Wendy Williams Was 'Never Seriously Considered' to Be Asked Back for Talk Show's Last Episode: Exposé

"To put her on as a guest or to do a video message from her would be a disservice to Wendy, who is so much bigger than that," a series producer said

Wendy Williams' eponymous talk show never planned to include her in its eventual series finale, according to a new exposé.

As Williams' health struggles kept her from hosting the show's 13th and final season, one of the season's many guest hosts — Sherri Shepherd — took the reins amid her absence.

Shepherd, who is now gearing up to launch her own talk show in Williams' former time slot, was also present for its unceremonious sendoff that featured a tribute to its namesake but did not include a special appearance from her.

In a new report from The Hollywood Reporter, the news outlet claimed that the show's production company, Debmar-Mercury, "never seriously considered" having Williams, 58, return for the series finale episode.

"To put her on as a guest or to do a video message from her would be a disservice to Wendy, who is so much bigger than that," said a series producer, who spoke anonymously to THR.

Instead, Debar-Mercury opted to air a highlight reel from Williams' time hosting the series. Shepherd, 55, introduced the segment and later delivered a heartfelt sendoff message to Williams.

"We knew we really didn't want it to feel like an in-memoriam because she's very much alive," said Debmar-Mercury Senior VP Marketing Adam Lewis. "We weren't going to do this huge countdown with celebratory balloons because it didn't feel celebratory."

Wendy Williams
Wendy Williams. Michael Tran/FilmMagic

According to THR, the executives "agreed that [Williams] was not in a position to appear on TV" and the local stations playing the episode "didn't push" despite potentially losing out on a major ratings moment.

But the team also "wanted to be sensitive to Shepherd," with Lonnie Burstein, Debmar-Mercury's Executive VP Programming, saying it "would have been incredibly awkward" given the circumstances.

"It would have stolen the spotlight," Burstein added. "And, at this point, our chips are all on Sherri."

PEOPLE has reached out to Williams' reps for comment.

Elsewhere in THR's report, Williams' health and substance abuse struggles were explored in greater detail.

Multiple sources claimed that Williams was "in and out of hospitals and doctors' care" in summer 2021. When time came to begin shooting promos for season 13 of the series, it reportedly became clear that she "wouldn't be well enough" to do it. One promo featuring her iconic purple chair was shot, but she later "bailed on her promotional appearances," the report claimed.

At the time, a statement was posted to Williams' social media feeds, indicating that she was tackling "ongoing health issues" and was "undergoing further evaluations." She then became ill with COVID-19. Both incidents resulted in the series being delayed twice, and the show's team realized they needed to bring in guest hosts as a temporary solution.

Leah Remini, who had reportedly been in touch with Debar-Mercury about her own talk show, was the first call they made. Michael Rapaport, Whitney Cummings and Fat Joe then joined Remini, 52, among a long list of stars stepping in to host the show.

But Shepherd — who had been in talks with Debar-Mercury a few years back about getting her own series — was the only one who truly garnered strong ratings.

WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE WITH ANDY COHEN @ HOME -- Episode 17152 -- Pictured in this screen grab: Wendy Williams -- (Photo by: Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

THR also reported that over the show's 13-season run, higher-ups questioned Williams' sobriety on "at least 25" different occasions. Because of this, they allegedly had to "make an ultra-quick judgment call on whether to go live at 10 a.m." before shooting each episode, even though Williams would claim she was "fine."

Oftentimes, the episode would be Williams' second taping of the day and since those don't air until later in the week, they had time to review the footage to determine whether she was "fine enough."

Williams, who has been vocal about her sobriety and health struggles over the years, didn't directly comment on the allegations featured in THR's report. But spokeswoman Shawn Zanotti told the outlet, "It has been no secret that Wendy has battled with addiction over the years but at this time Wendy is on the road to recovery and healing herself from her chronic illnesses and her grievances of the past."

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Williams recently announced she plans to launch a podcast titled The Wendy Experience. After creating an official Instagram page for the project, she teased in a quick clip: "Co-hosts, I'm famous, and I'll be back, trust me."

Earlier this month, Williams' rep William Selby confirmed to PEOPLE she is also happy in a new relationship with a New York Police Department officer named Henry. Selby, however, said the romance is still in "really, really early stages."

"Wendy is excited about everything new in her life and her main priority is her health and shooting her first episode of her podcast," he added. "That's the focus right now."

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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