Waiting for My Flowers at The Drew Barrymore Show

I watched every single episode of The Drew Barrymore Show's first season. For the second season, I got to live it.

Waiting for My Flowers at The Drew Barrymore Show

Two questions rattled in my head as I settled in to my cushioned seat in The Drew Barrymore Shows studio: How long would it take our host to cry, and what would we be going home with?

“Mere seconds” would turn out to be the answer to my first question. Barrymore hit the stage for the first taping of the second season of her eponymous talk show and was greeted rapturously by her first-ever in-studio audience. She received us with the counterfeit surprise of a beauty pageant contestant at crowning or Taylor Swift at an awards show. Barrymore’s show had launched in the thick of lockdown, in September 2020, and, like virtually every other daytime talk show running at that time, was taped in an audience-less studio (made somewhat less lonely by the presence of her Zoomed-in “Virtual Friends and Family” or VFFs). At last, on this late August 2021 day, the queen had a court. As someone who watched each and every episode last season and edited weekly video recaps, I was proud to be part of it.

“I was actually just upstairs in the dressing room, crying to my friends who I work with because we’ve only ever done the show in such an intimate setting,” she told her cheering crowd in reciprocal adoration. Here her voice broke: “And we’ve never had the privilege of having an audience. So thank you, thank you so much.”

(As it turns out, the actual season premiere episode—which aired Monday, September 13—began with a segment taped on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles, in which Barrymore greeted the crowd by calling them the show’s “very first, in-person studio audience.” When I saw that on TV, I felt cheated on. I’m not sure the exact order of tapings, but it was my understanding that August 26, the day of the taping I attended, was the first day the show resumed taping. In any event, the episode I attended did not air till this week, on October 14.)

We sat in the back row Screenshot:

“Oh, we’re definitely getting something good today,” I thought, back when I felt special to be among Barrymore’s first. “Look at how much she loves us.” It isn’t that I feel particularly entitled to gifts; it’s just that I’ve seen enough talk shows to know that they remain a distinct possibility for the audience. Oprah Winfrey shifted culture when she gave out those cars, and now part of the point of attending any talk-show taping is going home with something. That was part of why I signed up for the taping (via the show’s website, and not through press backchannels.) Barrymore, in particular, seems to love giving stuff away. Her recurring Drew Gooders segment typically ends with a donation to the cause of the spotlighted do-gooder, and I watched episode after episode last season in which she’d toss her VFFs gift cards for whatever the hell. So I arrived to the CBS Studios with expectations. I realize this makes me part of the problem, but I can only be what I am.

Barrymore is more emotionally flexible than just about any public communicator I’ve witnessed. She’ll go from choked up to clear throated and grounded in seconds. That’s exactly what she did as she delivered her opening monologue live and in front of me. She went on to promise us an hour that would be “all about you.” But just as I was thinking that she might unleash one of her famous puns (and then reference this very tendency in an aside acknowledging that she and her writers are “always” punning her name) by dubbing this new season The You Barrymore Show, she course-corrected: “And this is all about us. Okay, let’s be ‘us.’ We’re all collective here. And so everything we’re doing and thought of is because maybe you might enjoy it. And that is the you in the show.”

Wonderful. Sounded like a veritable Christmas morning of talk show tapings was in store for us. And our first gift was… Meredith Hagner, who perkily described her time on the set of Vacation Friends. I might have enjoyed that in theory, sure. I love Search Party! Barrymore mispronounced her name (“Hanger”) in her intro, which necessitated a pick-up later. During the interview, Hagner stated that she wanted to hug Barrymore, but the host declined. Though she is back to her pre-lockdown huggy ways (“wrapped around everybody like a koala on a eucalyptus tree”), Barrymore said “they” (her producers, I’m guessing) told her to be careful, so Hagner would have to settle for a metaphorical hug. Later in the interview, Barrymore would tell Hagner that they were becoming “fast friends.”

A closer look…with our faces cut off Screenshot:

Barrymore apparently loosened herself from her producers’ figurative grip so as to employ her own literal one as the show went on. She hugged many people she’d go on to share the stage with, including her frequent guest child, Jonah Larson, a self-described “fiber artist” known for his crochet work, as well as Ross Matthews, Barrymore’s Drews News co-anchor. During the break before the Drew’s News segments, Matthews came out cheesing at the audience. His astonished facial expressions echoed Barrymore’s when she hit the stage and read to me like a projection of the joy the audience was supposed to feel in the presence of his legend. He chatted with some people sitting in swivel seats in the front row. No shade, I think Matthews is very good at what he does, which is showbiz.

Hagner stuck around for another segment about things she bought off Craigslist, including vintage fabrics, a lamp that was “‘80s hell” until she painted it and outfitted it with a new shade, and a table she provided with new cylindrical legs. I thought maybe we’d get a gift card to spend on Cragislist finds, but we did not. I also thought we’d get some yarn during Larson’s segment, but we didn’t get that either. That section included an interactive section called “Crochet & A,” whose name clumsily played on “Q&A” but reminded me more of “T&A,” so I kept calling it “Crochet & Ass” in my head as audience member after audience member asked Larson questions about how they could get their loved ones into crocheting. I guess that was its own gift, but not one that I could hold in my hands, which is really what I wanted.

