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After 13 seasons, The Wendy Williams show met a rather undignified end Friday, via phoned-in words in tribute from guest host Sherri Shepherd and a few minutes of montage spanning the daytime talk show’s 14-year run. Williams, notably, was absent from the festivities. The show gave no indication that she was invited or even wanted to attend the finale taping, though in an off-camera, voice-only interview with Good Morning America in March, Williams did say she’d be ready to work in TV again in three months. (EW then ran an item citing a “source close to The Wendy Williams Show distributor Debmar-Mercury” stating that Williams wouldn’t be ready to return on TV until fall 2023.)
At the start of Friday’s Hot Topics segment, Shepherd announced that this would be the final episode of Wendy. “I am one of the many guest hosts this season who have had the honor and the privilege to be part of this iconic show,” she said. “This is the most incredible staff and crew of The Wendy Williams Show. Everybody. Everybody.” She thanked the “loyal Wendy watchers for making this show a success the last 14 years,” and then the queen herself. In a canned cadence, Shepherd told the audience:
You have to say there is nobody, nobody like Wendy Williams. From her days on the radio to ruling daytime talk for 13 seasons, Wendy earned her title as the Queen of All Media.
The mention of Williams prompted a standing ovation in the studio audience, which remained as Shepherd went on:
If you think about it, Wendy Williams changed daytime talk with her unique take on hot topics, her one-of-a-kind celebrity interviews, the signature Ask Wendy segments, and of course, y’all, her famous, “How you doin’.” Absolutely. And I wanna say: Miss Wendy you are an icon and you are loved by so many. So many.
The crowd chanted, “Wendy! Wendy!”
Shepherd called the moment “bittersweet,” though it was unclear how this was sweet at all, beyond opening the path for Shepherd’s own show—which Shepherd could not contain her glee over during its February on-air announcement that effectively signaled the end of Wendy. (That show will feature the same production team and, in at least some markets, air in Wendy’s former time slots.) Later in the Hot Topics segment, Shepherd discussed Kevin Hart’s new documentary about Black comedians, in which she appears, and said: “I think comedy’s under attack. We got the cancel culture and so many things happening in society…No matter what we say sometimes people get offended and then they want to come and cancel.” Sherri debuts in the fall. You all have fun with that!
Vanessa Williams, the first guest of the first official episode of The Wendy Williams Show in July 2009 (its trial season that led to it being picked up for series aired in the summer of 2008), joined Shepherd and briefly reminisced about her appearance. Of Wendy Williams, Vanessa Williams said: “She was real…she is real, she’s still with us. She’s resilient. And she’s a fighter.” Then she and Shepherd talked about the various animals Vanessa’s Great Danes have been murdering lately.
A montage of Wendy show highlights ran. Joan Rivers! Mary J. Blige! Justin Bieber! Chris Rock! Dolly Parton! Tyra Banks! Naomi Campbell! They were all there. We saw Williams fanning the flames of Remy Ma’s feud with Nicki Minaj, and Jennifer Lopez’s feud with Mariah Carey (Williams reminded Lopez of Carey’s “I don’t know her” comment, and Lopez, ever graciously and honestly the clear winner of that conflict via poise alone, said, “She’s forgetful, I guess!”). Williams ate literal crow after Kim Kardashian did indeed marry Kanye West, she stomped grapes with Hoda Kotb, she dressed like Wonder Woman, she had Betty White, Cookie Monster, and Pee-Wee Herman do her iconic limp-wristed “How you doin’?” bit. What a run!
What a shame. This was such a non-event. At least they acknowledged the end, I suppose. Maybe Williams’s presence would have been a bummer— after all, her recent interviews and sporadic messages on Instagram alleging a conservatorship-type situation that’s blocking her from accessing her money have been weird. Regardless, it sucked watching her endlessly entertaining show go out like this.
Williams’s ex-husband and former show producer, Kevin Hunter, whose estrangement from his wife played out on her show, spoke out against the treatment in advance of the finale. He told ET:
I feel like it is a travesty on the part of Debmar-Mercury to have such an unceremonious departure without Wendy being involved. It is the first time in the history of talk shows for this to be done, especially for a show that has been on for more than 10 years. There is absolutely no reason why a bigger celebration that involved Wendy couldn’t happen...I know the blood, sweat and tears that went into making the show such a success, [and] I am not happy with the way the show is going out on a personal level and I am truly sorry that the show’s fans have to see it go down the way that it is.
Hunter notably sued Debmar-Mercury in December for wrongful termination. Perhaps he has bigger beef with the company than his ex-wife, but it’s super telling that the guy who caused her so much grief is speaking out in her defense now.