As Drew Barrymore faced widespread criticism for her decision to resume production during the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, “The Drew Barrymore Show” stood at the center of the WGA’s wrath during its first day back.
“All the late night shows, all the scripted shows, we just want everybody to be able to come back,” “The Drew Barrymore Show” co-head writer Liz Koe told TheWrap while picketing outside of CBS Broadcast Center. “But we can’t do it without getting fair contracts and being treated respectfully.”
While Koe noted that she thought her employer “made the best decision she could” from Koe’s limited understanding of the situation, she emphasized how important solidarity and unity is during this time.
“I totally understand if the decision is about getting the team back to work and getting the crew back to work,” Koe continued. “But that said, we’re still — just like we have been all summer — showing up, showing our resolve, showing our passion to have a fair contract and to be treated, not just fairly, but with respect by the studios. We’re still out here with that same message, and it’s a collective message. It’s not a personal message.”
Two days into the ongoing WGA strike, Drew Barrymore dropped out of hosting the MTV Movie and TV Awards to stand in solidarity with her writers. The move earned her widespread praise. In fact, other writers even reached out to Koe “to say this was so powerful and bold and impactful.”
“To see the solidarity she showed early on in the strike and how encouraging and heartening it was to see her make that move, it was such a hopeful moment. And now that she’s coming back, I think people feel really let down,” Josh Gondelman, a WGA East councilmember and writer for “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” told TheWrap.
Now, 133 days into the strike, Barrymore is in a significantly different position. After announcing that “The Drew Barrymore Show” would resume production, the daytime talk show was met by scathing responses on X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter), as well as three WGA picket lines surrounding the CBS Broadcast Center on Monday.
“There’s a lot of anger, a lot of frustration that they’re back in production, which is breaking strike rules,” Gondelman said. “But I hope she comes around. And I hope they shut this production down, frankly.”
The amount of anger from WGA members surrounding this show’s return is on par with the confusion it’s produced online. The first disconnect is a fairly simple one: Yes, “The Drew Barrymore Show,” like every other talk show, employs writers. According to Koe, the feel-good segment Drew’s News, as well as the skits and game shows that appear on the series, are all written by writers.
“She can speak for herself, but we write extra stuff that helps support her and, hopefully, conveys the thoughts, emotions and humor she wants,” Koe explained.
But why exactly is this show’s return so enraging to WGA members when it’s returning sans writers? It all comes down to how the series is classified. “The Drew Barrymore Show” is part of a struck category of shows categorized under Appendix A, which includes daytime talk shows, late-night, variety, soap operas and quiz shows.
“For them to go back into production and make the show without those writers is a pretty clear violation of the strike on behalf of the show,” Gondelman explained.
Gondelman also noted that it “didn’t matter” that the series would be returning without its writers — it’s still a strike-impacted show. He pointed to another series that’s been at the center of the WGA’s New York pickets, ABC’s “The View.”
“They have WGA writers who are striking, and they’re doing the show without them,” Gondelman said. “So we’ve been at ‘The View’ a number of times, and we’ll be back when they’re back in production.”
Koe learned that her employer would be airing new episodes at the same time as everyone else. But despite the criticism her boss has received, Koe noted that Barrymore “really cares about her show” and her staff and that the host “supports this whole community.”
“I don’t know what she’s contending with,” Koe said.
Even among those more critical of Barrymore, there’s optimism, largely due to to the support the talk show host showed early in the WGA strike.
“My hope is that this is a blip and that we go back to the kind of solidarity we’ve been seeing for the past four months,” Gondelman said. He pointed to his own employer, John Oliver — as well as Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers — as talk show hosts providing good examples of solidarity. All proceeds from the group’s recently launched podcast, “Strike Force Five,” are going to the impacted staffs of their five late-night shows.
“That kind of stuff is so generous and so important and a strong show of solidarity. That’s the thing Drew Barrymore had set the bar for in a really great way earlier,” Gondelman said. “I hope she returns to that. It would be really impressive and really heartening.”