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October 2, 2023

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

The National Book Foundation has rescinded its invitation to Drew Barrymore to host its annual book awards following her decision to bring back her daytime talk show amid the ongoing writers’ strike.

The foundation made the announcement Tuesday. Barrymore had been slated to host the 74th National Book Awards in November.

“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,” it said in a post on social media.

Barrymore announced on Sunday the decision to bring back “The Drew Barrymore Show.” In a post on Instagram, she said, “I own this choice” and said her show is “in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind.”

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.”

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

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

Why are people upset about the return of ‘The Drew Barrymore Show’?

The 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, 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.”

Is Barrymore’s show ‘in compliance’ with strike rules?

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.

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, said David Slack, a TV writer and producer and former WGA West board member.

“It’s incredibly hard to imagine that nobody at that show is performing at least some of the work that writers normally perform,” said 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.

Would celebrity guests be violating the strike by appearing on the show?

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

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. 

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

Yes. In May, a few days after the WGA strike was called, Barrymore said 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. “Everything we celebrate and honor about movies and television is born out of their creation.

In her recent Instagram statement announcing her decision to bring back her talk show, Barrymore referred to the decision to step down as host, saying she did so “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.”

“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. 

What else has Barrymore said about her show’s return?

In her Sunday 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. 

Barrymore said she was making the choice to come back but said it is “bigger than just me.”

She added: “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.”

As of Tuesday, tickets were available to book for upcoming tapings via 1iota, a third-party website that handles TV show audience bookings.

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

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