Wendy Williams will not be returning to her daytime talk show this season, but the future of her show remains in flux, Variety has learned.
Meanwhile, Sherri Shepherd is in advanced discussions with Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury for her own daytime talk show, which could potentially replace Williams’ series, sources say.
Currently in its 13th season, “The Wendy Williams Show” is one of the biggest hits in daytime TV history. Launching in national syndication from Debmar-Mercury in 2008, the show was built around Williams, who, at the time the show premiered, was a popular radio host known for her no-holds-barred take on celebrity gossip.
Williams has been absent from her show all this season, as she has been battling ongoing health issues. Williams suffers from Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder.
While Williams has been gone from her talk show in 2021 and 2022, guest hosts have filled in for her throughout this entire season, including Shepherd, who has been popular with audiences and who, sources say, has emerged as the frontrunner to possibly take over Williams’ timeslot — that is, if Williams does not return and if station partners would greenlight a show hosted by Shepherd for a full season.
A source says it’s unclear whether Williams will ever come back to her show, but if she is in good enough health to do so and wants to return, executives would be thrilled to welcome her back with open arms. After all, Williams has been a huge hit for Debmar-Mercury and a stalwart in daytime television on the Fox TV Stations.
“We’ll deal with the fall when we get there, but she’s not returning this season,” a source close to Williams tells Variety.
Williams’ spokesperson, PR veteran Howard Bragman, declined to comment on this story.
In the meantime, Shepherd is in advanced talks with Debmar-Mercury, the same production company behind “The Wendy Williams Show,” to star in her own talk show.
If Williams does not return next season, a show starring Shepherd would be a sensible option to fill the daytime slot. Insiders say the show being developed would fully be Shepherd’s own show — not a replacement for Williams on that show. A deal is currently being negotiated, but the paperwork is not signed.
Aside from Shepherd, “The Wendy Williams Show” has had a slew of guest hosts during its current season, including Leah Remini, Michael Rapaport, Whitney Cummings, Fat Joe, Remy Ma, Kym Whitley, Finesse Mitchell, Devyn Simone, Julissa Bermudez and Variety‘s chief correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister. Next week, Bevy Smith and Terrence J will host, and then Shepherd will return the following week.
A source close to Williams says the host is “incredibly grateful for all of the guest hosts who have held down the fort” on her show.
A spokesperson for Debmar-Mercury told Variety that they are not commenting on any speculation regarding Williams or Shepherd.
Earlier in the season, Debmar-Mercury released this statement, in support of Williams: “Wendy is a valued and stalwart member of the Debmar-Mercury family and has been so for 12 years. We want her health to be her top priority,” the statement continued. “As soon as she’s ready, she will be back in her treasured purple chair. We very much appreciate the respect for Wendy’s privacy, as well as all the good wishes from her fans, station partners and advertisers.”