Bill Maher defies writers’ strike, resumes ‘Real Time’ show on HBO

Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s popular talk show ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’, announced on Instagram that he was bringing back his show on September 22, 2023, despite the ongoing writers’ strike in Hollywood. He said that his show would return without writers or writing, and that he would not perform any written segments such as a monologue, a desk piece, New Rules or an editorial. He also said that he was not willing to lose an entire year and see so many below-the-line people suffer so much.

Maher expressed his sympathy for the writers’ issues, but said that they were not the only people with issues, problems and concerns. He said that he had personally helped his staff financially during the five-month hiatus, but that it was time to bring people back to work. He said that the quality of his show would not be as good as his normal show, but that he would honor the spirit of the strike.

Bill Maher defies writers’ strike, resumes ‘Real Time’ show on HBO
Bill Maher defies writers’ strike, resumes ‘Real Time’ show on HBO

WGA criticizes Maher’s decision, vows to picket his show

The Writers Guild of America West (WGA), the union representing the striking writers, responded to Maher’s announcement with disappointment and criticism. The WGA said on X that Maher was a member of the guild and that his decision was “disappointing”. The WGA also said that it was difficult to imagine how ‘Real Time’ could go forward without a violation of WGA strike rules taking place. The WGA promised to picket Maher’s show, which is filmed at Television City in Los Angeles.

The WGA has been on strike since May 2023, demanding better compensation and working conditions for writers in the digital era. The main issues include preventing studios from using writers’ scripts to train AI systems, establishing a viewership-based residual system for streaming shows, and improving diversity and inclusion in the industry. The strike has affected hundreds of shows and movies across various platforms and genres.

Maher faces backlash from other writers and celebrities

Maher’s decision to resume his show amid the writers’ strike also drew backlash from other writers and celebrities on social media. Keith Olbermann, a longtime political and sports commentator, mocked Maher on X, saying that “without writers, the new weekly SCAB edition of ‘Real Time With @billmaher’ will be 83 seconds long”. Olbermann also called Maher a “scab” and a “traitor” in another tweet.

Other writers and comedians also expressed their support for the WGA and their disappointment with Maher. Some of them pointed out that Maher had previously crossed the picket line during the 2007-2008 writers’ strike as well. They also urged viewers to boycott Maher’s show and support the striking writers instead.

Maher is not the only one to cross the picket line

Maher is not the only talk show host to cross the picket line and bring back their show during the writers’ strike. Drew Barrymore also received intense pushback from the WGA and social media for bringing back her daytime talk show ‘The Drew Barrymore Show’ earlier this month. The WGA accused Barrymore of violating its strike rules by writing her own material and using non-union writers. The WGA also picketed outside Barrymore’s New York taping this week.

Other talk show hosts who have announced their return on air include Sherri Shepherd and Jennifer Hudson, who are set to launch their new syndicated shows in September 2023. However, some of the most notable late-night talk hosts have remained loyal to the WGA and kept their shows dark while producing a regular podcast called ‘Strike Force Five’, which they say raises money for their staffs. These hosts include Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Jimmy Kimmel.

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