When Drew Barrymore started on the path to becoming a daytime talk-show host, her industry pals were quick to warn her that the daily grind of hosting a syndicated talker is one of the most demanding jobs in showbiz.
That was more than a year ago. The work has only gotten more complicated since then.
“It’s a giant undertaking,” Barrymore tells Variety while on a break from shooting content for the CBS-distributed “The Drew Barrymore Show,” which debuts Sept. 14, from CBS Broadcast Center in New York. “Everyone kept telling me that if you want to get it right, you have to apply yourself to everything all the time. And I do care about the details.”
For Barrymore, 45, the details have included figuring out entirely new ways to do a talk show in the era of Zoom, which has led the show to embrace technological solutions for assembling virtual studio audiences. Pandemic conditions have forced producers to get creative in crafting segments that will be a mix of celebrity guests, lifestyle pieces and comedic bits.
“I think the limitations of the pandemic made us a more modern show,” Barrymore says. “When forced to think differently, we tried to turn every obstacle into an opportunity.”
The hourlong program will open and close with live segments designed to give “Drew Barrymore” a sense of timeliness. Because it will be syndicated, the show will air in various time slots on TV stations around the country, but its flagship airing will be on WCBS-TV New York at 9 a.m. ET.
“Being live allows her to be in the same mood as everyone else in America when they wake up in the morning,” says Elaine Bauer Brooks, executive VP of development for CBS Television Distribution. One regular live segment, dubbed “Drew’s News,” will feature Barrymore riffing on daily headlines, news of the weird and feel-good stories. “One of our philosophies is that this show needs to create a collective experience,” Brooks says. “Now more than ever people need that kind of experience.”
CBS Television Distribution teamed with tech firm 15 Seconds of Fame to use the Audience From Anywhere service, which assembles studio audiences that can be customized to adapt to the needs of the show on any given day — such as stocking the virtual crowd with mothers who can be pulled into the forefront to interact with Barrymore for a segment about parenthood.
“Drew and her team have embraced the full potential of our platform. We’re proud to play a small role in reimagining interactive entertainment,” says Mitch Rotter, chief marketing officer for 15 Seconds of Fame.
Other tools have been employed to allow Barrymore to interact easily with guests in different locations. Rich Cervini, CTD’s executive VP of programming and production, who has more than 40 years of broadcast production experience, marvels at how they’ve been able to pull the show together amid the unfamiliar mandates of social distancing and virtual communication devices. Despite the shock of the pandemic, CBS brass and Barrymore never seriously considered delaying the program from its scheduled fall start, Cervini says.
“We were so determined to do this show and to do it in New York. Drew was the guiding light on that. She was so determined to fulfill this dream of hers. That made us determined to figure out a way to make Plan B better than Plan A.”
Barrymore is ready to gush about key components of the production, including the expansive set that she describes as wonderfully modular and “art deco.” But she’s less willing to offer a thumbnail description of what the show will present to viewers when she steps before the camera for her first live segment. Her TV influences run the gamut from David Letterman to Phil Donahue to “The Carol Burnett Show” and “Saturday Night Live” (which the “ET the Extra-Terrestrial” star hosted at the age of 7 in 1982).
Given the gift of a daily hour of television, Barrymore promises to use her podium to promote positivity with healthy doses of humor and heart.
“I really love self-discovery and talking about life,” she says. “I love that as people we can try to grow and fix ourselves and figure things out and never stop learning. I’m totally responsible for my growth and enlightenment on a daily basis. I like doing that in a communal setting — laughing and learning about how human we all are.”