After she returned to her usual seat next to Strahan, he noted, "I'm so happy you're back… I love you… You are the queen of morning television."
With the hatchet buried, the duo returned to their usual banter, as Ripa detailed her 20th anniversary getaway with husband Mark Consuelos and they interviewed Scandal's Bellamy Young and Blindspot's Jaimie Alexander.
Ripa's return to Live today was the most anticipated episode of the show possibly ever, but certainly since Regis Philbin's final show as co-host in 2011. That episode pulled in 9.45 million viewers, which was nearly triple its normal audience.
Update: Hours after Ripa and Strahan made peace on national TV, ABC announced that Strahan will leave Live several months earlier than planned. Strahan had initially planned to stay on the show until his full-time GMA job began in September, but his last day on Live will now be Friday, May 13.
The new date will allow Live to immediately begin searching for a new co-host, while GMA will be able to integrate Strahan more fully into the show before he begins full-time in September.