What's really going on between Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest

Is there already trouble in paradise between Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest at Live with Kelly and Ryan? After searching for a replacement for Michael Strahan for what seemed like forever, Seacrest joining Ripa for the ABC daytime staple appeared to be a fantastic choice. Like Ripa, he's blond, tan, and preternaturally perky at all times. While both Ripa and Seacrest have denied any sketchiness behind the scenes and claim to be BFFs on and off the set, recent reports claim otherwise. What's going on?

He wasn't Kelly's first choice

Ripa's search for a replacement for Michael Strahan was an exhaustive one that allegedly caused friction with producers. Front-runners reportedly included Mario Lopez, Jeff Gordon, and Rob Lowe, but their egos may have hurt their chances. A source told Page Six, "It's a highly coveted job. There's no other show where the co-host gets to have their name in the title of the show — you don't get that kind of prominence. That's why they [were] leveraging [their place in the race]." Other contenders included actors Fred Savage, Jerry O'Connell, and John Leguizamo, who actually thought he'd landed the gig.

Ripa's first choice was apparently Anderson Cooper. She told Andy Cohen during a December 2016 episode of Watch What Happens Live, "He's my life. He really is. He's the one that got away and keeps getting away and gets away all the time." She added, "We just wanted to wait until we found the right person… Our list got very long very quickly, and we've been trying to keep it as narrow as possible, but then people pop up."

Their egos clash

A source told Closer Weekly that Seacrest thought Live With Kelly and Ryan would be more of a team effort, but he's quickly realizing that Ripa is the show's anchor and star. "Ryan thought the gig would very much be a joint co-hosting effort with Kelly," the insider said, "but he's come to learn that Live is really Kelly's show." It's Ripa's world, and he's just living in it.

A source told Radar Online that choosing Seacrest wasn't ultimately Ripa's call. "Kelly wanted someone she could boss around—and that isn't Ryan," a source said. "He's as big of a star as she is! Maybe even bigger! Kelly preferred someone less well-known… Kelly is certainly a big star now, but she's learning that she's not big enough to call the shots when it comes to who'll be sitting beside her when the cameras roll. That's got to hurt."

Their ratings aren't great

Live with Kelly and Ryan isn't killing it in the ratings department, even if both co-hosts seem pretty happy. Television insiders think Ryan Seacrest is to blame. The show's ratings have reportedly seen a 23 percent drop since he signed on to co-host in May 2017, compared to the same time last year, with a 12 percent dip one week after the announcement about him joining the show.

An insider told Life & Style (via Closer Weekly), "The show is a wreck at the moment… Ryan is just not connecting with daytime viewers. He appeals to a much younger, music-oriented audience." The source added, "For the show to not be a huge hit is a blow to Ryan's ego. It felt very safe adding Ryan to Live. No one at the network thought that adding him was a huge risk."

A source told In Touch, "It seems Ryan has lost his Midas touch. The decision to add Ryan was supposed to be a slam dunk, but he's just not registering with viewers for some reason."

She's mad he's doing American Idol

Depending on who you ask, Ripa may or may not feel like Seacrest betrayed her by signing on to host ABC's American Idol reboot

A source close to Kelly told Life & Style (via Closer Weekly): "When she found out she was truly rattled… She feels stabbed in the back and believes she's going to lose Ryan just like she lost Michael [Strahan]. Kelly is truly p***ed that, after all the time ABC spent negotiating with Ryan for Live, they would then buy the show that made him a household name and take him away. [She] really thought Live would be Ryan's focus." An insider told Fox News, "It's like ABC is once again diluting the attention on Live. She wants to make sure her show is Ryan's first priority, not Idol."

Ripa's rep denied all those disgruntled rumors.

Producers wanted to move to Los Angeles

Live producers, at Seacrest's behest, reportedly suggested Ripa and her family move to Los Angeles to better accommodate filming for the show, as well as American Idol and Seacrest's radio show. That did not sit well with the daytime queen, despite Seacrest supposedly being miserable in the Big Apple.

A source told Radar Online, "After Ryan made his demand, network brass wanted Kelly to uproot her family and move to California. That's when Kelly put her foot down and said, 'No way!'" The insider claimed, "Bosses are telling Kelly [the move] will help the ratings because they'll have access to all the stars in Hollywood. But Kelly feels once again the show that bears her name is being hijacked from her… Kelly's fuming that ABC would even consider it! All of her family and friends are on the East Coast—and now she has to pack up and move for Ryan's sake? That's got to make her steaming mad! She promised not to let this happen again to her and the show after Strahan jumped to Good Morning America. Now history seems to be repeating itself — and she won't have it!"

Kelly may walk

A source told Radar Online that Ripa will give producers an ultimatum: Her way or no way. "Kelly quit the show once before and she'd do it again," the source said. "When she was angry with ABC for favoring Michael, she refused to come to work for a week. Now that ABC is treating Ryan like royalty, Kelly could be gone for good. She's very emotional and thinks with her heart, not her head. Kelly needs to think she's the top priority."

