Daytime television faced turmoil and uncertainty during a hectic week marked by harsh criticism from striking writers, guest cancellations, and last-minute changes of plans, as efforts to circumvent the work stoppage ultimately faltered.
Following a tumultuous week, daytime TV found itself in the spotlight, but notably, the shows making headlines were those that weren’t on the air.
Drew Barrymore announced on Sunday morning that she was reversing her decision to continue her daytime talk show after facing scathing criticism for returning to production, which involved crossing a Writers Guild of America picket line.
Shortly after Barrymore’s weekend announcement, both “The Talk” (also under the CBS umbrella like “The Drew Barrymore Show”) and “The Jennifer Hudson Show” from Warner Bros. followed suit, postponing their scheduled premieres that were set for Monday.
While they didn’t attract as much criticism as Barrymore, both shows had faced their share of backlash, with writers picketing outside the CBS Radford lot where “The Talk” was taped last week. (The Kelly Clarkson Show by NBCUniversal, which relocated to New York for its fifth season, has yet to announce a premiere date.) Behind the scenes, executives and producers closely monitored the situation, as multiple sources reported that guests booked for these shows were growing increasingly anxious about being caught in the middle.
Some notable figures, including comedians, political figures, and game show hosts, quietly withdrew from their commitments, adding more chaos and tension to an already stressful period.
At least two guests are believed to have canceled their appearances on “The Drew Barrymore Show” before Barrymore decided to halt production.
Recent events have cast Drew Barrymore as a cautionary example, with some attributing part of the blame to her actions. Some suggest her initial misstep was preemptively defending her decision to return without the show’s three striking writers in a September 10th Instagram post, which drew negative attention.
Adding to the controversy, in the same post, she reminded everyone of her earlier decision in May when she withdrew from hosting duties at the MTV Movie and TV Awards in solidarity with the WGA.
On Thursday, amidst picketers and intense criticism, she posted an emotional video, claiming, among other things, that “this is bigger than me.” This video generated even more backlash and was deleted by Friday night. On Sunday, Barrymore announced her reversal, expressing her deep apologies for any harm caused and her hope for a resolution in the industry soon.
In contrast, ABC’s “The View” continued to produce new episodes without its two WGA writers. While the show faced picketers, it didn’t encounter the same level of criticism. On Monday, the show proceeded as usual, with discussions about U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and Donald Trump’s Meet the Press interview.
While “The View” briefly addressed the writers’ strike when it began in May, the show continued to operate throughout. Sources noted that while “The View” employs a couple of guild members, their work remained their own during the strike, although the WGA maintains that these shows inherently involve writing.
Meanwhile, Sherri Shepherd’s “Sherri” premiered on September 18th, even though the talk show from Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury has never hired WGA writers and is not part of the guild’s agreement. Shepherd expressed solidarity with SAG-AFTRA during their strike, but her show operates under a different contract (the Network Code), which includes game shows and variety shows and remains in effect. Shepherd clarified that “The Sherri Show” does not employ WGA writers and returning to work did not cross the picket line.
Despite this, sources indicate that several guests had second thoughts, and the show had to change its premiere day guest from Wayne Brady to Michelle Buteau, as Brady withdrew a few days before, though sources insisted his decision wasn’t influenced by strike-related optics. Other daytime shows not affiliated with the WGA, such as “Live With Kelly and Mark,” “Tamron Hall,” and “Karamo,” continue to operate as usual.
“Live With Kelly and Mark” benefits from its status as the top-rated syndicated talk show, allowing its guests some leeway to appear. However, SAG-AFTRA members are restricted from promoting work for struck companies under the union’s strike rules.
These developments in daytime television shed light on a part of the TV landscape that has waned in significance during the streaming era. While titans like Oprah Winfrey once attracted over 10 million viewers daily, today’s top daytime talk shows garner just a fraction of that audience. Many worry that sidelining these shows now could cause irreparable harm as more viewers seek alternative forms of entertainment. But, as one concerned producer noted, they feel they have no other choice.