NEW YORK – When Drew Barrymore announced in May that she was stepping down as host of the MTV Movie & TV Awards to show solidarity with striking Hollywood writers, she received an outpouring of praise from fans and viewers who supported her stance.
But the news that the 48-year-old American actress would be bringing her daytime talk show back without its unionised writers was met with a very different response: A group of picketers demonstrated on Monday outside the CBS studios in Manhattan, where the show was taping the first episode of its fourth season, which is scheduled to be broadcast next week. One man held a sign that said, “Drew the right thing”.
The network said The Drew Barrymore Show, a sunny, interview-oriented programme that debuted in 2020, was returning without written material that is “covered by the Writers Guild of America strike” – similar to the approach taken by some other talk shows during the dual strikes by writers and actors that have shut down much of Hollywood. The View (1997 to present), the daytime juggernaut, began airing episodes from its new season in September.
On Monday afternoon, as The Drew Barrymore Show prepared to tape its first episode since April, a couple of dozen picketers from both the WGA and the union that represents actors, Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, marched outside CBS Broadcast Center in New York, as audience members lined up along the sidewalk for the day’s taping.
Barrymore defended the show’s decision to return in an Instagram post on Sunday, saying that the show, which begins airing new episodes on Sept 18, would be “in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind”.
“I own this choice,” she said in the post, adding: “We launched live in a global pandemic. Our show was built for sensitive times and has only functioned through what the real world is going through in real time. I want to be there to provide what writers do so well, which is a way to bring us together or help us make sense of the human experience. I hope for a resolve for everyone as soon as possible.”
The WGA wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the show was covered by its union and that “any writing on The Drew Barrymore Show is in violation of WGA strike rules”.
Other daytime television programmes, including ABC’s Tamron Hall (2019 to present) and Live With Kelly And Mark (1983 to present), have aired new programming during the writers’ strike, which has lasted more than four months.
Ms Cristina Kinon, a co-head writer of The Drew Barrymore Show who carried a sign at the picket that said “Drew’s WGA crew”, said she was one of three striking union writers at the show, and that they learnt the show would be returning when production put out a call for audience members.
“I’m disappointed,” said Ms Kinon, who has been with the show since its pilot. “I wish that everyone in the industry could stand in solidarity with the unions. But everyone has to make his or her own personal decision.”
After two people wrote in social media posts that they had been removed from the audience at Monday’s taping for wearing Writers Guild pins that they had been given outside the studio, the show said in a statement that they had not been permitted to attend because of “heightened security concerns”. The show said it would offer them new tickets.
Late-night shows, which are more reliant on writers, are still dark. During the last strike, which started in 2007, the hosts came back gradually after about two months, while their writers continued to strike. None have opted to do so yet.
Instead, five of the hosts – including Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and John Oliver – recently started a podcast called Strike Force Five, with the proceeds going towards support for their shows’ employees.
Part of the backlash centres on Barrymore’s decision early on in the strike to bow out as host of the MTV Movie & TV Awards. At the time, Ms Kinon said, the talk show had already gone on its summer hiatus, but she had been involved with writing Barrymore’s material for the awards show until the host decided to drop out.
In her Instagram post, Barrymore said she had made the decision to step down from MTV hosting duties because the show “had a direct conflict with what the strike was dealing with which was studios, streamers, film, and television”.
“I did what I thought was the appropriate thing at the time to stand in solidarity with the writers,” Barrymore said in the post. She added, “However, I am also making the choice to come back for the first time in this strike for our show, that may have my name on it but this is bigger than just me.” NYTIMES
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