Kelly Ripa Returns to Live: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Is Over’

By Mark Joyella 

“Our long national nightmare is over,” Kelly Ripa joked as she returned to Live with Kelly and Michael Tuesday morning. “I want to honestly, sincerely thank you for welcoming me back to this show,” she said, saying the days since co-host Michael Strahan announced he would leave had been a “difficult time” and that she needed to take “a few days.”

“What transpired over the course of a few days has been extraordinary,” Ripa said, standing alone in front of the crowd. She said the behind-the-scenes back and forth during her time off had resulted in a conversation about “respect in the workplace.”

It had also put to rest, she said, any suggestion the show might not continue. “Our parent company has assured me that Live is a priority,” she said.

Strahan, who walked onstage holding Ripa’s hand, said Ripa was the “Queen of morning TV” and said “this show will go on… I will be just down the street.”

Ripa has not been on the show since last week, when ABC announced Strahan would leave Live over the summer and take a full-time role on Good Morning America.

It was widely reported that Ripa and longtime Live executive producer Michael Gelman were blindsided by the announcement, only being told of Strahan’s departure moments before the news went public. Ripa did not report to work the following morning, and took a “planned vacation” Friday and Monday.

Variety reports this morning’s reunion was the result of furious fence-mending by ABC bosses, who worked to address Ripa’s concerns about how the Strahan move was handled–and how her show will be supported:

As the week progressed and Ripa maintained her distance from the show, ABC execs — including WABC’s Dave Davis, Rebecca Campbell of ABC’s owned stations group and ABC news chief James Goldston — reached out to Ripa to apologize for the way the announcement was handled.

They also reaffirmed ABC’s commitment to Live amid rumors that the network wanted to kill the show and replace it with a third hour of GMA. Such a move would be logistically difficult because of affiliate commitments. It would also be a huge financial gamble, as Live pulls in $85-90 million per year in estimated ad revenue and license fees.