In the weeks leading up to the national debut of her daytime talk show, radio personality Wendy Williams promised loyal listeners of The Wendy Williams Experience that she wouldn’t abandon them or her longtime syndicated radio show, but just mere days after The Wendy Williams Show premiered on FOX, Williams announced that she would be ending her eight-year stint at New York’s WBLS. No one should begrudge Williams for eyeing the prize, a bigger paycheck, and a larger national audience, but she’d probably be the first to admit that she’s always been a little bit lazy. She could regularly be heard on her radio show, which started at 2 p.m., groaning about how tired/bloated/grumpy she was, often cutting breaks short, abruptly ending phone calls, or stopping to eat a sandwich or play obscure house tracks from a mix CD she found in the trunk of her car.
Which is exactly the kind of impulsive realness that’s missing from the televised version of Williams’s show. Watching her smile ear-to-ear, biting her tongue about celebrities for whom you know she doesn’t particularly she give a shit, and capping toned-down gossip sessions with glib disclaimers like “I really do like her,” is like hanging out with your outrageous, try-anything-once buddy from college after she’s been lobotomized or gone through intensive rehab. To be fair, Williams is still outspoken, and you can infer how she really feels about any particular hot topic based on the subtle roll of her eyes or the pursing of her lips, but the inevitable concessions necessary to play to Middle America every morning are tragic when it comes to a larger-than-life personality like Williams.
The general format that made Williams’s radio show so successful is recreated here, with audience members offering their two cents on practically everything, but even the “Ask Wendy” segment has been watered down, in both content and time. Fans of her radio show were treated to recurring real-life soap operas from gold-digging baby mamas, closeted transsexuals, and other colorful characters on a daily basis. Questions from the audience on the TV show, however, are obviously pre-screened and about as compelling as listening to Barbara Walters recount her latest visit to the White House.
Speaking of which, Whoopi Goldberg (who similarly made the transition from radio to daytime television as co-host of The View), stopped by Wendy Williams this morning to hawk her new children’s book, and even attempted a “How you doin’?” While Williams is a fine interviewer, she’s now prone to steering clear of more controversial questions. Whether she’s leaning in to whisper a piece of gossip as if each audience member is a close friend, or intimately stroking the arm of a wax figure of Michelle Obama, it’s clear the old Williams is itching to get out, and she’d be much better off on HBO or even basic cable, where Bill Maher, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, and others have been allowed to proudly fly their freak flags.