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How Feedback On Wendy Williams Factored Into Execs’ Decision To Hire Sherri Shepherd As Her Daytime TV Successor

Wendy Williams on The Wendy Williams Show and Sherri Shepherd on Sherri.
(Image credit: Debmar-Mercury)

Sherri Shepherd is mere weeks away from debuting her new daytime talk show Sherri, Debmar-Mercury’s replacement for The Wendy Williams Show, which was canceled after its 13th season amid the host’s health struggles. Shepherd served as one of many guest hosts in the outgoing series' final season, which ultimately won her the opportunity to lead her own chat-friendly project. Because not only did the company reportedly see good ratings for episodes with the comedic actress running thangs, but audience members’ feedback regarding Wendy Williams herself also played a part in Shepherd being named the official replacement.

As it became increasingly obvious that Wendy Williams would not be able to return to work while dealing with medical issues, Debmar-Mercury co-president Ira Bernstein told THR that he and others began looking at their longer-term options. Along with needing a host who could bring their own style and personality, they wanted to be sure to retain as much of the impressively large crowds who already tuned in for The Wendy Williams Show as possible. Feedback from her hardcore fans and critics helped them do that, with Bernstein saying:

We’d do research on Wendy over the years and [audience members] would say, ‘I can’t believe she’s so mean to people. I watch her every day and she’s so mean.’ And it was like, OK, wait, wait, wait, what was the second line? ‘I watch her every day,’ so clearly there was something there, but Sherri doesn’t have that edge. In many ways, she’s just like the audience in the sense that she’s a single mom whose kid is her priority one, two and three, and she also happens to be a really talented comedian who’s hosting a talk show and she’s great at it.

It was important to Debmar-Mercury that whoever take over for Wendy Williams “fill that niche about gossip and entertainment,” so her audience would continue to tune in, and Sherri Shepherd seemed the right fit to do that in a more celebrity-friendly way than Williams had, the co-president said.

While Wendy Williams’ strong opinions and fearless attitude was part of what attracted so many fans, apparently some of it came off as “mean” to some within her audience. (To be fair, that's also why another section of her fanbase liked her so much.) But “mean” is something Sherri Shepherd says she is not going to do. The former View co-host has said her guests will not have to worry about facing a “gotcha-moment” — which is pretty important if she hopes to attract the caliber of celebrity on her wish list, which includes Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Meryl Streep. 

Another aspect Sherri Shepherd hopes to bring to daytime TV is her comedy background. With Ellen DeGeneres ending her award-winning talk show after 19 seasons, an opening was created for hosts with stand-up comedy experience, and that’s a “void” Shepherd is excited to fill. Not that comedians aren't sometimes known for being mean themselves, even outside of Roast specials, but Shepherd has experience with speaking confrontationally without becoming disrespectful. 

Sherri is just one addition to the ever-changing landscape of daytime TV. The Jennifer Hudson Show will also make its debut in September, with the EGOT winner joining fellow American Idol veteran Kelly Clarkson in the talk show universe. Sherri Shepherd’s former colleagues on The View also added two conservative-leaning co-hosts for their 26th season in Alyssa Farah Griffin and Ana Navarro.

With so much happening, be sure to stay tuned to our 2022 TV Schedule for all of the premiere dates, and check your local listings to see what time and on which channel you can find Sherri in syndication when it premieres Monday, September 12. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.