They still like each other...maybe

"Kelly and Ryan like and have a high regard for each other," a source told Life & Style (via Closer Weekly). "They're not angry with one another. It's just been a real TV marriage mismatch … Kelly blames the show. She feels [execs] made a huge miscalculation bringing him on to Live."

A source painted a rosier picture for Fox News: "Kelly is in the loop. She had approval over the co-host, so Ryan was her first choice. It was a very calculated decision by the network and by her. Everyone is thrilled. They've known each other 15 years … They really are friends." The insider added, "He's not going to do anything to jeopardize Live. He has a long-term commitment to the show. He's excited to be living in New York, and this is a big deal for him."

Is Live! just a stepping stone for Seacrest?

Deadline reported in August 2017 that Ryan Seacrest Productions signed a "multi-year overall deal" with ABC Studios in which "RSP's scripted division will develop scripted projects exclusively for ABC Studios at all TV networks and platforms, including broadcast, basic and premium cable and on-demand services."

On the one hand, that news should surprise exactly no one; Seacrest has worked so many jobs for so many years that its sometimes hard to believe he's human. On the other hand, after all the drama that went down between Ripa and Strahan, you'd think she'd want a co-host who could devote all their energy to Live! and not be distracted by flying to Los Angeles to film American Idol or working with ABC on scripted shows and New Year's Eve specials. At this rate, Seacrest is making it crystal clear that he's putting himself first and Live! second (or third, or fourth or 20th, depending on the gig).

She's keeping him on a very short leash

Ripa apparently has pull in Seacrest's promotional appearances because insiders say she was behind his abrupt cancellation of an American Idol promo spot on Good Morning America in October 2017. A source told Page Six that Seacrest bailing at the last minute, claiming, "Kelly threw a s**t fit and told him he couldn't do Good Morning America, so he pulled his appearance … It's very clear that Ryan wants to stay on her good side." 

Both Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest's reps denied those claims. "Ryan had wanted to appear on GMA with the new Idol judges," a Seacrest spokesperson said, but "his schedule was too tight given his morning commitments with Live and his radio show, along with Idol production commitments … To suggest any other reason for him not participating is completely false or a misunderstanding of the facts,"

However, another source insisted Ripa was calling the shots: "How much prep does he really need for Live!? It was really odd and confusing. It's pretty obvious that she's difficult to work with."

She was shocked by sexual harassment allegations against him

Shortly before the 2018 Academy Awards, former E! stylist Suzie Hardy accused Ryan Seacrest of years of sexual harassment. Hardy told Variety that Seacrest hugged her more than 10 times while only wearing underwear and claimed he repeatedly pushed her head into his crotch while she tied his shoes.

Seacrest vehemently denied Hardy's allegations, accusing her of trying to extort him for "millions of dollars" with false claims. Seacrest was cleared of any wrongdoing following an E! investigation into the alleged incidents that turned up "no evidence" of misconduct.

A source told In Touch Weekly (via Life & Style) that Ripa was completely taken aback at the allegations against her co-host. "That's not the Ryan she knows at all. Of course, she wants to side with him, but she's torn. No one assumed that Ryan had any skeletons in his closet, but the big question is: Did Ryan have any idea that this would come out? Every corporation in the country is playing it safe … Kelly's] waiting to see what happens with Ryan … this is a dark period for her."

Kelly poked fun at the serious allegations

Days after Hardy's allegations became public, Ripa took a dig at Seacrest and Hardy during a segment on Live with Kelly and Ryan. During the segment, Seacrest had removed his shoes, and Ripa then asked him, "What is going on? Something pretty major is happening … Do you want me to put your shoes back on for you? I'm a mom, I can do that." 

Seacrest, appearing slightly flabbergasted, replied, "You don't mind, do you?"

Many interpreted Ripa's remark as shading either Seacrest, Hardy's shoe-tying allegations, or both, and it made headlines almost immediately after it aired — especially because neither Seacrest nor Ripa had previously addressed the sexual harassment allegations on air prior to that exchange. A source dished about the unscripted moment to Page Six: "It's astonishing and jarring that Kelly would make a dig like that at Ryan. It shows there are some serious cracks in their relationship."

She stood by him when cameras rolled

Despite Kelly Ripa's alleged dig at Ryan Seacrest's situation, she voiced her support for her co-host ahead of his red carpet gig at the Oscars. "I just want you to know, you are a privilege to work with and I adore you," she said. "Speaking on behalf of all of us here, I know what an easy, professional, great person you are, and I feel very, very lucky to work with you each and every day." Seacrest responded by hugging Ripa and telling her, "You are happiness."

However, insiders claim that Ripa and Seacrest may only be pretending to get along when the cameras are rolling. "They oversell their friendship," a source told Page Six. "…Her reputation is rolled up in this — this is her show. For Kelly, there's not a Plan B. She has to make a decision and rally around him." Another insider countered, "He's one of her closest friends, and they're very protective of each other."