Drew Barrymore is standing in the middle of her bright-yellow studio wearing a pussy-bow blouse with wide-legged pants, her daytime-talk-show-host uniform. After she introduces herself to the camera, she turns to the enormous screen filled with squares and rectangles that make up her audience — she calls them her VFFs (virtual friends forever). Because this is the week of Halloween, the show has been rebranded as The Drew Scarrymore Show, and her VFFs are, of course, strongly encouraged to wear costumes. Drew Barrymore loves Halloween more than anyone who has ever lived.
Barrymore notices that one of her VFFs is dressed as Ghostface, who killed her character in the opening sequence of Wes Craven’s Scream. She brings up Scream a lot — hopefully her Old Hollywood ancestors are as proud of it as she is. Barrymore gasps dramatically, then screams at the wall, “You can’t be here, Ghostface! I don’t have time for you. Dr. Phil is here!”
Ghostface slowly removes his mask, and he is Dr. Phil. Barrymore and Dr. Phil jump straight into their interview, which covers Barrymore’s emancipation from the “United States courts” at age 14 (she also brings this up a lot), rescue animals, and cutting out toxic romantic partners.
This, more than anything that has happened on The Drew Barrymore Show so far, encapsulates its chaotic but extremely well-meaning energy. What started in early September as a basic, structured daytime talk show that leaned more Ellen than Watch What Happens Live has transformed into unhinged chaos. This show feels exactly like what the inside of my brain is like right now.
As with most television shows, the early episodes of The Drew Barrymore Show reminded me of an insecure middle-schooler trying on different personas to see how they fit. Was The Drew Barrymore Show a home-makeover show? A relationship-advice show? A mom show? A show on which Billy Porter sings to a flower? In the show’s earliest episodes, Barrymore focused on heart-to-hearts derivative of other daytime talk shows. There was an intense one-on-one chat with Paris Hilton about being in solitary confinement as teenagers and a self-serious interview with Barrymore’s ex-husband Tom Green that didn’t really go anywhere: They discussed his new puppy (who was sitting on his lap), and how happy they are for each other, and how happy they are to reconnect. During the interview, Barrymore starts crying while talking about having trouble sleeping, even though Green never asked her about sleep.
Six weeks in, you’d expect the show to settle into a groove. It has not. Some days, Barrymore starts the show with her celebrity guest. Other days, she starts by hopping on over to her news desk to do “Drew’s News” — a Billy on the Street copycat with an introduction that features Barrymore screaming “Ma’am, I asked you a question” at a golden retriever on the streets of Manhattan. And some days, she goes straight into a VFF’s home makeover or a celebrity interview. Like when she had Stanley Tucci watch a child make a Shirley Temple that Stanley Tucci could not drink, because he was not physically there.
Once a week or more, Barrymore interviews Courtney, an American Girl doll from the 1980s, about current news. She occasionally implies, not only to her VFFs but to celebrity guests, including Jane Fonda, that she has possibly not had sex in five years. She teaches her audience how to scream (because she was in Scream). She eats a giant bowl of macaroni and cheese in less than ten minutes of airtime. She kisses deviled eggs because she loves them. But what Barrymore loves even more than deviled eggs, the movie Scream, and talking about her emancipation at age 14 are her guests.
Barrymore’s peers — both in daytime and late night — welcome their guests warmly before they pretend that they saw the thing their guest is promoting. Her peers also pretend that they liked the thing their guest is promoting. But not Drew Barrymore. She comes prepared with a three-minute rant about why the thing her guest is promoting is the most important thing ever made, and she comes prepared with questions and glowing comments about something they did years (or decades) ago that she researched thoroughly.
June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson appeared on The Drew Barrymore Show via video chat in mid-October to promote their current endeavors. But what Barrymore really wanted to do was have an in-depth discussion about the 2010 motion picture Bride Wars, which Raphael and Wilson co-wrote. Bride Wars, which is not discussed in a positive way by anyone except Drew Barrymore, is one of Barrymore’s favorite films, and she brings it up as often as she wears a pussy-bow blouse (almost every single day).
There is no rhyme or reason to The Drew Barrymore Show, because Drew Barrymore quickly realized that’s not where or how she thrives as a daytime-talk-show host. Although the show is, as comedian Ross Mathews admitted while on the show, “the weirdest show on television,” it still has a big, wholesome heart. Barrymore is self-aware, but not self-obsessed, and relentlessly — but not annoyingly — positive. Combined with the unprecedented COVID-19 guidelines her program must follow, The Drew Barrymore Show has become must-watch television because it is the only television show that represents how I feel inside my head in 2020: inescapably chaotic and just trying to hang in there.