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The real housewife of daytime TV

Wendy Williams is tacky, self-absorbed and kind of fascinating

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In a field that also includes Oprah Winfrey and Tyra Banks, it’s impressive to come off as the most self-absorbed woman on daytime TV, but Wendy Williams nails it. The host of the new daytime talk show The Wendy Williams Show (which airs locally weekdays at 3 p.m. on KVVU Channel 5, and reairs on BET weeknights at 11 p.m.), Williams is a popular New York City radio personality who’s made brief forays into TV on VH1 in the past. She refers to herself as the “Queen of All Media,” in an obvious riff on Howard Stern’s self-proclaimed title, has written several books and has a low-budget movie about her life (titled Queen of Media) set for release some time this year. She’s probably best known for talking trash about celebrities and fellow DJs on-air, and while she tones down her act for this traditional TV talk show, she retains a refreshing tendency to speak her mind, no matter how misguided she might be.

The Details

The Wendy Williams Show
Two and a half stars
Beyond the Weekly
The Wendy Williams Show

Williams, a diehard New Jerseyite with big (fake) hair, big (fake) breasts and a big (real) accent, begins each show with a celebrity-gossip segment, but she doesn’t make jokes about celebrities like a late-night host. She isn’t some gushing infotainment personality, either; instead, in keeping with her Jersey heritage, she’s like one of those loud, overly chatty women you might encounter at a hair salon, who feels the need to share her (often slightly misinformed) opinion on every celebrity tryst, mishap and pronouncement, regardless of whether she has anything of value to say.

Williams shamelessly uses every mention of a celebrity to encourage said celebrity to come onto her show, but she isn’t afraid to say negative things (or give extremely backhanded compliments): She praises Jessica Simpson for daring to be photographed wearing horizontal stripes, which accentuate the singer’s “real” body; she touts Janet Jackson as an excellent candidate for adoptive mother to brother Michael’s kids, then throws in a reference to Janet’s alleged love child being raised by sister Rebbie. It’s all couched in a just-folks-chatting kind of tone, peppered with Williams’ meaningless catchphrase (“How you doin’?”) and interspersed with comments from audience members, just like a radio call-in show.

When actual celebrity guests show up, Williams is more interested in gabbing about her favorite topics (reality shows, especially the Real Housewives franchise; her own fabulosity) than whatever the guests happen to be promoting, and there are only one or two guests per episode. Williams spends more time on the often interminable “Ask Wendy” segment, in which she gives mostly terrible advice to various audience members, again never shy to offer a backhanded compliment. (An audience member who’s just lost 100 pounds asks Williams for fashion advice, then shows the host a “before” picture; Williams comments on how fat the questioner used to be.)

The Friday show of Williams’ first week was basically an hourlong birthday party for the host, with gifts from guests, well wishes from the audience and CeCe Peniston parading out for the umpteenth rendition of her 1991 hit “Finally,” apparently Williams’ favorite song (Peniston dutifully passed Williams the mic for a line or two). Despite the extreme tackiness of Williams’ look and personality, she’s sort of appealing in her desperate way. It’s easy to imagine Williams as a star on one of her favorite reality shows, a real housewife of New Jersey (she’s married with a son) who just happens to have her own talk show. She may be rude, narcissistic and single-minded, but she’s never self-righteous like Winfrey or Banks, and you can tell that she loves her job nearly as much as she loves herself.

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