“The Drew Barrymore Show” returned from its summer hiatus Monday and all hell broke loose.
The WGA picketed Barrymore’s daytime talk show, which employed three WGA members prior to the strike. The program joins the ranks of ABC’s “The View,” which also returned. “The Talk,” “The Jennifer Hudson Show,” and “The Kelly Clarkson Show” have all announced their intention to return before the strike ends; they can expect the same treatment.
All daytime talk shows are not created equally as far as the WGA is concerned. “Tamron Hall,” “Live with Kelly and Mark,” and “Sherri” don’t employ WGA writers and should have cleaner comebacks. Of course, they still can’t have actor or writer guests promoting their films or TV shows. (SAG-AFTRA has been on strike since July 14; the WGA strike started May 2.)
While late-night talk shows often have heavily written sketches, monologues, and hosts who are also WGA members, daytime shows have looser writing responsibilities.
Shows like “The View,” “The Talk,” “The Jennifer Hudson Show,” and “The Kelly Clarkson Show” each employ two or three writers. (IndieWire understands “The Kelly Clarkson Show” employs 178 individuals.) And because some are largely unscripted panel shows, a program like “The View” has remained on the air throughout the writers strike, just without any writers working.
Any show that employs a WGA writer falls under the MBA, or minimum bargaining agreement, that encompasses all film and TV writers. Those shows are all considered “struck” by the guild. That’s a key difference between the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. Daytime talk shows are covered under a different contract, “Network Code,” which explains why SAG-AFTRA members like Barrymore, Whoopi Goldberg, and Kelly Clarkson are still working on daytime TV. (SAG-AFTRA issued a statement obtained by IndieWire saying that Barrymore is not in violation of its strike rules.)
Still, some SAG-AFTRA members, like Mayim Bialik of “Celebrity Jeopardy,” are voluntarily stepping away to support the overall cause. That’s probably doesn’t help the case for Barrymore, a former movie star. “The West Wing” star Josh Malina called Barrymore a “scab.” In an Instagram comment, actress Milana Vayntrub asked her to “turn back now.” WGA negotiating committee member Adam Conover begged her to “please reconsider.”
Also not helping Barrymore is her decision back in May to step down as host of Neither the 2023 MTV Movie & TV Awards. In her Instagram post explaining why she’s returning to daytime, Barrymore reminded fans of her prior decision to step away from hosting the MTV awards show in solidarity with the writers. This time, she said, “is bigger than just me.”
“(The MTV Awards were) also in the first week of the strike and so I did what I thought was the appropriate thing at the time to stand in solidarity with the writers,” Barrymore wrote in her post. “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. I own this choice. We are in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind. 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. 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.”
Barrymore said she will not violate SAG-AFTRA’s rule to not promote work made by the AMPTP studios, but she is returning to a struck WGA show. Critics of her choice have argued that she has the means to support her staff out of her own pocket while the strike continues.
And then there was the Monday taping incident. Two audience members at her show’s first taping were reportedly asked to leave after security spotted them wearing WGA pins.
“It is our policy to welcome everyone to our show tapings. 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,” a spokesperson for the show told IndieWire.
“The Talk” and “The Jennifer Hudson Show” are reportedly set to return September 18; reps for both shows had no comment. Sherri Shepherd’s talk show is set to return the same day.
Clarkson’s show has a convenient loophole. Her daytime talk series, off for the summer like so many, moved from Los Angeles to New York City. That means it needs to build a brand-new set at 30 Rock, which is currently under way. With that preplanned delay, Clarkson has not announced a return date. It also means that her writing staff for the 2023-24 season is not finalized; technically, Clarkson’s camp can claim the show had no WGA writers employed for this season. They used WGA writers in previous seasons.
Also at issue is the definition of “writing” itself as it pertains to daytime TV. IndieWire talked to some talk-show sources who feel the shows will be able to continue without any “writing” being done. “The View” host Goldberg addressed this in May, saying audiences would notice what it’s like when things are “not slicked up” by writers. Segment producers often did the most basic writing — notes and questions, for example — on these types of shows. They are generally not WGA writers.
The WGA doesn’t see it this way. Its rules about what constitutes “writing” have tightened since the 2008 writers strike, when all major late-night talk shows (eventually) returned to the air without writers a full month before the strike ended.
Today, the guild has strict strike rules for its MBA writers that restrict responsibilities known as the “(a)-(h) functions.” These are meant to prevent showrunners from taking on minor script edits like cutting for time, adding stage directions, or reassigning lines from one character to another — all tasks that studios sometimes don’t think of as “writing.”
However, late-night, daytime, game shows, or variety shows are covered under separate “Appendix A” rules in which “writing” could mean anything from scripting a monologue to developing and researching questions for guests or putting those words on cue cards.
Put more simply: If you’re replacing the work that a writer would otherwise do, the guild views it as scabbing. Penalties include monetary fines or a potential lifetime ban from the WGA (for current members or future hopefuls) for the individual, and a visible protest for the show.
The WGA isn’t starting any disciplinary proceedings or publicly accusing Barrymore or her staff of wrongdoing (yet). It has made clear that “The Drew Barrymore Show” is struck, and if any work is done on it, there will be issues. Barrymore may not have a concern about one day being a staff writer on a Netflix series, but she does have a reputation to worry about.
“Oh, you own it. For sure, @DrewBarrymore,” actor Bradley Whitford, one of many stars who publicly slammed her Monday, said on X. “And we’ll never forget it.”