Michael Strahan’s final episode Friday of what had, for four years, been Live with Kelly and Michael, provided a wonderful spotlight—upon the hosting skills of Kelly Ripa.
Friday’s episode represented a strenuous attempt to continue the tone Ripa set upon her return from a much-covered vacation. After that trip—which Ripa extended in a response to miscommunication over Strahan’s departure—Ripa declared that she believed in respect in the workplace, and then, put all her energies into a painstakingly lighthearted hour. The show aggressively avoided acknowledging that anything was out of the ordinary even as it became TV’s biggest trending topic.
The final departure of Strahan was, similarly, as close to a normal broadcast as so conclusive an episode can get. After a brief tribute to Strahan at the top of the show—during which Ripa slyly noted that his final appearance was airing on Friday the 13th—the hosts chatted about what they’d done the night before, just as they always do. Strahan was the subject of quick video segments, branded “Flashback Friday Farewell,” smushed between the usual travel trivia and interviews, before a highlight reel at the end that tended to spotlight both hosts’ chemistry together, rather than Strahan’s individual accomplishments. When guest Matt Bomer delivered a lengthy paean to both hosts’ talents, Ripa had the grace to seem a bit embarrassed.
There was no “Ann Curry moment”—the sort of incident, like Curry openly weeping during her final episode of Today, whose glorious awkwardness revealed a broken dynamic. It was forcefully sunny, never more so than at the top of the show, when the hosts went meta and said they’d talk about what they did last night because that’s what they always do.
The episode did provide Strahan an opportunity to say goodbye to his audience (an audience that he has to hope will follow him to Good Morning America, his new job). But his speech made less of an impact than Ripa’s brief toast, in which she declared “all of us, we couldn’t be prouder of you.” Part of it was the episode’s emphasis on continuity; not even the departure of fifty percent of the on-air talent was seismic enough to can travel trivia even for a day. And part of it was that Strahan, four years into a broadcasting career, may still be a little green. His farewell speech went so long (or, perhaps, Ripa’s presentation of gifts to Strahan beforehand had gone so long—who can say?) that, like a verbose Oscar winner in a minor category, he was interrupted by loud and intrusive music that he didn’t acknowledge at all.
Not quite an Ann Curry moment, but a fitting end to a much-covered daytime drama nonetheless.