Insiders Reveal The Chaos Behind The Scenes At The Wendy Williams Show

"The Wendy Williams Show," once synonymous with salacious Hollywood gossip, has seen the tides turn against it over the past year, with its devoted host, Wendy Williams, becoming the hot gossip everyone is talking about.

In the recent past, Williams and her show have been plagued by miscommunication, scandals, and ongoing health issues. Those issues only came to a head in 2021, but the seeds of those issues were planted years before. In 2017, Williams started sparking rumors of health issues after fainting during her Halloween episode. While the TV host notably laughed off the fall, her health condition spiraled from that moment on. A year later, Williams announced she was diagnosed with Graves disease — an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid creating symptoms such as brain fog, eye problems, and forgetfulness, alongside other symptoms, per NBC News.

Not only that, but during that time, Williams was struggling with substance abuse alongside a difficult divorce. Yet, despite the diagnosis and difficult time, Williams was determined to put on the best show for her fans. As time went on, those working on "The Wendy Williams Show" noticed their fierce leader was no longer reporting the news, she was becoming the news — leaving insiders to wonder if and when they would need to break the news that Williams would no longer be the star of her titular show. 

Executives hoped Wendy Williams would be well enough for the 13th season

Despite rumblings in the media regarding Wendy Williams' condition, ahead of Season 13 — which would begin airing in the fall of 2021 —–executives of "The Wendy Williams Show" were hopeful the star would host the new episodes.

Though, as the season inched closer, Williams began calling out. First, the storied host was unable to make the promotional shoot or the interviews that would tease the season. Then, as the star began worrying fans after being seen walking around in a hospital get-up and then coming down with COVID-19, executives knew they had to not only push the season back, but let the staff hear from Williams herself — to assuage any fears of the upcoming season.

Bringing the staff together, as Williams hopped on Zoom, it became clear to executives the rumblings regarding Williams' condition were not far off from what they were seeing. "It lasted two and a half, three minutes, and it was not pretty," said Lonnie Burstein, the Debmar-Mercury executive VP of programming — the production company for the show. "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." With the conference being called to help the show's staff, the meeting ended quickly as the leaders and the show staff began putting the puzzle pieces of Williams' declining condition together.

Wendy Williams' declining condition had happened behind the scenes of the show for years

Wendy Williams' convoluted and concerning meeting with show staff was the final straw for show executives, who then began piecing together the last four years of the show — and the hints Williams had been dropping that her health was in decline.

According to executives, over a four-year period (which would align with the timeline following Williams' fall in 2017), show leaders were not always convinced Williams wasn't under the influence when heading to record. According to sources who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter, there were "at least 25" instances where producers were not fully convinced — despite Williams' objections that she was "fine" — that she was not under the influence. Since the show would tape multiple episodes in one day, according to sources, episodes in which producers were worried about Williams' sobriety would be rewatched at a later date to ensure the host did not come off under the influence — with only one episode in spring 2021 being pulled due to Williams appearing intoxicated. Despite Williams' assurances that she was sober, according to sources, those working on the show found "bottles [of alcohol] up in the ceiling tiles and other weird places in the office."

As executives pieced the last few years of the show — and Williams' condition — together, it became clear that "The Wendy Williams Show" would no longer be starring Williams herself as they headed into Season 13. 

The future of The Wendy Williams Show

Planning "The Wendy Williams Show" without Wendy Williams was never in anyone's plans. But as time went on, and Season 13 inched closer, it became clear that Williams was not in a state where hosting would be beneficial.

The 13th season, which began airing in the fall of 2021, featured a slew of celebrity hosts, The Hollywood Reporter noted. Leah Remini, Michael Rapaport, and Sherri Shepherd all took turns guest hosting the show, with Shepherd bringing in the most views and feedback. And while executives hoped Williams would be back by mid-season, it soon became clear that Williams would not be returning – forcing the show to end in June 2022.

In its place now sits the future Sherri Shepherd-hosted show, "Sherri," set to begin in the fall. Williams herself had to be reminded multiple times that her show was ending, and still is struggling with ongoing health issues. Executives said still that no one knows what is truly going on with Williams, and while a new show is set to air, the same executives know there is no one like Williams. "She was tough on many celebrities, and a lot of celebrities hate her. It's also why she had success, she's no holds barred," said Lonnie Burstein, the Debmar-Mercury executive VP of programming. "Almost nobody can go out and do what Wendy did, just off the cuff like that, which was maybe her most immense talent."