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Drew Barrymore out as host of National Book Awards as talk show returns amid strikes

Drew Barrymore says the return of her talk show is "compliant" with the strike. Is it?
/ Source: TODAY

When Drew Barrymore explained her decision this week to bring back her daytime talk show amid the ongoing writers’ strike, her announcement stirred controversy.

Strike supporters are accusing Barrymore of crossing picket lines by resuming her show, with some Instagram commenters calling the decision “disappointing,” “disrespectful” and “tone deaf.”

“As a fan of your work, I would love for you to reconsider this choice,” one person commented on her Sept. 10 post. “It is explicitly against the strike, and ignoring the requests of the union. This is not just disappointing, it’s a huge statement to the generation of creatives younger than you that your own feelings are more important than our industry’s future.”

“Are you going to walk past your own writers on the picket line?” another commenter wrote.

“Writers made you your career. They gave you lines. You wouldn’t have gotten where you are without them,” another person commented. “I always thought of you as someone with great empathy. Not anymore. Not if you do this.”

Guild members have also been picketing the show since it resumed taping on Sept. 11 at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York.

As of Sept. 12, Barrymore has been uninvited to the National Book Awards, which she had previously been slated to host.

In her initial Sept. 10 Instagram statement, she said she “own(s) this choice” and said her show is “in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind.”

On Sept. 15, Barrymore publicly addressed the backlash to her initial announcement. In a video she shared on Instagram, she said she takes "full responsibility" for her actions and that her intentions have "never been in a place to upset or hurt anyone."

"I deeply apologize to writers, I deeply apologize to unions, I deeply apologize ... I don't exactly know what to say because sometimes when things are so tough, it's hard to make decisions from that place. So all I can say is that I wanted to accept responsibility," she said.

"(It's) my decision to go back to the show. I didn't want to hid behind people, so I won't," Barrymore continued, going on to say that her show returning is "bigger" than her and that other people's jobs are on the line.

Here’s why the return of “The Drew Barrymore Show” is causing so much controversy.

Why are people upset about the return of Drew Barrymore’s talk show?

"The Drew Barrymore Show's" writers are covered by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which is currently on strike.

The WGA, a guild representing 11,000 writers in television, movies and other creative media, has been on strike since May, demanding fairer pay as well as clearer provisions in their contracts around artificial intelligence. 

SAG-AFTRA, a guild representing more than 160,000 actors and others in the entertainment industry, also went on strike in July

As a result of the dual strikes, most TV shows, including talk shows such as “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” which rely on teams of writers, have been dark for months.

By resuming taping of her show, Barrymore would be violating the rules of the WGA strike, according to a post from the WGA’s eastern division on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“The @DrewBarrymoreTV Show is a WGA covered, struck show that is planning to return without its writers,” the WGA East wrote on X. “The Guild has, and will continue to, picket struck shows that are in production during the strike. Any writing on ‘The Drew Barrymore Show’ is in violation of WGA strike rules.”

Drew Barrymore wrote on Instagram that her show is “in compliance” with strike rules by “not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind.” Is this true?

Barrymore is not violating SAG-AFTRA rules by resuming her show, because her talk show is covered by a different SAG-AFTRA contract that is not part of the strike.

So, as long as Barrymore does not discuss or promote any of her film or TV projects on her show, she is not violating SAG-AFTRA’s strike guidelines.

However, her show is also covered by the WGA contract. So, if any writing occurs during the production of the show, this would violate the rules of the WGA strike. 

Talk shows like “The Drew Barrymore Show” may seem spontaneous and unscripted, but they rely on teams of writers to create monologues, jokes, interview questions, and other content. 

So, as the show resumes taping, writing is almost certainly occurring as part of the show’s production, says David Slack, a TV writer and producer and former WGA West board member, tells 

“It’s incredibly hard to imagine that nobody at that show is performing at least some of the work that writers normally perform,” says Slack, who noted that while he is a former WGA board member, he was speaking in his own capacity, and not on behalf of the WGA.

“Anyone performing work that is work normally done by a striking worker, that person is a scab,” Slack adds. (A “scab” is a term used to refer to someone who continues to work for a struck company during a strike.)

Would celebrity guests be violating the strike by appearing on “The Drew Barrymore Show”?

As part of the SAG-AFTRA strike rules, actors are banned from promoting their projects via interviews or public appearances. 

In her recent Instagram statement, Barrymore said that her show would remain in compliance with strike rules by “not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind,” which could extend to guests.

Even so, while Slack says he isn’t familiar with the inner workings of the “The Drew Barrymore Show,” he imagines there could be an issue if guests perform any activities on the show that fall under the category of writing.

