ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Actress and talk show host Busy Philipps is protesting antiabortion legislation by urging women to tell their stories about abortion using the hashtag #YouKnowMe. She talked about having an abortion at age 15 on her late-night talk show "Busy Tonight" last week.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BUSY TONIGHT")
BUSY PHILIPPS: Statistic that one in four women will have an abortion before age 45. And that statistic sometimes surprises people, and maybe you're sitting and thinking, I don't know a woman who would have an abortion. Well, you know me.
SHAPIRO: This protest is emerging as "Busy Tonight" airs its final show this evening. It has been canceled by E! NPR TV critic Eric Deggans spent time in Los Angeles with Philipps back in February, and he joins us now. Hey, Eric.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi.
SHAPIRO: This is interesting timing...
SHAPIRO: ...For E! and Busy Philipps, for her final show to air just as she and her fans are diving into this national conversation about abortion laws.
DEGGANS: I know. As a critic, I've talked a lot about why diversity matters in television, and Busy's show was this great example of something that doesn't really exist much in TV - this topical late-night show that speaks to millennial-aged women, which could go from talking about the Met ball to talking about reproductive rights. And when I interviewed Busy, she told me how she very purposefully talked about, for instance, menstruation in a way that male talk show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon just wouldn't do.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
PHILIPPS: I talk a lot about periods on the show because normalizing discussions about, like, women's health and women's bodies - I talked about HPV in the hopes that by talking about it in, like, a very casual way on national television program, I'm destigmatizing the fact that women don't talk about their health.
SHAPIRO: Eric, it's so rare to see a woman hosting a late-night comedy show. Tell me how Busy Philipps approached hers.
DEGGANS: Well, her show was all about making this very personal connection with fans. Now, Busy starred in TV shows like "Freaks And Geeks" and "Cougar Town," so she knows how talk shows work from the guest's perspective. She got tips from friends like Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers. And she followed her own instincts. So she sat on a couch instead of behind a desk, or she put on a nightgown to sing a good night song closing every show. And she told the audience, I love you, at the end of every show, and she did that during their very first test show.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
PHILIPPS: That was, like, not something that we had talked about or was planned, but I just, like, felt it deeply. Like, thank you for - oh, my God, I'm going to start crying. Like, thank you for showing up, and I love you for that. Like, I wasn't prepared for people's response to that.
SHAPIRO: Eric, fans have so much affection for this show, and it's so different from the rest of the late-night landscape. Why would E! cancel it?
DEGGANS: Well, low ratings, probably. But you know, it takes a long time for late-night hosts to find a consistent voice and audience. I mean, NBC gave Conan O'Brien two years to figure it out when they hired him to host late night. Busy Philipps has been on the air since October. And you know, I just hope E! or some other outlet gives Busy Philipps more time and resources to do what she does best.
SHAPIRO: That's our TV critic, Eric Deggans. Thanks, Eric.
DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.