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Ripa doesn’t consider herself the official host of her own series. “Our show has always been a love note to New York,” she says. “I feel like the city is the real host, and we have two ambassador co-hosts who sit in.” These days, the co-host count can be said to vary. In November, not long after hitting his 10th anniversary with Ripa, Regis Philbin left his seat of 28 years at Live! With Regis and Kelly. The months since the show’s subsequent rebranding as Live! With Kelly have found Ripa, 41, sitting alongside a revolving door of famous friends — Jerry Seinfeld, Neil Patrick Harris, Alec Baldwin — and potential torch carriers such as Jerry O’Connell, Michael Buble and NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan.
But even amid talk of firming up the chair, Ripa says there’s “no urgency” to finding a permanent replacement and notes the show’s steady performance since Philbin’s exit. (It recently matched its February 2011 sweep rating of a 2.7 in households and is now the top syndicated talker among the coveted women 25-to-54 demo.)
Ripa, whose on-air mentions of her husband and three children comprise a large part of the bond with her primarily female viewership, underscores that the show continues to be a draw for talent. “One reason celebrities remain loyal is also a reason the audience maintains its loyalty — it’s not an anxiety-inducing show,” she says. “I don’t even think the publicists have to tell us what they don’t want to talk about.”
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