“Writing” could mean planning a “prearranged joke” with a guest, Slack says, or a guest pitching a funny anecdote to tell during an interview. 

“Writing takes a lot of different forms,” he said. “It’s not always sitting at a keyboard typing stuff out. Coming up with lines in post (production) is writing, pitching jokes on set is writing. So if anybody’s doing that work, that’s scabbing. 

“I don’t know about guests going on her show and what they might be involved in,” he added, “but I would encourage people not to be guests on her show or any of these shows that are working without their writers right now.”

Has Drew Barrymore supported the writers' strike in the past?

Yes. In May, a few days after the WGA strike was called, Barrymore revealed that she was stepping down as host from the MTV Movie and TV Awards, which she had been set to host on May 7.

“I have listened to the writers, and in order to truly respect them, I will pivot from hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards live in solidarity with the strike,” she said at the time in a statement to NBC News. “Everything we celebrate and honor about movies and television is born out of their creation.

“And until a solution is reached, I am choosing to wait but I’ll be watching from home and hope you will join me,” her statement added. “I thank MTV, who has truly been some of the best partners I have ever worked with.”

In her recent Instagram statement announcing her decision to bring back her talk show, Barrymore referred to her earlier decision to step down as host of the MTV awards.

“I made a choice to walk away from the MTV, film and television awards because I was the host and it had a direct conflict with what the strike was dealing with which was studios, streamers, film, and television,” she wrote. 

“It was 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,” she added. 

Many expressed disappointment over the shift in Barrymore’s approach to the writers’ strike.

“Considering that she took a stand with us and refused to do the MTV movie awards early in the strike, this isn’t a person who’s in a position to be afraid of breaking contracts,” Slack says. “She broke a contract in solidarity with us in the beginning. So it’s very disappointing that she’s now taken this stance and gone back to work.”

What else has Drew Barrymore said about bringing back her show?

In her Sept. 10 post, Barrymore noted that the previous season of her show wrapped in April, before the WGA strike began, so her team “never had to shut down” the show. 

“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,” she wrote.

“I own this choice. We are in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind,” she continued.

She also reflected on the past seasons of “The Drew Barrymore Show,” noting that the show launched “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,” she wrote. “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,” her statement concluded. “And so I take a step forward to start season 4 once again with an astute humility.”

What about the argument that Barrymore is giving her crew work by resuming her show?

Some commenters on social media have applauded Barrymore’s decision to bring back her talk show because it will keep her non-striking crew members employed.

“You’re helping keep your staffs’ rents paid and food on the table! Good for you!” one person commented on Barrymore’s Instagram statement.

“Drew Barrymore doesn’t want to see her crew broke anymore. I stand with her 100%,” another person wrote on X

Meanwhile, others argue that while bringing back her show may employ some people in the short term, it is ultimately harming the wider labor movement. 

“There are people who would argue, ‘Oh, well, she’s doing this for her crew,’” Slack says. “But the fact is that by using scab labor, by providing the studios with more content, while two major guilds are out on strike, that’s actually prolonging the strike, and that’s hurting every other crew in Hollywood. 

“We all desperately need to get back to work, and it’s crazy that companies are doing this to us and making this take so long, and Drew Barrymore is not helping,” he says. “And if she would stop doing her show, which she can still do, that would go a long way towards making this right.”

Other commenters echoed this argument on social media.

“You are asking guests (and crew members) to cross a picket line and are now an extremely powerful voice weakening a labor movement,” one person wrote on Instagram.

Book backlash: National Book Awards disinvites Barrymore

Barrymore was previously slated to host the annual National Book Awards but on Sept. 12, the National Book Foundation said in a post that she had been uninvited.

"The National Book Awards is an evening dedicated to celebrating the power of literature, and the incomparable contributions of writers to our culture. In light of the announcement that 'The Drew Barrymore Show' will resume production, the National Book Foundation has rescinded Ms. Barrymore’s invitation to host the 74th National Book Awards Ceremony," a statement posted to the foundation's Instagram reads. "Our commitment is to ensure that the focus of the Awards remains on celebrating writers and books, and we are grateful to Ms. Barrymore and her team for their understanding in this situation."

Is “The Drew Barrymore Show” definitely coming back? 

As of Sept. 12, tickets were available to book for upcoming tapings of “The Drew Barrymore Show” via 1iota, a third-party website that handles TV show audience bookings.

The show’s Instagram page has also not indicated any change of course in terms of the show’s planned return on Sept. 18.

With a few days left before the show’s planned Season Four premiere, Slack says he hopes Barrymore will reconsider.

“I personally believe it’s not too late for Drew Barrymore to do the right thing. I hope that she will,” he says. “I’ve never heard a bad thing about her, and she stood with us in the past.”