Between segments, pop hits played over the speaker. All of them sounded like Barrymore winking slyly (from No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” to Bob Marley’s “Feel Alright” to Lady Gaga’s “Applause”). Barrymore’s between-take banter with the audience mainly consisted of lavishing her crew with praise. The person who speaks into her earpiece (adding to the voices in her head, Barrymore joked, but might also have meant) is so smart. Her cameraman is such a family man that he keeps a picture of his son taped to his monitor. After Barrymore seemingly wrapped Drew’s News, she had to reset to interview a mega-fan audience member who had gotten the same bird tattoo Barrymore has on her forearm, named her son Drew, and bought at auction a dress Barrymore wore to the Oscars one year. Upon requesting that this pickup, Barrymore thanked her crew (and maybe us?) no fewer than seven times for humoring her retake. It went:

“Dylan, could you get Amy over there? Thank you so much. Thank you guys so much. We could do the talk after. Thank you so much, I love you and I appreciate you endlessly. Thank you. All right here we go. Yep. Thank you so much. Thank you so much, you guys…Thanks guys. I really appreciate it.”

Barrymore’s indefatigable presentation of kindness is either disarming or so smothering that I can’t get enough oxygen to my brain when beholding her, but either way, I am charmed. Her persona is so precisely balanced between earnest and goofy and finished with a glaze of anthropomorphic sunshine (all sunglasses and thumbs-up signs flashing), it’s as though it were concocted in a lab. I have no illusions about celebrities’ status deriving from the social subordination of plebes like me, and yet after watching Barrymore every day for multiple weeks, she took on the logic-defying space in my heart of a friend. I feel like I know her, and I’m not embarrassed to say that. I can’t believe this is my life.

This is another reason why I went through the rather tedious process of waiting in line outside of her studio, and then waiting in a drab room that seemed most fit for employee training video screenings, and then waiting in line to get in an elevator so I could wait in line to get seated in The Drew Barrymore Show’s studio. (The entire pre-show process took about two hours.) My feelings of closeness to Barrymore are also why I felt a little hurt when we were sent home empty-handed. I thought we were friends. Friends give friends things to take home with them!

Other segments included an interview with a woman from Long Island who distributes food discarded by supermarkets to various shelters and services for the food insecure. I knew we wouldn’t be getting anything from that segment, though this woman was gifted $5,000 to visit her grandson in Florida, whom she told us through tears she hadn’t seen…in a month. Still, this Drew Gooder was generous and she deserved a present for it, I reckon. During Drew’s News, Barrymore and Matthews Skyped with Via Hendrix, a young woman who went viral for living in a 72 square foot apartment in New York. Her top tip for close-quarters living was to take advantage of vertical space, which includes hanging her “beautiful” purses on the wall. Barrymore and Matthews also performed the voices that they believe their dogs would have if they could talk.

As we headed out of Drew’s News and into the next segment, which would be set in the studio’s kitchen area, I noticed a block of knives. “Oh, at least we’ll get some knives,” I told my boyfriend. The actual recommend product—for the brief last segment of the show, the Doggy Bag, in which a life-improving suggestion is given to the audience to take on their way—was a magnetic block that held knives. But we didn’t even get that. Before we knew it, we were hearing Barrymore’s send-off: “We want you to have a fantastic day. We want you to take all of this goodness with you. And we hope we get to see you soon.” And then for the first time all day, we heard her iconic scream, once overused to the point of punctuating what felt like every other sentence Barrymore spoke in the early days of her show. Now a rare treat.

She recorded the aforementioned pickup and brief chat with the mega-fan who bought her Oscars dress. She also Skyped with a former United Airlines flight attendant named Paulie Veneto, whose co-workers were on the tragic flight from Boston (he was off that day). He spoke to Barrymore from Eastern Connecticut as he was pushing a beverage cart from Boston to New York to…hm. I don’t know why he was doing it. To raise awareness for the unsung flight attendant victims of 9/11, I believe? Anyway, I knew as soon as he started talking that no gift could be spun from his sad story.

Barrymore mentioned for like the half-dozenth time that we were her first audience. I suppose that honor was a gift in itself (even if it would be obscured from the rest of the world upon the airing of her Season 2 premiere!) but even that nominal title just doesn’t have the same weight as…things. I really wanted free things. For all the references to the novelty of recording in front of an audience, what we saw was the same old Drew Barrymore Show, not Drew.0. Hagner is spunky but hardly an event guest. (Eventually, Jennifer Aniston would become the first celebrity interview of the season, which makes much more sense.) Barrymore introduced Drew’s News with the same level of corniness as always (“Welcome to Drew’s News, your daily news stew full of good, chunky news bites”). She was dressed in the chic-schoolmarm style that dominated last season—a long skirt, a billowy blouse that could reasonably be called a pirate shirt, a pussy bow. She donned round glasses during Drew’s News only to determine after recording two segments in them that they made her look like a pilgrim. She announced this to all. Matthews didn’t disagree. He’s in the Drew’s News business and lying as a journalist would simply be unethical.

After about two hours, the show was over. I got over my greed pretty quickly and then Barrymore, my friend and daily companion, surprised me. A few days later, a little box of sunshine showed up in the mail for me. I knew immediately that’s what it was because it said “little box of sunshine” on its side and also “hello it’s Drew” on top. This was not sent because I was an audience member, but because I’m a member of the press and have covered this show extensively. Inside were items from the Little Yellow Book guide and Small Business Gift Guide featured on the show, most of them with stickers to underline their preciousness. Among the “little” treats: Barrymore’s Flower beauty line’s Celestial Supernova Mousse (“little bit of magic”), a Good Vibes Cookie (“little treat”), a fake yellow flower with a hair clip that I will soon attach to my cat’s fur (“little flair”), and El Tambo Empower Coffee Roasters beans, Women Producer Series (“little perk”). Drew came through, like I knew she would. That’s how close we are.

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