Opinion: I need Wendy Williams on TV even if I sometimes pretend I didn't hear her
After a lengthy hiatus, Wendy Williams is returning to her daytime talk show, and author Michael Arceneaux discusses his love for the host—even when she says something that makes him turn off the TV.
I know exactly what I am getting with Wendy Williams—gossip (which, in some cases, I end up fact-checking in real time), or unfiltered opinions about race, sex, and gender roles that I either sort of understand or completely want to drown out for the sake of my sanity. Yet I watch The Wendy Williams Show religiously all the same. And earlier this week, Williams knew what her “co-hosts,” the affectionate descriptor for her studio audience, and the millions of viewers watching her daytime talk show at home wanted to hear on her first day back since December.
In the two months she has been away, Williams has been the subject of both scrutiny and speculation. After noticeably slurring her words on that final episode of 2018, Williams later revealed it was a result of the painkillers she had been using to deal with a fractured shoulder. Then, her return date was pushed back three times, which caused many to wonder if the problem was bigger than it had initially seemed. In the midst of those setbacks came rumors that Williams was “scared” of losing her successful series. Worse, her husband, Kevin Hunter, was accused of physically abusing Williams—allegedly causing the recent injury she had complained about on-air.
In the first few moments of her Monday episode, Williams teased the irony of the Hot Topics maestro becoming a hot topic herself—but she made us wait for that segment, opting instead to go into her usual routine.
As for her anecdotes, we learned that, even while away, Williams was working out seven times a week for two hours—presumably a nod to her gay fan base who work out at the same minimum and constantly make me regret any consumption of carbs. And she sort of dabbled into more serious matters—like the American healthcare system—acknowledging her privilege and the great medical care it provides. As for the rest of us, with whom she empathized, Wendy acknowledged that even if we have healthcare, we might be afraid to use it. So, if that applies to you, or if you have no insurance and a problem becomes impossible to ignore, Wendy suggested that we try Ambicare. “It’s not all just gunshots in there,” Williams explained. (That ought to be packaged into one of their commercials, TBH.)
Oh, how I have missed this woman. She behaved exactly the way I anticipated her to. I love her consistency.
There were still moments when I, a writer who spends way too much time online, felt like I knew a few more details about a given story than she seems to have been fed by her sources. I felt this way when she discussed the Jussie Smollett controversy.
As her return episode continued, Williams herself mentioned how sometimes audiences might get pissed off by one thing she says and turn her off—only to return three days later. She’s right, as I’ve done this every so often, but she’s like an auntie in my mind—I know we don’t always agree, but who else is on television encouraging Kate Beckinsale to keep enjoying Pete Davidson’s younger penis?
I was never keen on The Wendy Williams Show without Wendy Williams. There were some bright spots in the slew of hosts who filled in for her—Nick Cannon, Sherri Shepherd, and Bevy Smith to name a few—but there’s only one person who can pull off this show completely because it is tailored to her very specific personality and point of view.
There is an intimacy to daytime television—that’s why the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Wendy Williams have fared better than, say, Bethenny Frankel and Harry Connick Jr. I have been listening to Wendy Williams on the radio since college and followed her to daytime TV, so a fill-in can only go so far.
“I’m sorry it took me almost 50 days,” Williams acknowledged. “I know it’s been a long time. I’m sorry, but I can say, it’s not going to happen anymore, and I feel good!”
I needed her messy ass like I needed air, and obviously, “messy ass” is a compliment in this instance.
Speaking of mess, when your career is largely built on touching on the messy lives of others, people are going to expect you to address whatever gossip spurs from your own life. So Williams did just that near the end of Hot Topics.
Noticeably looking down before doing so, Williams began with a shoutout to her husband. “I know what you’ve been seeing, and I know what the streets have been talking about,” she said. She went on to show an old picture of the two before eventually adding, “I’m still very much in love with my husband.” She next advised that folks not “ask me about mine” until they notice “this”—pointing to her wedding ring—gone. Despite expressing that “marriages have ebbs and flows,” she emphasized that when it comes her wedding ring, “It ain’t going anywhere. Not in this lifetime.”
This explanation has received mixed reviews online, but I’m honestly surprised she said anything. Whenever she’d previously address talk of infidelity in their marriage, she would only flash her ring. Whatever the case, I wish Wendy Williams nothing but wellness and happiness. And I also hope she keeps her word that she never leaves me alone for this long again.
P.S. I was really into her bob. Yes, I had to note this somewhere. I’d be an awful person if I didn’t acknowledge such a top-notch wig.
Michael Arceneaux is the New York Times bestselling author of the newly released book I Can’t Date Jesus from Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Essence, The Guardian, Mic, and more. Follow him on Twitter.