Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan during happier times together on the set of their morning TV show (AP Photo/Disney-ABC Domestic TV, Sandy SooHoo)

Kelly and who? 7 people who could replace Michael Strahan on 'Live!'

Make-believe spouses. That’s how daytime television likes us to think of its co-hosting pairs. And that probably explains why we’re so interested in the high-profile “Live with Kelly and Michael” breakup.

>> Read more trending stories  

With Strahan exiting the show after Friday, we all wonder what’s next — actually, who’s next — to fill the seat beside Ripa?

It’ll likely be months before Kelly Ripa’s new permanent co-host is named, but that hasn’t stopped everyone from speculating on who the likeliest candidates are to replace Michael Strahan. They range from her regular go-to guys whenever Strahan’s out -- including husband Mark Consuelos and close friend and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper -- to perennial candidates like singer Josh Groban and actor Neil Patrick Harris. Both were in the running for the job four years ago before being left at the altar for Strahan.

Groban can probably be crossed off the list. He’s currently on a monthslong tour of Europe and the U.S., and it’s hard to imagine him fitting “Live” into a performing and recording schedule. Cross off Consuelos, too. No one wants to listen to actual spouses talk about their lives on-air five days a week. Besides, he’s more valuable to “Live” and Ripa as her always-available emergency date.

But Strahan's replacement won't necessarily be a man.

“I assume it will be another man, but there’s no reason it couldn’t be a woman,” said Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “They have two women co-hosting on, like, hour 7 of the 'Today' show, and it works well.”

For now, the field is wide open. Here’s who the experts think could get the job -- and a few other candidates Jill Vejnoska of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution thinks deserve serious consideration:

  • Joel McHale: McHale is the best replacement for Strahan, according to industry web site The Wrap, which ranked a host of candidates based on their “Q” scores. The former “Talk Soup” host and “Community” star rated highest in The Wrap's system that the site says measures how highly the public thinks of a celebrity. With both his shows off the air, McHale’s available, but his humor may be too “Talk Soup” snarky for morning TV.
  • Anderson Cooper: Cooper is probably the No. 1 choice if Ripa totally gets her way. They’re naturally relaxed together on air -- just observe his prolonged laughing fits whenever she gets going on him. And between CNN and his two years as a syndicated talk show host, he can more than carry his share of the interviewing load. But his frequent travels to news hot spots may be what eliminates him.
  • Mario Lopez: Lopez is on the list pretty much because he’s on the list for every such TV job, it seems. He hosts or has hosted "Extra," "The X Factor," "Fox’s New Year’s Eve Live," "Miss Universe," et cetera. There’s nothing wrong with him, per se, but there’s nothing very exciting about the former Slater from “Saved by the Bell,” either. Now, if we were talking about Screech …
  • Taye Diggs: The No. 3 candidate on The Wrap’s list, which says, “Diggs not only has camera-ready looks, he’s a genuinely charming fellow.” On the other hand, he’s also fellow who has a pretty good career going in movies (“Rent,” the upcoming “The Best Man Wedding”) and prime time television (season three of “Murder in the First” starts on TNT next month) -- would he have to give all that up in order to play Travel Trivia with Kelly five mornings a week? Would he want to?
  • Neil Patrick Harris: A frequent fill-in for Strahan, he’s another friend of Ripa’s who already lives in New York. The actor/singer/dancer can do it all, but after hosting his own short-lived prime time variety show on NBC, the Tony awards and starring on Broadway -- he won a Tony as Best Actor in a Musical in 2014 -- could he handle the early morning schedule of "Live?"
  • Jon Stewart: He’s been off the air for what feels like forever. It'd be great to see him back in the spotlight.
  • Jay Pharoah: Syracuse’s Thompson thinks “Live” would make a mistake trying to match Strahan trait-for-trait with his replacement. “Michael was about as far from Regis (Philbin) as you could get and he worked out great,” he said. But what if you could snag a spookily Strahan-esque doppelganger for the job? Check out Pharaoh as Strahan, right down to the signature gap-toothed, goofy cheerfulness, in this 2012 “Saturday Night Live” skit and see if you can find a reason why he couldn’t slide right onto the stool beside Ripa’s without anyone ever noticing the difference.
X