The film and television industry are rife with stories of problematic productions. There are so many things that can go wrong during the course of making a film or television show, ranging from the writer’s room to the editing room and everything in between. Now imagine that instead of a single room, or a weekly series, you have to churn out a daily product. The amount of stress it can bring about could be staggering, such is the reported case behind the scenes of “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” Clarkson and NBCUniversal have responded to those accusations.
Hearing about awful work conditions at a daytime talk show in 2023 would likely bring up immediate comparisons to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and how the program and titular host came under fire for mistreatment of staff amongst a toxic workplace. One of the big differences here though is that where Ellen DeGeneres herself was called out for being an allegedly mean-spirited person, Kelly Clarkson is being universally praised by the people working for her; it’s the producers that are the problem.
Chief amongst these problematic producers is Alex Duda, who was singled out by almost all the anonymous staffers who spoke to Rolling Stone. Duda has previously worked on “The Tyra Banks Show” and “The Steve Harvey Show” and allegedly fostered a toxic work environment there as well. To hear how some people are reporting it, it seems as if you are on Duda’s favor, your work experience is completely different to those she doesn’t favor. For the latter group, work is an emotionally grueling nightmare that has left some staffers in emotional tatters. Meanwhile, Duda shields Clarkson from these issues to the point where the anonymous staffers speaking out are in agreement that Clarkson would be aghast if she knew about what was happening.
To make a parallel to this, it reminds me of a situation I had when I was working as a night manager at a hotel and was nearly reduced to tears by the road/tour manager for a legendary rock star who was staying at the facility. This man was so ferociously mean and condescending that after only 10 minutes of interacting with him, I was almost shedding tears in the back office. The next day I got to meet the rock star himself who was so incredibly warm, and genuine and friendly; I honestly didn’t have the heart to tell him what happened the night before. I did however talk to a friend of mine who had experience as a roadie who told me about similar experiences he’d had with other road managers. Essentially he told me that some of them are like that because they feel that’s the best way to get the job done, and it gets results despite the toll it takes on people.
It almost feels like that’s what many of the staffers who opened up to Rolling Stone are complaining about; producers who want to get the job done without concerning themselves with the emotional and human collateral. This is where both Clarkson and NBCUniversal are stepping up to state they do not stand for this kind of behavior. Clarkson herself stated they will implement leadership training for all those involved in such positions, herself included. Meanwhile, NBCUniversal has stated that all insinuations and allegations of misdoings are investigated seriously. Neither of them commented on anything involving Duda herself.
Rolling Stone also reported on something that ties into the current writer’s strike in that the WGA is investigating potentially violations of guild agreements. “The Kelly Clarkson Show” hires WGA staff, and therefore only those staff members are allowed to write on the show. However, it is being alleged that some of the producers are writing pieces and segments for the program, in violation of WGA agreements. The current strike has ended the show before its summer wrap-up, but Clarkson is reportedly paying staff out-of-pocket for the missed episodes.
Television production is a high-stress, time-sensitive, all-consuming job. That being said, it’s not an excuse to mistreat workers. If the workplace environment is indeed as awful as the anonymous staffers say it is, then at least Kelly Clarkson seems legitimately concerned about this and wants to correct it. This would be a step-up in a positive direction from how things were on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” but still shows there’s a long way to go in improving the culture of television production.