It was last week that Wendy Williams announced that she would be returning to her self-titled talk show on March 19 after her health hiatus. But in her absence, she shared that her seat would be filled by guest host, actor Jerry O’Connell:
When I initially heard the news, I was perplexed. But I will say, after watching scenes from Monday’s episode, he is comical. O’Connell does have the colorful personality that works for daytime and for an audience like Wendy’s. As you can hear, they were eating it up today:
Ok, as someone who watches Love and Hip Hop New York, I can attest to the fact that his impressions of the cast were spot-on. Spot. On.
Still, it does feel like an opportunity missed. I wouldn’t have expected Wendy to seek out some new Black woman on-air talent to cover for her, but I thought it would have been great if she offered the chance to fill in for her for to a woman of color, well-known or burgeoning. (Hell, maybe even a Black man.) While more and more Black female comedians, musicians, writers and actresses are getting seats at tables on daytime and evening talk shows (i.e., Robin Thede, Loni Love, Tamera Mowry-Housley, Eve and Sheryl Underwood), we’d all be kidding ourselves if we pretended that it’s easy out here.
Someone who knows this and was, therefore, disappointed, was singer and producer Nicci Gilbert. When TheJasmineBrand posted a behind-the-scenes video of O’Connell on the set of the show in anticipation of Monday’s episode, she commented and said that we were witnessing the chance for something great being squandered.
“Not tryna pull the race card but uuuum how many women are there in Hollywood, Black Hollywood, ATL WOOD and Comedy Clubs all over AMERICA that could have benefited from this opportunity,” she wrote. “It’s so disrespectful and inconsiderate to deliberately overlook women who need opportunities like this , that come so few and far between. Im not one to think everything is abour racism or sexism but at a time when ‘TimesUp and #MeToo are supposed to be more than a ‘Moment’ It’s time to call people on the bullsh-t and this no shade to the fine and talented #JerryOconnell but Imma need him to do a #MarkWalberg and donate that opportunity to a woman preferably on [sic] who’s [sic] talent is often overlooked and underpaid @wendyshow I love you boo but this right here needs a quick fix. If we don’t do it for each other sis who will. I sincerely wish you a speedy recovery but in the meantime can we drop in some #Melanin”
Not to mention, the audience at The Wendy show, while diverse, is often filled with a vast majority of Black women. So instead of Jerry feeling like he needs to come with the sass and impersonations to make her “co-hosts” feel more comfortable with his presence, Wendy certainly could have found someone who matches her audience to lead it (My suggestion during the initial announcement was consistent guest and mini-Wendy, Tamar Braxton).
So why didn’t she?
O’Connell, who does indeed seem to be a friend to the show and has appeared many a time, might have been picked because she wanted to offer him the temporary talk show host gig he lost out on. If you’ll recall, O’Connell was pretty much robbed of the chance to be co-host of Live! with Kelly in favor of the overbooked Ryan Seacrest after testing with Ripa for weeks. But there are a number of people who are blaming Wendy’s decision on a multitude of not-so-positive things, including the belief that Wendy’s burned bridges with Black women in the industry who she could have called on, and the rumor that her desire to avoid competition blinded her view of the bigger picture.
Nonetheless, it is called The Wendy Williams Show for a reason, and therefore, she has the right to pick who she wants to stand in for her when she wants (this is a first, though). Still, as Gilbert put it, if we don’t put on for each other, who will? And no, we don’t want to put ourselves in a position to be out of work because we create opportunities for others who end up shining in a major way. However, after years of delivering controversy, and in turn, great ratings, at times so consistently that it has been done to the detriment of her own health, nobody could in one week take away what she’s built in a decade.
But for the record, Wendy wants you to know that whomever sits in her chair from now until next Monday will have to soon make way, because she’s coming back with a vengeance: