Jennifer Hudson’s daytime talk show has been renewed for a second season. But according to Page Six, multiple producers will not be returning to the show for season two, and several producers, including one of the EPs, have been fired.
“It’s typical for a show to make adjustments after a debut season, however, nearly 95 percent of the staff and crew are being asked to return,” a spokesperson for the show told the outlet, suggesting this is all par for the course.
What’s not par for the course, though, is the decision that Jennifer made to retain her assistant and publicist as executive producers – suggesting this is more about maintaining a particular image of the show than it is about giving those roles to people with actual production experience.
This is just one of many debacles happening in the world of daytime talk shows. Kelly Clarkson made a public statement a few days ago in response to the Rolling Stone article published earlier this month that included some serious allegations from former staffers and a current employee about deplorable working conditions on the show.
Earlier Rolling Stone published an article including anecdotes from staffers who say they were overworked, underpaid and that their time working on the show had a detrimental impact on their mental health. They did say, however, that they’re certain Kelly was out of the loop when it came to just how unhappy her staffers have been with their working conditions.
“NBC is protecting the show because it’s their new money maker, but Kelly has no clue how unhappy her staff is,” one former employee was quoted as saying in the article.
In response to all of these claims, Kelly posted this carousel to her Instagram, addressing not only the allegations, but the show’s action plan for remaining staff members.
People praised her for tackling the issue head on and taking accountability, even though staffer appear to confirm that she is genuinely unaware of just how bad it is.
In 2020, cracks in the foundation of Ellen DeGeneres’ beloved talk show started to appear. A viral Twitter thread is thought to be the starting point of a conversation about toxic workplaces in daytime television that, according to what we’re seeing unfold with Jennifer and Kelly’s shows, is still going on.
And it makes sense. There seems to be a rather small pool of producers going from show to show throughout cancellations, season renewals and new talent taking on different daytime slots. With this happening, producers are talking more with each other, comparing their pay, and mobilizing in new ways, now that the floodgates of conversation have been opened.
When it was announced Wendy Williams was coming off the air, Sherri Shepherd inherited most of her staff for the first season of her show. But ahead of the season two renewal, she cut ties with them, similar to what J-Hud is doing on her show.
The problem that creates, for showrunners anyway, is that you’re keeping the same cohort of frustrated, overworked and underpaid staffers together without fixing the root cause of the issue. J-Hud inherited almost all of Ellen’s producers when her show began. It’s safe to say they were skeptical, cautiously optimistic, and hoping for more. But imagine being met with the same disappointment of poor wages and a high-stress work environment at every turn.
Compensation is a critical issue for writers and producers on daytime television. It’s one of the driving factors behind the Writer’s Guild strike entering its fourth week. Many low-level staffers on Kelly’s show told Rolling Stone they’ve taken on other jobs including babysitting, walking dogs and delivering Uber Eats to make ends meet.
According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary of a talk show producer is just under $84,000. And having spent time as a producer on a daytime talk show myself, I’d say that’s on the higher end. We know that there is a huge range depending on where you fall in line when it comes to junior, mid and senior level roles. But when the average rent for an apartment in Hollywood is thought to sit at $3,650 per month, it’s no wonder people are resorting to side hustles.
With Kelly's show reportedly heading to New York for filming in its next season, staffers are at a crossroads.
Realistically, there’s no reason these producers shouldn’t be earning more. In Kelly’s case in particular, she rakes in 1.4 million viewers daily, according to Nielsen data. It’s a sentiment shared by a former staffer quoted in Rolling Stone, who said:
“People shouldn’t be treated like this. Especially when you’re working on a TV show that’s winning Emmys and bringing in millions of ad dollars.”
The Writer’s Guild has launched an investigation into the show. Rolling Stone obtained emails that suggest a protection under the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement has been violated. Because The Kelly Clarkson Show is a part of the Writers Guild and only writers are permitted to write on a unionized show, yet producers also allegedly wrote episodes, which means the show may be in even more trouble.
As to how this will unfold for Jennifer and Kelly, it’s anyone’s guess. But showrunners, and the people at the helm of these eponymous shows, are being called on to do more and to do better. Whether they’re aware of what’s happening on the ground, it’s crucial that they put in the work to improve working conditions for staffers. Because in the midst of strikes, writers and producers are becoming increasingly opposed to settling for the bare minimum, everyone is getting put on notice, and rightfully so.
Attached - Jennifer Hudson arriving at the Lakers game the other day.