Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Drew Barrymore's talk show is so weird, it's almost hypnotic

Illustration for article titled Drew Barrymores talk show is so weird, its almost hypnotic
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/”Getty Images for Empire State Realty Trust

So, far there have been two major takeaways from The Drew Barrymore Show, the syndicated talk show launched this week by the Golden Globe winner (and certified member of Hollywood royalty): Drew Barrymore definitely has a lot of cool, famous friends, and Drew Barrymore sometimes acts in ways that are tremendously weird when asked to talk into a camera by herself. The combination has formed some of the most hypnotically, authentically strange TV the internet has had a chance to dine out on in a while, as Barrymore jumps between recreating famous movies she’s made with her buddies, to monologuing, for minutes at a time, about her love of removing stains from T-shirts.

That stain bit isn’t the most famous moment from the series to be passed around this week—we’ll follow that blissss in a second. But it is a sort of Rosetta Stone to the whole show, because the genesis of the segment was clearly Drew Barrymore saying “Guys, I love cleaning stains, and talking about stains, and I think we should do a segment where I clean stains, for fun.” And then no one said, “No? Because what are you going to do, tell Drew Barrymore not to spend several minutes of live television making kitty-cat paws on a juice-stained piece of carpet?

In the show’s various interviews—with folks like Reese Witherspoon, Gabrielle Union, Charlize Theron, and more—it’s clear why Barrymore was seen as a possible fit for this gig: She’s personable, a little kooky, but genuinely interested in talking to people in a way that makes for a great back-and-forth. But the solo segments (most notably “Drews News,” which kicks off each episode, and which sees Barrymore stare into the abyss of her own Weekend Update-style news bit) really are something else. Despite the numerous talents Drew Barrymore possesses, an ability to adroitly read jokes off a teleprompter isn’t necessarily among them—a slight defect she corrects for by going completely bonkers on a line delivery, pretty much at a moment’s notice. Nowhere is that clearer than in the “Snake Eggs” bit from the show’s first episode, which has already begun its ascent to Weird TV legend. Behold (it’s at about 4:55 in):

We want to be clear: We are not making fun of Drew Barrymore, a tremendously talented person, who seems to be having a great deal of (slightly nervous) fun with this new gig. But watching her mom-joke her way through a bunch of jokes about snakes fucking is a genuinely strange experience, the sort of authenticity that other talk show hosts can only attempt to mimic. Watching her wander into a weird accent halfway through a line, or assert that this story makes her “rethink and get scared and curious and wonder,” you get the sense that you really are getting the real Drew Barrymore, a slightly corny mom who also happens to be one of the most monumentally famous people on the planet. The effect borders on hypnotic: You keep expecting her to break character, or wink at the camera, or at least talk to another human being who isn’t one of the damned souls trapped in the terrifying FaceTime wall at the back of her set. Instead, she gamely launches into the next thing that makes Drew Barrymore laugh, even if that truth applies to no one else on Earth.

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It’s possible (probable, even) that these are all just early show jitters, and that many of the stranger edges of the series will be smoothed out as the weeks progress. (That video wall seems like it was specifically designed to give Barrymore someone to bounce off of and ground her, pretty much whenever, which is probably a good impulse.) But we kind of hope not; there’s something sort of brave about seeing Barrymore put herself out there like this, in a way that’s weirdly vulnerable, even for someone who’s been on camera since she was 5.

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