“The Drew Barrymore Show” will begin airing new episodes Monday, but plenty of off-air controversy will cling to its typically bubbly host.
Barrymore – daughter of a proud acting dynasty – is making new runs of her syndicated talk show despite protesters outside her studio, as daytime television becomes the latest battleground in Hollywood’s ongoing union dispute.
“It’s been about four months since this strike began and it’s not surprising that there are defectors,” said Michael H. LeRoy, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “I couldn’t predict this would happen on daytime television, but everyone has a breaking point in a work dispute.”
“The Drew Barrymore Show,” operating without its three union writers, is not the only daytime show to be picked up. “The View” is back for its 27th season on ABC, while “Tamron Hall” and “Live With Kelly and Ryan” — neither are governed by Writers Guild rules — have also produced new episodes. “The Jennifer Hudson Show” and “The Talk” also resume Monday.
As long as hosts and guests aren’t discussing or promoting works covered by television, film, or streaming contracts, they aren’t technically striking. That’s because talk shows are covered by a separate contract — the so-called Network Code — from the one that actors and writers enter into. The Network Code also covers reality television, sports, morning news, soap operas and game shows.
“I know there’s nothing I can do to make this acceptable to those with whom it doesn’t sit well. I fully accept that,” Barrymore said in a video posted Friday to Instagram that was later deleted. “I just want everyone to know that my intentions were never to upset or hurt me. This is not who I am.
The ongoing strike pits the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents Disney, Netflix, Amazon and others.
The return of daytime hosts, producers and studio crews will lead to some awkward exchanges, predicted Zayd Ayers Dohrn, a writer, professor and director of the MFA in writing for screen and stage at Northwestern University.
“It’s pretty amazing that they’re going back to work with their own writers protesting outside the studio doors,” said Dohrn, a member of the writers’ guild. “They are literally walking past the picket line of the workers they claim to support.”
Barrymore’s decision to return to the air was met with backlash on social media. “You have the heart and mind to be more responsive to the needs of the community,” one user wrote on Instagram. Another was more blunt: “You can’t play a generous, relatable character when it’s financially expedient for you, and then break out when your wallet is in danger.” »
Actress and activist Alyssa Milano, whose friendship with Barrymore goes back years, also criticized the return, calling it “not a good decision.”
“I like her a lot – I grew up with her – but I’m not sure it’s the right decision to strike. I’m sure in her eyes it’s the right decision for her and the show, but as far as the WGA, SAG and the union are concerned, it’s not a good decision.
Barrymore’s position has also caused some perplexity since she left her post as host of the MTV Movie & TV Awards in May, the first major awards show to air during the strike. At the time, she wrote, “I have listened to the writers and, in order to truly respect them, I will stop hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards live in solidarity with the strike.” »
She has since lost another hosting job: the National Book Awards in November. The organization rescinded its invitation “in light of the announcement that ‘The Drew Barrymore Show’ would resume production.”
LeRoy, who has studied worker-employer struggles for 30 years, warned that television shows like Barrymore’s might think they can get away with not using union writers, but might find costs in long term.
“No one from the Writers Guild will work on this series again,” he said. “It’s a short-term feel-good moment or a break for Drew Barrymore and maybe others, but in the long term, in my opinion, they’ve really given themselves an early retirement.”
He pointed to other strikes in the past that left bitter feelings for decades, such as when Major League Baseball umpires went on strike in 1999. New umpires were hired and integrated with veterans, but tensions persisted.
“For the next 25 years, these referees would not speak to each other if they were assigned to play together,” LeRoy said. “Twenty-five years of exclusion. People don’t forget it.”
Viewers watching new episodes of daytime talk shows will experience a changed landscape. Guests aren’t always the stars with hit TV shows or movies to promote. Since the start of the strike, authors, musicians and actors have been filling the gaps.
This week, Neil deGrasse Tyson was on “Live With Kelly and Ryan” to talk about the science behind the Hulk while Cedric The Entertainer spoke to Hall about his debut novel. Matthew McConaughey was on “The View” to promote his book “Just Because.”
Hosts like Barrymore can find themselves in a lose-lose situation: They’re contractually obligated to return to work, but certain to anger their co-workers when they do. Last week she said: “It’s bigger than me.”
Bill Maher, who also announced he would return to his late-night talk show, explained his reasoning as wanting to help his entire staff, saying that writers “aren’t the only people who have problems, problems and concerns.
Dohrn doesn’t believe it: “They talk about wanting to support people who are struggling to get by. But Bill Maher, Drew Barrymore and the hosts of “The View” aren’t just getting away with it. They could very easily stand with their industry colleagues and say, ‘We’re not going to feed the studio pipeline until they make a fair offer,'” he said.
“They decide, for a whole series of complicated reasons, to return to work and ultimately attempt to break the strike.”
Associated Press writer Krysta Fauria contributed to this report.