What a week it’s been for Drew Barrymore. Last weekend, she announced she would be resuming tapings of her daytime talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show. This was not met well, to say the least. Then, on Friday, she posted an apology on Instagram—it was a bad week for celebrity apologies, in general—which has since been deleted, but you can see it preserved forever here. The apology was also met badly, and though the Instagram post is now gone, I scrolled the comments Friday evening and while, yes, some people expressed support for Drew, a LOT of people, even people stating they are fans of hers, said she shouldn’t cross the picket line. 


Well, the public pressure worked, because on Sunday, it was announced that Drew won’t be returning to air, after all. The episodes taped last week won’t be broadcast, either. After her announcement, fellow daytime talk shows The Talk and The Jennifer Hudson Show followed suit, announcing they, too, will stay off-air for the time being. MeanwhileKelly Clarkson’s show, which is amidst a relocation from Los Angeles to New York, has not yet announced a return date, and The View is still taping despite employing two WGA writers who are on strike, so technically, they’re scabs for not supporting their colleagues. (Sherri Shepherd’s show, Sherri, is not covered by the WGA and thus, is not a struck show.)

To answer some emails I’ve gotten over the last week, here are some of the moving pieces in play. Talk shows operate under the “network code” from SAG-AFTRA, which means the on-air talent can work during the strike without being in violation of their strike rules. HOWEVER, if the writers of the show are unionized, which Drew’s, Jennifer Hudson’s, The Talk, and all the late-night shows are, they still have to deal with the WGA strike. They could, as many television and film productions did earlier this summer, technically keep working “without writers”, but in this case, the daytime shows are following the late-night shows’ example of holding the picket line with their writers (finally).


There is also the fact that these shows are all syndicated. Syndication deals are made directly with local television station groups, not just the network on which the show airs. These deals stipulate that the show will deliver a certain number of new episodes each year, which is why the daytime shows are under pressure to get back on air and fulfill their contracts (the late-night shows are not syndicated). Variety has a piece breaking this down, though take it with a grain of salt because there is a lot of “won’t you think of the crew” and “people just need to get back to work” language in it, which, as I said on Friday, feels like a deliberate, pro-management talking point meant to create wedges among labor from AMPTP.

In this moment, Drew did the right thing, which has prompted other syndicated talk shows to follow suit. She deserves some credit for finally hearing what everyone was saying and honoring the strike. Continuing to drag her serves no purpose.

Tweet by Lon Harris

But reality is, as a syndicated show, eventually she and the others WILL have to do something about coming back on air, or else they’ll be in breach of contract. Re-runs won’t satisfy the terms of their syndication deals. But there are some options on the table. For one, Drew et al could simply announce they’re delaying their season premieres, buying more time for the strikes to, hopefully, resolve before the end of the year. That probably won’t happen, though, which means eventually, these shows are going to have to resume while the WGA strike is still ongoing. 

In that case, Drew and the other hosts should be VERY clear about which strike terms they’re violating and which they’re not. They could clearly and concisely lay out the issue—we have to produce new episodes, or the shows could be cancelled, costing everyone their jobs—but draw attention to the issues of livable wages, better working environments, and apply pressure on AMPTP to get the deal done. Invite labor representatives and union officials onto the shows to talk about these issues and highlight the need for collective action. Make it clear to the audience they’re in an untenable position and that it is their bosses’ fault.

Nobody likes bosses. If Drew had made it clear she was between a rock and a hard place with her bosses, the last week might have gone very differently.


Which brings me to my final point—why was Drew Barrymore the one to deliver this message? Who convinced her to do this? Maybe she genuinely felt it was her responsibility as the host of the show, but I feel like anyone paying even halfway attention to the issues could have told her it would go about as well as it did. Why wasn’t she protected from her own well-meaning, if misguided, impulses at the very least? Why wasn’t there just a generic statement issued via the trades, why was Drew on her personal Insta making these statements?

She talked a lot about taking responsibility and “owning” the decision, but this is NOT a decision she made in a vacuum. Other people HAD to be involved, from her network (CBS) and/or its parent company (Paramount), to producers on the show, lawyers—a lot of people were “in the room”, so to speak, when this decision was made. And yet not ONE person thought it was a bad idea for their “good vibes only” host to make the announcement herself?

My worst, most conspiracy-minded assumption is that they did know how it would go, and they didn’t care (“they” being management from CBS/Paramount). The point was never about getting The Drew Barrymore Show back on the air, it was about putting a high-profile celebrity face to the wedge issue of “people need to work” (one that people actually like, because nobody likes Bill Maher), and Drew, bless her heart, was used to chum the water. Solidarity among all levels of actors and writers has, so far, been exemplary. There are people with payrolls who are concerned about their employees—this is why the big-name showrunners met with WGA leadership Friday—but four months into the WGA strike and two months into the SAG-AFTRA strike, solidarity remains high.


I KNOW how nuts its sounds to toss around “they” like this, but it is clear that AMPTP is losing the battle of public perception, and the unions aren’t weakening despite real hardships being faced by tens of thousands of striking members, and non-striking workers who are honoring picket lines regardless. Short of, you know, negotiating in good faith and making a f-cking deal, AMPTP’s only move is to sow discord among the unions. The sudden refrain of “people need to work” and making Drew Barrymore the face of the oh-so-concerned “bosses” feel of a piece. It both creates that wedge between unions, and it makes Drew the new face of anti-management sentiment.

Except Drew Barrymore isn’t management. She’s A boss on The Drew Barrymore Show, but she’s not THE boss. THE bosses are the executives of CBS and Paramount. If a renegotiation needs to take place with the local TV broadcasters who syndicate the show, Drew isn’t making that deal, lawyers from CBS and Paramount are. If the show is cancelled, Drew isn’t making that call, she gets fired alongside everyone else. They tried to make her look like a boss, but she just looked like a person in over her head. You know, not a boss. 

If CBS is so worried about their syndicated talk shows fulfilling their contracts, they should take it up with their fellow members of AMPTP and get a deal done. AMPTP could end this strike and get everyone back to work at any time. Instead, they’re wasting their time trying to make Drew Barrymore public enemy #1.