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Jimmy Kimmel has been pressed into service at ABC daytime. The network’s late-night star will be the first guest co-host on Live! after Michael Strahan leaves the show.
Kimmel will join Kelly Ripa on the show on Monday, May 16. Strahan’s last day is Friday, May 13.
The announcement came Tuesday from ABC, and it foreshadows a batch of stunt pinch-hitters. As for the rest of the week, Empire star Jussie Smollet will step into the co-hosting chair on May 17, followed by Cedric the Entertainer, ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir and Hawaii Five-0 star Daniel Dae Kim on May 20.
The Los Angeles-based Kimmel will be in New York, where Live! is shot, for ABC’s annual upfront presentation to advertisers, which takes place the following day on May 17.
Of course, the network also will begin auditioning potential co-hosts in earnest in the weeks that follow. The list of contenders is long, but many are not available. And some have already demurred, including Bravo star Andy Cohen, a friend of Ripa’s, who recently argued that he already has too many jobs.
Sources say Ripa is pushing for Anderson Cooper, also a close friend and her top choice as her co-host back in 2012 when Strahan was chosen. It would be complicated to work out a deal for Cooper, who is under contract at CNN into next year and who also contributes to the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes. Any deal for Cooper would need to be cleared by CNN, where he would need to be available for breaking news. A CNN spokesperson for Cooper declined to comment.
Overtures also have been made to Cooper’s CNN colleague Don Lemon, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. Lemon has demonstrated a diverse skill-set and penchant for quotable sound bites. He’s also hosted CNN’s coverage of the Oscars, so he’s schooled in pop culture banter.
Many other names have been bandied about, including Neil Patrick Harris, Josh Groban, Mario Lopez and even Regis Philbin, Ripa’s former co-host until his retirement in 2011. A source close to Philbin says there has been no contact between his representatives and Live! executives. (Last year, Philbin revealed that he had not spoken to Ripa since he left Live!)
Of course Ripa will have much input and ultimate approval over her new co-host. And executives at ABC and WABC, the owned station that produces Live!, will likely be working overtime to keep her happy. Live! has been renewed through the 2019-20 TV season. Ripa’s deal is up next year, sources tell THR. So executives will need to negotiate a new deal with her after they find a co-host.
4:20 p.m. PT: Updated with the May 17-20 guest co-hosts
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Sterling K. Brown