Sure enough, the next day, Kelly Ripa was mysteriously absent from the show that she’s hosted for the last 15 years. Soon, word surfaced that Ripa was blindsided by the news and “livid” with Disney-ABC execs that she was informed about Strahan’s move at the same time as everyone else. Ripa was gone through this past Monday, and came back Tuesday with a surprisingly candid monologue about needing time to process the news — and pointed words about how this was a lesson about communication in the workplace.
A talk show host not showing up for work for four days (two of which were during a pre-planned vacation) is not groundbreaking news. But the story spiraled, with tabloid articles about Ripa, updates every hour and headlines around the world, along with rumors about her maybe-not-so-great relationship with Strahan. The topic became unbelievably polarizing, with passionate Ripa fans in one corner and the most intense haters in another. Even Ripa seemed surprised: “Our long national nightmare is over!” she joked upon her return.
Many people appear mystified by the attention this incident received — if I couldn’t tell from the thousands of Internet comments, I was clued in by angry phone calls from readers who demanded to know why I was “disgracing” myself by covering this story. So here are five guesses as to why this story in particular hit a nerve for so many others.
1) Morning TV shows are weirdly, intensely personal.
Millions of people tune into morning shows every day in a very vulnerable state: bleary-eyed, getting dressed, not quite ready to face the day. Shows like “Today” and “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning” and “Live!” (which airs at 9 a.m. after “GMA”) offer comforting background noise. You get attached to the TV figures you see every day, sometimes for decades. Often, viewers take this for granted, because you just always expect them to be there. When there’s a change, it can throw you off, even if you thought you didn’t care.
2) Office politics.
Ultimately, this story boils down to someone being left out of the loop about an important work decision. Is there any employee anywhere who can’t relate to that feeling of frustration? “What transpired over the course of a few days has been extraordinary in the sense that it started a much greater conversation about communication and consideration, and more importantly, respect in the workplace,” Ripa said on the show Tuesday. Others pointed out it’s a classic example of the lack of consideration shown to women at work, particularly on TV. (See: Curry, Ann.)
“The truth is, the Ripa situation is part of a spring trend in which all kinds of women on all kinds of shows — and now, including morning TV — have been shown what they’re really worth,” Variety’s Maureen Ryan wrote of several other women on shows like “Castle” and “Sleepy Hollow” who have suddenly disappeared or been scheduled to depart. “They’ve been killed off, written out and otherwise disposed of. Or blindsided.”
3) Insanely wealthy people have problems, too.
One of the most common disgusted comments is that Ripa makes a reported $15 million a year for “Live!” — so who cares that she’s upset about a little thing like her co-host leaving? Yet on another level, it fascinating to see people who live such extremely different lives also go through typical clashes with bosses. We’ve seen this oddly mesmerizing situation time and time again, from NBC and Conan O’Brien to whatever is going on at ESPN.
4) The live TV aspect.
Part of the appeal of “Live!” is that it’s … you know, live. Whenever Ripa resurfaced, she would have to address what happened on live TV, where anything could happen. Nothing ever beats an awkward situation on live television.
5) Ripa fandom (and dislike) runs deep.
Ripa is just one of those celebrities that you either viscerally love or absolutely can’t stand. Even “Saturday Night Live” has skewered her endlessly energetic personality — which can be considered delightful, or inspire Angelina Jolie to kick her in the face. Though don’t forget, soap opera viewers are also a particularly passionate fanbase, so Ripa — who got her start on “All My Children” in 1990 — has lots of defenders. And “Live!” is the No. 2 most-watched daytime show for a reason — lots of people enjoy the chemistry and banter between Strahan and Ripa. For as many people scornfully saying “who cares?” there are just as many who leap to Ripa’s defense.