Television is losing its booziest pair of best friends.
On Tuesday, Kathie Lee Gifford announced that she will depart “Today” after co-anchoring the fourth hour of the NBC flagship show since 2008.
During a teary announcement during the 10 a.m. hour, Gifford explained that she had only planned to be on the show for one year, but “something happened — I fell in love” with her co-anchor, Hoda Kotb, and they became fast friends.
Her departure marks the end of an era for the morning show, during which Gifford and Kotb regularly drank with guests. The tradition began after Chelsea Handler came on to promote her show “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea,” and subsequent guests asked where their drinks were.
In a memo sent to staff on Tuesday morning, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim wrote Gifford has been busy with film, music and book projects and “she’s decided to focus her attention full-time on those other creative endeavors.”
“When we first launched this incredible hour, no one could have predicted the lightning (or rather, wine) in a bottle that is Hoda & Kathie Lee,” Oppenheim wrote.
On air Tuesday, Gifford told viewers: “It’s an exciting time for me and I’m thrilled about all the projects that are coming up, but it’s also hard because the reason I stayed longer than a year is because I love everybody here so much.”
Gifford became a household name during her 15 years on ABC’s “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” before she made the jump to NBC in 2008 to join Kotb in hosting the 10 a.m. block.
On Tuesday, Gifford and Kotb shared stories of their friendship on air. Kotb — who kept her fourth-hour duties even after she replaced Matt Lauer nearly a year ago as the co-anchor for the rest of “Today” — became very emotional as she described how she met her husband thanks in part to her role on “Today.”
“The minute you stepped into my life with both feet, everything changed,” Kotb said. “I thought about the day you chose me, and that’s how it started … everything good in my life has happened since you came.”
Gifford had plenty of love to share, too, telling Kotb:
The news on Tuesday adds to the other uncertainty “Today” is grappling with, as “Megyn Kelly Today” was canceled in October in the wake of comments she made about blackface. “Today” anchors took over her 9 a.m. slot.
Hold off on your final goodbyes for now, though. Gifford will remain with the show until April 7, her 11th anniversary of hosting with Kotb. Oppenheim wrote to staff that “we will have much more to share” about the future of the fourth hour, which will still include Kotb.