The Wendy Williams Show

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Airdate: 1-2 p.m. Monday, July 14 (KTTV/Fox11)

Leave it to television to so shackle an edgy, gregarious personality that little of the original appeal remains after the makeover. So it seemed to be the case on Day 1 of "The Wendy Williams Show," a daytime talker starring the longtime New York radio fixture and shock jock who looks uncomfortable and out of her element at the outset of a show that she has six weeks to get right.

That's the length of a trial run being conducted on KTTV in Los Angeles along with Fox-owned stations in New York, Dallas and Detroit. If it earns high marks for entertainment value and halfway decent ratings, it could get the full national syndication rollout presumably next year. But based on the initial returns, it's probably a good idea that Williams is literally keeping her day job as a daily syndie radio host in New York.

Williams emerged from the wings to the obligatory pep rally atmosphere and starts out with a kind of girl-talk rap that included earnest discussion about the "friends" in her head whose voices guide her in her everyday life. Of course, they have medication that will take care of this sort of thing today, but Williams seemed to think it a positive.

"Desperate Housewives" hunk James Denton came out for a segment after the break, and his boundless enthusiasm seemed to center Williams a bit. Following that, she modeled a stringy blond wig and a hot new outfit before turning the stage over to others in creating a quasi-fashion show.

Then, just to make sure there was no consistent flow between elements, the host presided over a "Truth Booth" in which a woman with two boyfriends -- her face obscured and her body in shadowy profile -- told a story that concluded with her asking which she should dump. ("Both of 'em!" Williams declared with brassy certainty.)

The show evoked the kind of awkward vibe that indicated it was more than mere first-day issues but something a bit more permanent. This is unfortunate given that Williams brings obvious savvy and charisma to the table. But she seems to be falling prey to her advice-givers and the focus groups in trying to render her more palatable (read: moderate) for a mass television audience. It would appear more prudent to allow Williams to sink or swim on the bold, unvarnished persona that brought her to the producers' attention in the first place. That would mean a little more throwing caution to the wind and somewhat less effort trying to cram her into a homemaker-friendly box.

Production: Debmar-Mercury and Fox Television Stations. Executive producers: Wendy Williams, Kevin Hunter, Rob Dauber. Senior supervising producer: Elise Silvestri. Director: Deb Miller. Talent Booker: Leanne Elias. Theme Composer: David Vanacore

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