She described endless Zoom meetings with her producers and staff as they tried to figure out how to make an energetic talk show that no one will be able to attend for the foreseeable future. Her goal is to stay optimistic. “You’d think that that would be so de-incentivizing or such a bummer. It is not! It’s what is happening, and you deal with what is happening.”
Although it was initially unclear whether the syndicated series would debut as scheduled, Barrymore’s team made it happen. Monday’s debut — airing at 9 a.m. on New York’s WCBS, 3 p.m. on Washington’s WJLA and various times in markets across the country — features Barrymore hosting her “Charlie’s Angels” co-stars and close friends Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu, along with a cameo from longtime pal Adam Sandler and a segment on essential workers.
It will take place with a small crew in a New York studio, with pandemic-related rules and precautions. Instead of an in-person audience, members of a virtual crowd will be beamed in via Zoom and projected on a large display behind Barrymore. Guests who live on the West Coast have the option to appear via green-screen and sit across from the host, hologram-style.
So it’s not exactly what Barrymore envisioned, but as she has made very clear in her recent press tour, hosting a talk show is one of her dreams. She’s done TV, she’s done movies, both in front of and behind the camera — and now she wants a new challenge. As someone who grew up on camera (she filmed her first commercial at 11 months old before 1982’s “E.T.” made her a superstar at age 7), she feels especially well-equipped to make conversation with anyone.
“Here is what I get to do in my real life that isn’t about the making of these films and the telling of these stories,” Barrymore, 45, said on a Zoom conference call with reporters last week. “It’s about connecting with people.”
CBS Television is banking on the fact that, in the ultracompetitive world of daytime TV that boasts names such as Kelly Clarkson, Tamron Hall, Rachael Ray and more, viewers will have a personal connection to Barrymore. After all, she has been in the spotlight her whole life: Fans might fondly remember her adorable appearance on “The Johnny Carson Show” after “E.T.’s” release where she took out her fake teeth. Or, maybe they just really loved “The Wedding Singer” or Netflix’s “The Santa Clarita Diet.”
While daytime host Ellen DeGeneres just faced controversy when reports emerged that she is less kind than she appears to be on her show, Barrymore would never encounter any surprise about her real-life persona — everyone already knows everything about her. Or at least, they feel they do, as they read all about her troubled younger days when she went to rehab as a teenager.
“[When] you’re on the cover of the National Enquirer at 13 years old for being institutionalized, there’s not much people can throw your way . . . and there’s really no secrets to be revealed,” Barrymore said dryly on the conference call. “I don’t really know how to expose myself any more as a human being. I struggle, I fail, and I think one of the most important things I want to teach my own kids and myself as I grow with them is that change is so important, change in the world, change in yourself. I am a self-examiner and I’ve never pretended to be anyone I’m not.”
“The Drew Barrymore Show” will have some of the hallmarks of daytime TV: lifestyle segments, feel-good human interest stories, celebrity interviews. But Barrymore wants to put some twists on the tropes, such as anchoring a “Drew’s News” desk to talk about a variety of topics, or using wordplay — and cute animals — when people need to “plug” their projects by making them hold a pug dog while they do so. She also wants to “try and bring a little late-night” to morning TV and provide humor. The thinking is that those shows make people laugh before they fall asleep, but Barrymore feels you should be able to start the day that way, too.
“My own personal ‘lack of ending up in a straitjacket’ is comedy,” Barrymore said. “I need comedy, comedy is medicine . . . I am an imperfect, messy, silly person who’s desperate to figure it out and not get to the end of my life not having worked really hard on myself. But I cannot be heavy about it, I refuse to be.”