It looks like the fallout from Drew Barrymore’s decision to resume production on her talk show is not easing up anytime soon. There’s been a flurry of activity since she made the announcement in an Instagram post over the weekend that her show would be picking back up this week.
So far, the WGA has picketed outside her show, audience members wearing WGA support pins have been kicked out of the studio, resulting in her show making a (weak) statement, and most recently, her invitation to host the 2023 National Book Awards was rescinded.
In her announcement, Drew promised to “abide” by the rules of the strike by not promoting struck work. And while most daytime talk shows are technically allowed to continue to run according to the rules of the strike, considering several shows don’t actually employ unionized writers, The Drew Barrymore Show and The Talk are a couple of exceptions to the rule. So the idea that her show is abiding by the rules of the strike by not promoting struck work, while being a struck show, is very testy, and needless to say, people are really unhappy.
In her announcement, she highlighted the fact that she stepped down from hosting the MTV Movie and TV Awards due to the conflict it had with the strike and then pointed to her talk show having her name on it, but being “bigger” than just her as the reason for the show’s return. But it’s absolutely wild for her to suggest that she’s doing this as some sort of courtesy to her staffers, considering the show is returning without its writers and will use and pay scabs to fill the gaps. At its core, that’s really what all the hoopla is about. She’s been trying to spin this and editorialize the sh-t out of the fact that she’s breaking strike rules and she’s scabbing. And perhaps she thought that if she portrayed it in the way that she has, people would extend her some grace or not see it for what it is, but it appears most are in alignment with the striking writers and are seeing right through this crap.
The comment section on the announcement was filled with people speaking out against her decision to resume production, calling her a scab and letting her know they will not be tuning in. But the ones who choose to tune in, or attend tapings, had better hope they didn’t wear pins that were being handed out by picketers, because two people who did were kicked out of her studio.
On the show’s first day back, three pickets surrounded the CBS Broadcast Center. Two audience members, Cassidy Carter and Dominic Turiczek, who had won tickets and had no idea a strike was going on, accepted pins from a WGA volunteer and were then permitted access to the studio by a crew member. The guests described the crew member as “aggressive”, even after Cassidy removed her pin and Dominic offered to in order to be allowed access into the taping.
Later, it came out that Drew, apparently, was ‘completely unaware’ that they had been removed – and the statement provided by her show did absolutely nothing for anyone.
“It is our policy to welcome everyone to our show tapings,” a spokesperson said. “Due to heightened security concerns today, we regret that two audience members were not permitted to attend or were not allowed access. Drew was completely unaware of the incident and we are in the process of reaching out to the affected audience members to offer them new tickets.”
But the guests say they already have tickets to more tapings anyway and after this incident, they grabbed WGA shirts and ended up on the picket lines, too. “If they think we’re part of the strike, we might as well be,” Cassidy said. “It really has changed my perspective on her and the show in general. I’ve been completely alarmed and disheartened by this whole process.”
It didn’t stop there, though. Last night the National Book Foundation announced that Drew’s invitation to host the National Book Awards had been rescinded – and again, the comments are full of striking writers thanking the Foundation for their support of the strike, applauding the bold stance and decision.
An update on the host of the 2023 National Book Awards. pic.twitter.com/aa5aLh0FIU— National Book Foundation (@nationalbook) September 12, 2023
So none of this is boding well for Drew and gives the impression that she is either in way above her head and had no clue what the fallout would be, or that she did know and went ahead with production anyway. But based on just how clueless she came across in her initial statement, I think she really thought she could just say a bunch of words and create a smoke screen to distract people from seeing that she herself is scabbing and is paying scabs to fill the gaps in production to get her show back up and running.
It's basic knowledge that any given strike is the most effective when all hands are on deck in order to obtain the "resolve" she says she wants to see in her statement.
“I hope for a resolve for everyone as soon as possible. We have navigated difficult times since we first came on air. And so I take a step forward to start season 4 once again with an astute humility,” she concluded.
The comment about humility is another example of the smoke screen she’s trying to create. Because there’s all this talk about standing in solidarity, yet none of her actions are lining up. If she stands in solidarity, why couldn’t the two guests wearing pins stay in the audience? If she stepped down from hosting the MTV Awards, why would she not feel like hosting the National Book Awards, of all things, wouldn’t also be contradictory to her show resuming production during the strike?
What she’s doing is the exact opposite of humility. There is no possible way you can assert that you are supportive of your writers, or the strike, or the union to which your writers belong if you are resuming production during a strike. It’s a simple concept, very black and white – and though she’s trying to editorialize this in a way that makes her look like some saviour for others, it’s great that people are seeing right through it.
It’s no wonder people like Wendy McMahon, president and CEO of CBS News and Stations and CBS Media Ventures are issuing statements expressing their excitement. The heads of these companies are getting exactly what they want when people like Drew decide to operate during the strikes.
“From launching during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to successfully pivoting to a groundbreaking half-hour format, this show has demonstrated spectacular resilience and creative agility on its journey to becoming the fastest-growing show in daytime. We couldn’t have a better partner in Drew Barrymore and look forward to bringing our fans and station clients alike new episodes this fall,” she wrote in a statement.
During a strike, do you really want to be the person that network heads are referring to as the ideal partner? Meanwhile, you’re being dropped by one of the most wholesome foundations there is? Tell me you’re on the wrong side of history without telling me you’re on the wrong side of history.
The other question is – where are all the scabs coming from? Why is scabbing taking off, despite the widespread support for the strike? It would be remiss to not acknowledge the pressure, discipline and sacrifice required to be on strike. The cost of living has increased exponentially and for people who are fighting, not only for more dignity, but livable wages, this strike comes at a cost. While some scabs are taking advantage of the available work given the much smaller pool of writers willing to work during the strikes, there are scabs that feel like they have to work during a strike to make ends meet. To avoid this and alleviate some of that pressure, a swath of support funds have been established – and rather than resume production, Drew could have contributed to these.
Recently it was announced that Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw have contributed more than $1.5 million since May to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike funds. They’re part of a wider network of donors to the Entertainment Community Fund and the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Emergency Financial Assistance Program which has donated nearly $7 million, distributing between $400,000 and $700,000 each week to help writers cover their basic living expenses. Dwayne Johnson, George Clooney, Greg Berlanti, Ryan Murphy and Paul Feig have also been named as stars that made donations to strike funds since the strike began.
If she didn’t want to contribute to a fund, sure. But there are tons of ways to support writers right now and resuming production isn’t one of them. She also had the option of going the route that late night talk show hosts have. I would’ve loved to see her develop something similar to Strike Force Five. That concept would lend itself really well to an all-women panel of daytime talk show hosts where the proceeds go directly to striking writers and crew members.
There’s no telling what the ratings will be when it returns on September 18, but if the comment section from her announcement, the changing sentiments about her as a person and brand and the widespread solidarity we’ve seen with the strike is any indication, it might be a bust. Then again, comment sections are not necessarily indicative of legacy television ratings. Those audience members who were removed from the show, they said themselves they were unaware of a strike going on. There may be many more like them who tune in because they’re not paying attention. And if those ratings somehow could out healthy, it’s going to add a whole new dimension to this situation.
Discussion thread on this post open on The Squawk.