So, the morning chat show rumor mill has been abuzz with speculation about who Kelly Ripa will choose as her permanent co-host on “Live! with Kelly.” Of course, the speculation is pretty focused on just one person. Of the 59 personalities who were tried out the co-host chair, the most likely candidate to take Regis Philbin’s old chair appears to be Michael Strahan. A former NFL defensive end and co-host of Fox’s “NFL Sunday” show (a job he’s expected to keep), Strahan is a big, brawny guy who’s about as much like Regis Philbin as he is a box of cats or a sugarplum tomato. And that’s not a bad thing.
Yes, there are many Reege loyalists, and plenty of viewers were rooting for other guest hosts (Seth Meyers and Nick Lachey were favorites). Even Ripa admitted she wanted Anderson Cooper, but he’s just too busy these days. On the surface, none of these guys have much in common with Strahan. But Strahan has some advantages that might make him the perfect fit:
1) Guys won’t have to lie about watching “Live! with Kelly and Michael” While I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest his “NFL Sunday” audience is going to migrate over, in the morning there isn’t much on the network dial for the guys. Hooda and Kathie Lee sipping wine on “Today”? “The Price is Right” on CBS? But winning over a male audience isn’t likely to be the real reason Strahan is at the top of producers’ lists. Just as guys might gravitate toward Strathan, his man’s man presence also works pretty well for women.
2) He doesn’t look like a morning host — and that’s a good thing Strahan is a big guy — sometimes it seems like the camera operators have problems fitting Strahan into the same shot with the teensy Ripa. Still, there’s something refreshing about Strahan, who doesn’t have all the camera-ready polish most co-hosts have brought to the show. He’s a little rough around the edges, but because of it he seems more real and less rehearsed. Which brings us to a few other key points…
3) He’s an unexpectedly perfect foil for Kelly Ripa Ripa may be a tiny person, but she’s a big personality. While Lachey brought some nice, every guy softness to the show and Meyers and Ripa were able to swap wisecracks like nobody’s business, the chemistry she shares with Strahan is undeniable. He isn’t intimidated by Ripa, and he’s able to connect with her on the family front (he has four kids, she has three). They’re able to josh around, and Ripa gets to be the old pro (from a broadcasting perspective, at least). Still, despite Ripa being in the power position (it is her show at this point), Strahan is no slouch — he has a different perspective, and he’s a star in his own right. Strahan is uniquely positioned to mix things up — in a good way.
4) He brings something unique to a tired genre Let’s face it — morning talk shows aren’t exactly a fresh format. The only way to liven things up is through personalities — and in the episodes he’s been co-host, Strahan’s been affable and, more importantly, seems to be having fun. If he’s excited to be there, we might be, too.
5) He’s not Regis While loyalists kept watching until the bitter end, it was hard to deny that the magic was, if not gone, at least faded. The Reege seemed distracted, and Ripa played the slightly annoyed but still loving companion of a former hero who’d lost some of his spark. The dynamic didn’t bring out the best in either of them — Philbin seemed slightly (and rightly) insulted when Ripa finished his sentences, and Ripa seemed to be less fun and more authoritarian. Everyone who’s stepped up during the months Ripa shopped for a co-host has brought a different energy, but she might most benefit from someone very different than Regis — Strahan is accomplished but largely in a different field, confident but not cocky, and has a sense of wide-eyed wonder and curiosity.
Of course, it’s by no means a given that Strahan is moving into the job. But he’s publicly expressed how much he wants it — and he just might get it for all of the reasons above and then some.
Who would you like to see co-host? Do you think Strahan is the right guy?