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Sharon Osbourne is out of the conversation, parting ways with The Talk in the wake of her heated on-air defense of pal Piers Morgan — one that saw her demand co-star Sheryl Underwood “educate” her about racism on live air.
The news came two weeks after the March 10 dustup, one that was followed by multiple allegations of racist comments from Osbourne being levied by former co-stars Leah Remini and Holly Robinson Peete. CBS confirmed the expected departure late Friday afternoon.
“Sharon Osbourne has decided to leave The Talk,” read a statement. “The events of the March 10 broadcast were upsetting to everyone involved, including the audience watching at home. As part of our review, we concluded that Sharon’s behavior toward her co-hosts during the March 10 episode did not align with our values for a respectful workplace. We also did not find any evidence that CBS executives orchestrated the discussion or blindsided any of the hosts. At the same time, we acknowledge the network and studio teams, as well as the showrunners, are accountable for what happened during that broadcast as it was clear the co-hosts were not properly prepared by the staff for a complex and sensitive discussion involving race. During this week’s hiatus, we are coordinating workshops, listening sessions and training about equity, inclusion and cultural awareness for the hosts, producers and crew. Going forward, we are identifying plans to enhance the producing staff and producing procedures to better serve the hosts, the production and, ultimately, our viewers.”
Like so much of the news cycle these days, the origin of Osbourne’s on-air demise is Meghan Markle’s barn-burning interview with Oprah Winfrey — in which the Duchess of Sussex alleged racist behavior within the British royal family. Media firebrand and perennial martyr Piers Morgan called Markle a liar on Good Morning Britain, stormed off the set and ultimately quit the ITV program as many regarded his comments as racist.
When Osbourne came to his defense on The Talk, the discourse quickly devolved. At one point, and most damningly, she demanded that Underwood, a Black woman, explain to her why Morgan was being called a racist. “Educate me, tell me when you have heard him say racist things,” Osbourne said. “I very much feel like I’m about to be put in the electric chair because I have a friend, who many people think is a racist, so that makes me a racist?”
Osbourne apologized on Twitter, but the show suspended production starting March 15 as it announced an internal investigation. Things got worse for Osbourne from there. After Robinson Peete accused Osbourne of having a hand in her own dismissal from The Talk, alleging Osbourne had referred to her as “too ghetto,” Remini entered the conversation. The actress and activist, during an interview with journalist Yashar Ali, claimed that Osbourne had made racist comments about former colleague (and Chinese American woman) Julie Chen, homophobic remarks about The Talk creator and then-moderator Sara Gilbert and made anti-Italian slurs toward Remini herself.
Initially contrite on Twitter, Osbourne then went on the offense during the show’s hiatus. She gave interviews to both Variety and Entertainment Tonight, claiming that she had been “set up” by the producers and was offered up as a “sacrificial lamb.” Her publicist also issued a doozy of a statement, alluding to Remini and Robinson Peete’s comments by noting “The only thing worse than a disgruntled former employee is a disgruntled former talk show host.” It’s not typically the strategy of someone expecting to keep their job, so the writing seemed to be on the wall.
Still, CBS took its time with the investigation into the matter — first announcing a two-show hiatus and then extending it to a full two weeks as the additional claims came in.
The Talk holds a unique space in CBS’ daytime block, the only in-house talk format in a lineup otherwise dominated by game shows, soap operas and syndicated content. (One piece of that syndicated content in most markets, however, is CBS Media Ventures’ The Drew Barrymore Show — already renewed for a second season after a promising launch.) Positioned as a rival to The View, The Talk has enjoyed is fair share of ratings success and the rotation that so often comes with panel formats. Original cast members Remini, Robinson Peete and Marissa Jaret Winokur were all dumped after the first season, with fellow originals Chen and Gilbert dropping out in recent years. Osbourne was the last remaining founding panelist.
Osbourne holds a unique place in 21st television history. The British national rose to stateside prominence in 2002 with the wildly successful launch of MTV’s The Osbournes, a docuseries that paved the way for a generation of reality talent. She followed that with a brief talk show of her own and a run as a judge on America’s Got Talent before settling into The Talk as her full-time gig. Her dance card is currently empty.
As for The Talk, Underwood is still joined by remaining panelists Carrie Ann Inaba, Amanda Kloots and Elaine Welteroth. It’s not immediately clear if or when CBS might bring on a fifth member. The show will return with original episodes Monday, April 12, following the pre-scheduled hiatus the week of April 5.
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Thomas Brodie Sangster