A combination of a “Mad TV” sketch character and an R. Crumb fantasy come to life, the towering, bewigged, and hilariously intimidating talk show host Wendy Williams recently returned for her first syndicated TV season on the local Fox Channel 4 at 11 & 3am. The shows I’ve seen so far had a few satisfyingly surreal moments – mostly because the ex-NYC radio “shock jockette” has only slightly refined her surly personality and attack-dog interview style for the cozy environs of daytime chat. There is still quite a chasm between how she thinks she’s coming across (as an endearingly gossipy showbiz confidante who dispenses tough-love advice to her audiences) and how she actually does come across (as an enthusiastically catty, cranky devourer of tabloids who could turn violent at any minute).
Recent episodes featured guests that I haven’t thought about in a long time, including a reality-show-promoting MC Hammer, tossed reluctantly onto her interview couch like a rare pot roast into a “big cat” exhibit. “What are you doing, why are backing away?!” Wendy demanded as Hammer sank into the cushions before the inevitable assault. (Personal space, and the guests who don’t want to share theirs with Wendy, are a constant issue). “You earned thirty-three million dollars and LOST IT!” she growled at Hammer, stunning him with her stare. “How?!” Later in the week, “Wonder Woman” star Lynda Carter stopped by to insist that she’d never ever had plastic surgery, was screwed out of “WW” resids by Warner Brothers, and BTW, has been sober many years now. “You’re half Mexican, right?” Wendy asked, wearing a long black superhero wig in honor of Carter, who patted it somewhat woozily.
Fair warning: Before one episode has ended, you will want to puncture your own ear drums if you hear her catchphrase “How you doin’?” one more time. And like all train wrecks, “The Wendy Williams Show” offers limited viewing potential. Still, as long as Williams remains such a downright weird fit for the daytime promotional circuit, I’ll keep checking back occasionally.