Following tonight’s premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, embattled host Chris Hardwick made an emotional return to after show Talking Dead. It’s been a long summer for Hardwick, who in June was accused of abusive behavior and sexual assault in a lengthy essay by former long-term girlfriend Chloe Dykstra. Hardwick denied the allegations, but in the current #MeToo era, Dykstra’s charges were understandably taken very seriously.
First, mentions of Hardwick’s name were removed from the website he founded, Nerdist. Then, the already taped second season of Talking with Chris Hardwick was abruptly pulled by AMC, just days before it was set to begin airing. Hardwick was also suspended from hosting duties on Talking Dead, and bumped from the SDCC panels he was set to moderate. NBC also said they would “assess” the situation, and determine whether or not Hardwick would be allowed to continue hosting their game show The Wall. Just like that, Hardwick went from having multiple ongoing showbiz jobs to none at all.
Reaction was mixed, as it is with any he said/she said type situation. Considering how detailed and harrowing Dykstra’s account of abuse by her ex was, those who believed her story felt that Hardwick fully deserved the above noted punishments, and worse. Those who believed Hardwick’s denials felt that he was being unfairly punished solely based on the word of one person. No matter what side of that spectrum one falls on, it was certainly a memorable TV moment earlier tonight, when Hardwick returned to the Talking Dead stage. He opened the show with the following emotional speech:
Hello. Normally I recap the show we’re about to talk about here, but instead I just wanted to take a minute to say that I am so appreciative to be standing here right now and I want to thank you, the Walking Dead community, for all of your support these last couple of months.
This show isn’t just a job to me, it is a vital part of my life and has been like a sanctuary these last seven years. It’s been with me through good times and bad and I’m so grateful to the fans, producers and the amazing casts of both of these shows for allowing me to come here and be a part of this community every week.
It seems like we are on the precipice of great change on both Walking Dead shows in the coming weeks and months and I look forward to going on that journey with you. I’ve said the following words a million times and yet I have never been more thankful than I am in this moment to say: I am Chris Hardwick, and welcome to Talking Dead.
Things have been turning around for Hardwick since late July, when AMC concluded its investigation of Dykstra’s allegations, and determined that he was cleared to return to work. Of course, this naturally angered those who believe him to be a manipulative abuser, even leading multiple Talking Dead staff members to quit upon his reinstatement. Hardwick has also been cleared to return to hosting The Wall. It’s still unknown if the shelved episodes of Talking with Chris Hardwick will ever air.
Interestingly, tonight’s episode of Talking Dead – airing directly after the season 4B premiere of Fear the Walking Dead – was taped in advance, instead of airing live as usual. Hardwick normally fields questions about the episode from fans in real time, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why AMC and Hardwick thought it was best to not open things up to live callers who might take the opportunity to verbally confront the host about the allegations against him.