Bill Maher announced Wednesday evening that his HBO show “Real Time With Bill Maher” will be returning to the air, without “writers or writing,” joining several struck talk shows resuming production as Hollywood’s strikes continue with no end in sight.
Maher said he supported the striking writers but that the stoppage had become too hard on nonstriking production staff who have been out of work since May. Maher’s move echoes the previous 2007-08 writers’ strike, when he restored his show mid-stoppage without writers or writing, and will likely face picketing by the Writers Guild of America.
“Real Time is coming back, unfortunately, sans writers or writing,” Maher wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “It has been five months, and it is time to bring people back to work. 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.
“Despite some assistance from me, much of the staff is struggling mightily. We all were hopeful this would come to an end after Labor Day, but that day has come and gone, and there still seems to be nothing happening. I love my writers, I am one of them, but I’m not prepared to lose an entire year and see so many below-the-line people suffer so much.
“I will honor the spirit of the strike by not doing a monologue, desk piece, New Rules or editorial, the written pieces that I am so proud of on Real Time. And I’ll say it upfront to the audience: the show I will be doing without my writers will not be as good as our normal show, full stop. But the heart of the show is an off-the-cuff panel discussion that aims to cut through the bull— and predictable partisanship, and that will continue. The show will not disappoint.”
A representative for HBO said Maher’s show will return Sept. 22, with upcoming guests to be determined.
In a short response to the news, a spokesperson for the Writers Guild of America East said “the Guild has and will continue to picket struck shows that are in production during the strike.”
The recent plans by talk shows to go back on air were led by “The Drew Barrymore Show,” which drew heavy condemnation and picketing from striking writers. That show also committed to not trying to replace struck writing work.
Maher’s somewhat contrite statement Wednesday contrasted from more critical comments he’s recently made about the Writers Guild of America’s “kooky” demands, as he described them.
“What I find objectionable about the philosophy of the strike [is] it seems to be, they have really morphed a long way from 2007’s strike, where they kind of believe that you’re owed a living as a writer, and you’re not,” Maher said on his “Club Random” podcast with guest Jim Gaffigan. “This is show business. This is the make-or-miss league.”
Maher added: “They struck at just the wrong time; they have no leverage. Has anyone who is watching TV recently noticed a difference? Has it affected the person down the pipeline? I don’t think so. I haven’t noticed a difference. At some point, I guess that will happen. What day is that when Netflix runs out of what they have in the warehouse?”