Ending a search that was more stunt than search, and probably more of a foregone conclusion than even that, Kelly Ripa on Monday morning revealed she chose Ryan Seacrest as her new host on “Live.”
Settle down: He was sort of expected, but then just about anyone was “sorta” expected after Anderson Cooper, 49, signed a new long term deal with CNN in October that effectively pulled him out of the running. Ripa, 46, had always wanted Cooper sitting next to her — or so said various reports over the years — but he ultimately decided he preferred the part-time role instead.
Seacrest, 42, was long considered a possibility if not quite a front-runner, if only because he too has a fairly full schedule. What he didn’t have until this morning, however, was another full time on-air TV job that would divide his time and attention.
Nevertheless, with Cooper apparently out, the field apparently opened wide. There were some 67 co-hosts — essentially tryouts, in many instances — since Michael Strahan, 45, left last May. The Wrap even tallied ratings for each to see which of them stood the better chance. Those results, however, were inconclusive. Jimmy Kimmel’s appearance last May was the most viewed edition. Kimmel, 49, already has another night job. Jussie Smollett, 34, also scored high in the wake of the Strahan departure. But unless “Empire” has other plans for him, he, too, is tied to a long-term job.
This particular co-host sweepstakes assumed additional importance — or certainly more interest — since Strahan left this time last year. Strahan’s exit for “GMA” was a particularly bitter one, but also had the effect of strengthening Ripa’s hand in this selection process. Strahan and ABC had reportedly told her only moments before it was announced on the air that he would be leaving for “Good Morning America.” Blindsided and angry, Ripa then took a four episode leave which got the attention of Disney chief Bob Iger. She got her apology and almost certainly assurances that a co-host wouldn’t be pulled from her again — unless she was the one who made the decision to get rid of him. (Along with “Live’s” longtime producer, Michael Gelman, Ripa is also co-executive producer of the show).
After Strahan left last May, “Live” had the luxury to sort through various aspirants, although Cooper and Andy Cohen were long assumed to be her first choices. Bravo’s Cohen was never expected to make a move from Comcast Universal. That then left . . . who? Some believed Ripa’s husband, Mark Consuelos, would be a possible choice. That would have also turned “Live” into a different show. Jerry O’Connell, another frequent co-, was always mentioned in short lists. Why he didn’t make the final cut is a mystery.
Enter Seacrest. He’s co-hosted the show with Ripa a total of 13 times over the past decade. In some of those appearances, Seacrest offered what he always does (or did on “American Idol”) — smooth, easy banter with his professional partner, and an ability to handle “live” TV. The latter isn’t so easy, but Seacrest spent 15 seasons on “Idol” often making it look easy.