Drew Barrymore has found herself in the middle of an industry-sized mess this week, thanks to her announcement over the weekend that The Drew Barrymore Show will be starting up production for Season 4, with new episodes airing starting Monday, September 18th. The return of the show has caused an uproar thanks to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, and the impact of Barrymore’s decision has already been felt.
What did Drew Barrymore do?
The actress-turned-daytime talk show host announced on her Instagram (see her full statement below) that The Drew Barrymore Show would be returning for Season 4, “in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind.” The show began production this week, with new episodes set to start on Monday, September 18th. The previous season of her show wrapped production in late April, before the strike was called, and Barrymore had previously stepped down from hosting May’s MTV Movie & TV Awards in solidarity with the WGA, so this decision is a reversal for Barrymore.
While SAG-AFTRA member Barrymore is in full compliance with the rules surrounding the actors’ strike as a talk show host, things are dicier with the WGA. The Drew Barrymore Show has previously been produced with three staff writers, all members of the Writers Guild. By proceeding without its writers, the show has set itself up for scrutiny and accusations of scabbing.
What did the WGA say?
Following the announcement, the WGA East released a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, making it clear that Barrymore’s decision does amount to crossing the picket line. Given that The Drew Barrymore Show has been “WGA covered” in the past, any writing that takes place on the show now is in direct violation of strike rules.
The @DrewBarrymoreTV Show is a WGA covered, struck show that is planning to return without its writers. The Guild has, and will continue to, picket struck shows that are in production during the strike. Any writing on “The Drew Barrymore Show” is in violation of WGA strike rules.
— Writers Guild of America, East (@WGAEast) September 10, 2023
While a daytime talk show is not written in the same way as a scripted series or even a late night talk show, it does still require writers. Anything from opening monologues to interview questions can constitute writing duties on these shows, so The Drew Barrymore Show will have to toe a very thin line in its new, writer-less iteration, and the show itself will certainly look different.
What happened when taping started?
The Drew Barrymore Show did itself no favors when, ahead of the taping of a new episode, two audience members were kicked out for wearing WGA strike buttons that they were given by writers picketing outside the CBS building. Representatives of the show did not respond to Observer’s request for comments on what occurred at the taping.
Though Barrymore herself was not directly involved in this incident and the talk show is bigger than just her, the actress’ reputation has taken a big hit. Between fellow creatives condemning her decision on social media to the National Book Awards dropping her as a host, it’s likely that she’ll be getting the cold shoulder from the entertainment industry for the foreseeable future.
What other shows are doing the same thing?
Barrymore’s talk show is not the first to skirt the strike, and it won’t be the last. The View has been airing throughout the strike, only taking a month-long break during the summer between Season 26 and 27. Ordinarily, like The Drew Barrymore Show, The View would have writers on staff, but the show has gone without them; it’s been a routine site for picketers since the strike started in May.
The return of The Drew Barrymore Show has also set a precedent for a few other major daytime talk shows, all seeking to come back to air without the presence of their writers. Fellow CBS show The Talk is starting its new season this month, with the previous one being cut short due to the onset of the strike. The Jennifer Hudson Show will also be returning despite previously employing guild-affiliated writers.
Meanwhile, other daytime talk series like Live with Kelly and Mark, Tamron Hall and Sherri are allowed to function as usual, given that they’ve never employed members of the WGA or a traditional writing staff. The only other major daytime player is Kelly Clarkson, who ordinarily does employ WGA writers, but her return to television is delayed thanks to the show moving its location from LA to NYC.
What about late night talk shows?
On the late night talk show end, the network names (Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel) remain off the air, though they have created a podcast called Strike Force Five with fellow host John Oliver; the project is meant to raise money for their striking writers and out-of-work crews.
Bill Maher, ever the contrarian, has chosen to go back into production on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher sans writers, with the first new episode scheduled for Friday, September 22nd. This comes after he called the WGA’s demands “kooky,” going so far as to say that people are not “owed a living as a writer.” Maher himself is a writer on the show.
Update: Drew Barrymore announced on Sunday, September 17th that she is pausing the her talk show’s premiere “until the strike is over.” Fellow CBS show The Talk has also had its premiere postponed, as has Real Time with Bill Maher and The Jennifer Hudson Show.