The Differences Between Write And Wrong

Drew Barrymore hasn’t been this controversial since she overreacted to an alien and overaroused a late night talk show host.

These days, Drew has somehow become the poster child for CBS daytime, defying both marginal ratings and a myriad of obstacles, starting with a global pandemic, to begin her fourth season as the host of an eponymous show that managed to borrow a page from the FAMILY FEUD playbook of ratings manipulation to offer back-to-back and modular half-hour episodes that artificially inflate her sellable national rating sufficiently enough that it appears to has actually grown significantly, when the reality is that her actual audience has effectively stayed consistent in the majority of her cities.  Fortunately for her, her biggest fans appear to be the rising stars at CBS management that embrace her talents and have chosen to build their stations’ news and programming strategies around making her show work.

But she’s apparently pissing off a lot of otherwise talented people.  Such as the folks that USA TODAY’s Edward Segarra wrote about yesterday:

The National Book Foundation revealed in an X post Tuesday that Barrymore – who was previously tapped to emcee the 74th annual National Book Awards – has been dropped as host following her announcement that production on “The Drew Barrymore Show” will resume.

“The National Book Awards is an evening dedicated to celebrating the power of literature and the incomparable contributions of writers to our culture,” the foundation wrote. “In light of the announcement that ‘The Drew Barrymore Show’ will resume production, the National Book Foundation has rescinded Ms.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.”

For her part, Barrymore owned up to her decision to go ahead with producing new episodes with statements released via social media earlier this week, as THE GUARDIAN’s Gloria Oladino recounted:

In an Instagram post on Monday, Barrymore announced that she was choosing to restart her show, noting that the talkshow would not promote “film and television that is struck of any kind”.

“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,” Barrymore said.

Perhaps lost in the hubbub was the fact that in making her decision she also found a way to allow dozens of her staffers–you know, other people who aren;t writers that have been affected by these strikes– to continue to receive paychecks at a time when many of their peers on late night shows are not, and are now benefitting from the alliance of the five front men now teaming up to offer support via the  STRIKE FORCE FIVE podcast.   Since Barrymore’s show only airs in late night in select cities as part of multiple runs that further inflate its national numbers, one suspects her invitation to join that podcast party got lost in the mail, or reached a bad IP address.

I want to reiterate that I have the utmost respect for the issues that writers (and actors) are going through right now.  Many are friends, or at least people who I desperately wish were.  I have carried their picket signs, walked the lines in solidarity and worn their t-shirts, and, no, it wasn’t solely to get the free iced coffee that generous supportive producers provided.

Yet I must vehemently disagree with any assertions on any of their parts that Barrymore’s motivations appear to be anything resembling the union-busting behavior that she has been accused of.  As Oladino continued:

The WGA condemned the restart of production as a “violation” of union rules, as the talkshow is “a WGA-covered, struck show”.

“The Guild has, and will continue to, picket struck shows that are in production during the strike,” WGA East wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

And apparently Barrymore did not personally endorse the reaction of her staffers which set the trades ablaze with discussion during Monday’s live broadcast:

Two audience members also said on social media they were kicked out of Monday’s taping for wearing WGA pins.

In a viral tweet, an audience member, Dominic Turiczek, said that he and a guest were “kicked out” and “verbally assaulted” by crew members on Barrymore’s show for wearing a pin reading “Writers Guild On Strike”.

“It’s clear they don’t support #WGAStrong, writers or fans! #DrewTheRightThing So we took shirts and joined. Fuck that,” wrote Turiczek on X.

What the staffers did was wrong, and hopefully they will be dealt with appropriately.  But remember this–they pay rent, too.  They have bills, too.

And they’re not the only people besides dues-paying union members that have been affected by all of this.

So maybe these staffers, thinking that public sentiment has turned against their right to earn a living, were a little overly sensitive to someone with no other oar in the water willing to give a proverbial on-camera middle finger to a show that, very carefully and accurately, determined what was within their rights to produce.

Other shows have agreed-upon carve-outs.  SAG-AFTRA personalities can do certain kinds of shows.

And apparently, even some writers are getting a little tired of all of this, too.  As VARIETY’s Cynthia Littleton reported late last night:

After more than four months on strike, many showrunners are getting restless.

Writers Guild of America leaders are fielding a stepped-up volume of inquiries from prominent members who are frustrated with the duration of the work stoppage and looking to understand the guild’s strategy in engaging with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. In response to this heightened activity, multiple sources say several guild leaders are set to meet in person with a group of showrunners on Friday at WGA West headquarters.

A WGA West communications rep declined to comment, but Chris Keyser, who is co-chair of the WGA negotiating committee, told Variety via text message, “We have conversations with members every day. I’m not commenting on individual ones.”

The message that several different clusters of showrunners are trying to send to guild leaders is clear: “It’s not ‘We’re coming after you’ but ‘How can we help?’ ” in the words of one showrunner who has been involved.

There’s been a concerted effort to keep this activity quiet, but that all boiled over late last week and on Monday. A group steered in part by showrunners Kenya Barris and Noah Hawley sought to set up a private meeting with Goodman and Keyser at a discreet location with about 20 to 30 writers.

Yes, it’s easy to snark at what many more struggling writers would offer is entitlement among the more elite, particularly at a time when many higher profile talents are seeing their overall deals suspended by studios.  It’s legal maneuvering tied to short-term savings, they accuse, and it’s eerily reminiscent of the union-busting tactics studios have used in the past.

But here’s something else that gets lost in translation with those on the picket lines.  Attached to each of those showrunners’ overall deals are employees and staffers who also are trying to earn a living.  Trying to pay their bills.  Waiting with baited breath for a divided and partisan state government to actually agree to pay them something resembling unemployment benefits.  While the Neros running the federal government continue to escalate the not-so-thinly veiled threat that the whole damn country might be shut down by the end of this month.

Do these employees not have a right to want to work either?  Particularly when their bosses don’t have a cushy podcast deal nor do many of their producer friends provide themfree coffee (and donuts and pizza. too) for their impromptu reunions of show staffs from decades ago–you know, back in the days when 22 episode orders and eight-figure national audiences were commonplace?

Forgotten far too often by the overly sympathetic Penske-owned trades are the laborers and ancillary workers who simply want to work.  Who, frankly, have more pressing priorities than whether or not they are getting zero residual payments for a ten-year old script.  No, that’s not fair.  But of secondary importance to someone who has yet to sell one and the more these strikes linger will almost assuredly never even have the chance to submit one, if indeed they are so inclined.

Drew Barrymore is hardly a poster child for perfection.  But she’s also not an enemy of the state.  She’s trying to earn a living, as we all are.  Yes, even her out-of-line staffers.  We all get overly rankled when it comes to survival.

How’s s’bout cutting her and her staffers some slack, please?

Until next time…

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