NEW YORK — “The Drew Barrymore Show” will begin airing new episodes Monday, but plenty of off-air controversies will rock its typically cheerful host.
The daughter of a proud acting dynasty, Barrymore is producing new batches of her syndicated talk show, despite pickets outside her studio, as daytime television becomes the latest battleground in the ongoing Hollywood labor struggle.
“We’ve been going on this strike for about four months now, 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 have predicted this would happen on daytime television, but everyone has a breaking point in a labor dispute.”
“The Drew Barrymore Show,” which continues without its three syndicated writers, is not the only daytime show that will continue. “The View” returns for its 27th season on ABC, while “Tamron Hall” and “Live With Kelly and Ryan” (neither of which are subject to writers guild rules) are also producing new episodes. “The Jennifer Hudson Show” and “The Talk” also reboot on Monday.
Hosts and guests are technically not breaking the strike unless they are discussing or promoting work under television, theater or broadcast contracts. This is because talk shows fall under a separate agreement (the so-called Network Code), which attracts attention from actors and writers. Network Code also covers reality TV, sports programming, morning news programs, soap operas and game shows.
“I know there’s nothing I can do to make me accept this for those to whom this is an issue. I fully accept this,” Barrymore said in a video posted to Instagram on Friday and later deleted. “I just want everyone to know that my intentions were never to upset or hurt anyone. “This is not who I am.”
The ongoing strike pits the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists against the Motion Picture and Television Producers Guild, which represents Disney, Netflix, Amazon and others.
Zayd Ayers Dohrn, a writer, professor and MFA director in Screen and Stage Writing at Northwestern University, predicted that the return of daytime hosts, producers and studio crews would lead to some strange changes.
“It’s really surprising that studios are going back to work with their own writers striking on their doorstep,” said Dohrn, a writer’s guild member. “They’re walking past the picket line of the workers they say they support.”
Barrymore’s decision to return to broadcast was met with backlash on social media. “You have the heart and mind to pay more attention to the needs of the community than this,” one viewer wrote on Instagram. Another was more blunt: “You can’t play a generous and relatable character when it’s financially convenient for you, and you can’t go on strike when your wallet is at risk.”
Actor and activist Alyssa Milano, whose friendship with Barrymore goes back many years, also criticized the comeback, saying it was “not a great move.”
“I love it so much – I grew up with it – but I’m not sure this is the right move to strike. “I’m sure in his eyes it was the right move for him and the show, but it wasn’t the best move for the WGA, SAG and the power of the union.”
Barrymore’s stance has also been met with some consternation since she left in May as host of the MTV Movie & TV Awards, the first major awards show to air during the strike. “I have listened to the writers, and to truly respect them, I will forgo hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards live in solidarity with the strike,” he wrote at the time.
She has since lost another hosting gig: the National Book Awards in November. The organization rescinded the invitation “in light of the announcement that ‘The Drew Barrymore Show’ will continue production.”
LeRoy, who has studied employee-employer struggles for 30 years, warned that TV shows like Barrymore’s may think they can get by without union writers but face long-term costs.
“No member of the Writers Guild will ever work on this show again,” he said. “This is a short-term, feel-good moment or a transitional moment for Drew Barrymore and maybe others, but my view is that in the long run, they’ve actually given themselves early retirement rights.”
He noted other strikes in the past, such as the Major League Baseball umpires strike in 1999, that have left bitter feelings for decades. New referees were hired and combined with experienced referees, but tensions remained.
“For the next 25 years, these referees would not talk to each other if they were assigned to work games together,” LeRoy said. “Twenty-five years of abstinence. People don’t forget that.”
Viewers tuning into new episodes of daytime talk shows these days will encounter a changing landscape. The guests aren’t always A-listers with blockbuster TV shows or movies to promote. Since the strike began, writers, musicians and comedians have been filling the gaps.
This week, while Neil deGrasse Tyson was talking about the science behind the Hulk on “Live With Kelly and Ryan,” Cedric The Entertainer was telling Hall about his debut novel. Matthew McConaughey was on “The View” to promote his book “Just Because.”
Homeowners like Barrymore may face a lose-lose situation; They are contractually obliged to return to work, but they are sure to annoy their colleagues when they return. “This is bigger than me,” he said last week.
Bill Maher, who also announced his return to his late-night talk show, stated his reason as wanting to help all his employees, and said that “writers are not the only ones with issues, issues, and concerns.”
Dohrn doesn’t believe it: “They talk about wanting to support people passing by. But Bill Maher, Drew Barrymore and the hosts of ‘The View’ aren’t just getting by. “They can very easily stand with their colleagues in the industry and say, ‘We won’t feed the studio pipeline unless they make a fair offer,'” he said.
“For a bunch of complicated reasons, they decide to go back to work and eventually break the strike.”
Associated Press Writer Krysta Fauria contributed to this report.