The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Wendy Williams Show were two long-running daytime talk shows that were canceled this year. Ellen’s reasons for ending after 19 seasons were dutifully packaged reports on the toxicity behind the scenes, leaving little room for speculation. The Wendy Williams Show ended with long weeks of silence, guest hosts, and a slew of rumors about the controversial host’s well-being. Now we have a lot more information about Williams’ situation.
The Hollywood Reporter published a new report that attempts to piece together the final months and days of the meme queen’s 13-season reign. The Wendy Williams Show’s demise unfolded over the course of several years, beginning in 2017 when the host collapsed while filming the season’s Halloween episode. The interviews paint a picture of chaos, with Williams dealing with Graves’ disease and lymphedema, as well as her own battles with addiction.
These weren’t necessarily private proceedings, as Williams developed a habit of splattering personal details on camera in between spilling the secrets of high-profile celebrities, but they became increasingly concerning. The veteran cast and crew needed some comforting words from their fearless leader in the form of a Zoom meeting ahead of season 13, which they did not receive in September 2021. At 10 a.m., about 50 staffers, many of whom had been with The Wendy Williams Show for more than a decade, were summoned to the studio, with several more logging in from home.
Williams, who had riffed live on TV for 12 years and on the radio before that, did not appear herself, much less capable of communicating a clear message, according to multiple people present, as her speech quickly became muddled and disconnected. “She gets on and she starts rambling about ‘I’m really fine, it’s going to be fine,’ and it’s like, ‘What are you saying?’” recounts one bewildered insider, who suggests she was “starting not to be coherent.” Realizing that their plan was backfiring, the executives thanked everyone for their time and abruptly ended Zoom.
“It lasted two and a half, three minutes, and it was not pretty,” says Lonnie Burstein, Debmar-Mercury’s executive vp programming, who had been seated in the studio with the show’s staff.
“People were sort of freaked out. She was saying things like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait, I’ll be back with you really soon,’ but it was obvious to anyone watching that she was not going to be back really soon.”
A rotating cast of guest hosts took over for the rest of the year. With Williams effectively AWOL, Debmar-Mercury decided in February that the 13th season of The Wendy Williams Show would be it’s final. From there, Williams teased her return to the show while remaining tight-lipped about her mental and physical health. The Wendy Williams Show brought 16 non-Wendy Williams as guest hosts for the show’s final season.
Williams’ time on the air ended with a flop rather than a bang. The series’ host was not even present for the final episode’s filming and remained at home while the baton was officially passed to The View’s Sherri Shepherd, who will now take over Williams’ time slot. “I’ve been working in daytime for over 30 years, and lightning in a bottle like Wendy Williams doesn’t come through very often,” says Debmar-Mercury executive Alexandra Jewett.
“And I think I can speak for everybody in saying that we all feel so lucky to have been along for the ride. So, yeah, the final show was really hard, and it was really hard, to a large degree, because Wendy wasn’t there.”
Williams is still promising a return, this time in the form of a podcast called The Wendy Experience. Let us wish her the best because she has been through a lot. To get the latest updates, keep an eye on Thirsty.
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