Kelly Ripa made her triumphant return to "Live!" on Tuesday morning, but her departing co-host will be leaving the show sooner than initially planned.

Live! With Kelly and Michael" on May 13, four months earlier than his previously-announced exit. The move would allow Strahan time to integrate himself into the "Good Morning America" team before permanently joining their ranks in September.

ABC confirmed Strahan's early departure in a statement, telling People, "After meeting with the producers of both 'Live!' and 'Good Morning America,' and after speaking with Kelly and Michael, we have decided on a plan that best advantages both shows for the future. To that end, Michael's last day on 'Live!' will be on Friday, May 13, which not only gives the show the chance to have a nice send-off for him during the May book, but to also immediately begin the on-air search for a new co-host. This plan also allows 'GMA' to start integrating Michael into the show more often this summer before his full-time start in September."

ABC announced Strahan's move to "GMA" one week ago, but apparently failed to notify Ripa ahead of time, causing a rift between the co-hosts. Ripa skipped work two days in a row, reportedly in protest over the apparent lack of respect she felt she was shown by the network. She finally returned to her chair on Tuesday, and thanked fans for their support. The host also said that ABC apologized to her for their handling of the situation, and assured her that "Live!" would remain a priority for the network moving forward.

According to People, the apologies didn't end with Ripa: ABC also apparently apologized to Strahan for putting him in such an awkward situation with its bungling of the announcement. A source also insisted to People that the decision to move up Strahan's departure was not due to the host "feeling awkward with Kelly," though we have a hard time believing it wasn't a factor at all.

"He was willing to stay until the fall, but the network is saying this gives them more time to find the co-host," the source told People. "He's a team player. He will do what they ask."

There's no set airdate yet for Strahan's official "GMA" debut, but expect him to pop up on the broadcast periodically this summer. He'll sign off for good on "Live!" on Friday, May 13.

[via: People]

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