More than four months after “Real Time with Bill Maher” went dark, the HBO show’s host said he was bringing it back despite the ongoing Hollywood writers strike, becoming the first late-night show star to announce a return. The Writers Guild of America responded to his announcement with a promise to picket his show.
“Real Time is coming back, unfortunately, sans writers or writing,” Maher wrote on X. “The writers have important issues that I sympathize with, and hope they are addressed to their satisfaction, but they are not the only people with issues, problems, and concerns.”
The show is set to return Sept. 22, according to HBO.
Maher’s announcement comes the same week Drew Barrymore said she would bring back her daytime talk show, leading writers to picket outside her New York taping this week and criticize her for crossing the strike lines.
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Since the strike began more than 130 days ago, some of the most notable actors and media personalities have steadfastly supported the effort by writers to prevent studios from using their scripts to train AI systems and to establish a viewership-based residual system for streaming shows, among other issues.
Five major late-night talk hosts — Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Jimmy Kimmel — have kept their shows dark while producing a regular podcast called “Strike Force Five,” which they say raises money for their staffs.
But Maher’s decision on the heels of Barrymore’s could show that support is beginning to crack, leading some to wonder whether others may follow suit.
WGA called the move “disappointing.”
“If he goes forward with his plan, he needs to honor more than ‘the spirit of the strike,’” the group wrote on X. As a WGA member, the group added, Maher cannot “perform any writing services.”Maher said the show’s staff would not put together a monologue, a desk piece, his popular segment New Rules or an editorial, all of which rely on writers who would be breaking the strike to produce content for those segments. He also said that, as one of the show’s writers, he would not do any writing.
Instead, Maher said, the show would feature “off-the-cuff” conversations, while acknowledging the arrangement will not “be as good as our normal show, full stop.”
Maher was criticized by scores of writers on social media, including Keith Olbermann.
“Without writers, the new weekly SCAB edition of ‘Real Time With @billmaher’ will be 83 seconds long,” wrote Olbermann, a longtimepolitical and sports commentator.
Maher said in his statement that he had hoped the strike would end before Labor Day but “there still seems to be nothing happening.”
Talks have broken down between WGA and the group representing major studios and streaming services. On Wednesday, thousands of striking writers and actors took to the streets of Hollywood to pressure studios to end the months-long strike, which has financially hurt some writers and the staffs that work with them.
The Hollywood writers are calling for higher wages, assurances about how many writers are hired per show and a larger portion of residuals.
Maher has previously faced backlash over comments concerning the strike after he said some of the demands were unlikely to succeed. “They kind of believe that you’re owed a living as a writer — and you’re not,” Maher said on his podcast “Club Random,” adding that there should be an acceptable middle ground between what the strikers seek and what the studios are proposing.
“You’re either for the strike … or you’re with Trump,” Maher said. “There’s only two camps.”
Should the strikes continue until October, studios probably will not have new content for the fall for the first time in TV history.