The low-key final installment of "Live! with Kelly and Michael" felt, in some respects like the second go-round of Sonny and Cher when the musical team revived their show, post-divorce. The corny jokes and the song – "I Got You Babe" – were the same, but the vibe wasn't and the reboot came to a quick close.
Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, a platonic TV team for four years, went through a fast-forward version of break-up, make-up and goodbye, capped by the former football star's amiable, if largely unemotional exit Friday.
That's fitting for a program that thrives on format and consistency nearly as much as chemistry.
Ripa and Strahan’s finale as a duo offered their familiar patter, as they all-but ignored the strife that unfolded last month when she took a break after feeling blindsided by his announcement that he was leaving for a full-time post on "Good Morning America."
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They played clips (including a goofy Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia dance number, and Strahan trying out various foreign accents). Ripa lobbed a joke about memorabilia ("I want to remind the audience there's a run on discounted merchandise," she said, holding up a "Kelly and Michael" mug). Strahan sounded a typically down-to-earth humorous note ("I'm not dying. I'm still in the family... I'm not going anywhere").
But otherwise, it was largely business as usual, with guests and audience contest segments.
Business as usual is how "Kelly and Michael" thrived – along with "Regis and Kelly" and "Regis and Kathie Lee" before it.
Ripa's reported anger after Strahan's decision to leave might not jibe with the sunny TV persona she's forged over the last 14 years. But perhaps she shouldn't be faulted for taking a major change to a show built on personalities personally.
The challenge ahead is to find someone to step into Strahan’s shoes – a point that was driven across with laughter when Ripa had size-16 stilettos he wore for a past gag bronzed. She presented the shoes to Strahan as they shared a Champagne toast and a goodbye hug and kiss.
Look for Ripa to tryout a bunch of prospective co-hosts, just as she did with the search that ultimately landed Strahan. But she and fans go in the latest unknown knowing that the three-decade-old franchise has survived change before, even if the song can never quite be the same.
Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.