Bill Maher has decided to stop the clock when “Real Time” returns.
The comedian, who last week pledged to put his HBO current affairs show back into production, now says he’ll delay it a little longer.
“My decision to return to work was made when it seemed like nothing was happening and there was no end in sight to this strike,” he said via social media. “Now that both sides have agreed to return to the negotiating table, I will delay the return of ‘Real Time,’ for now, and hope that they can finally make it happen.” All late-night TV shows have gone dark in recent months because of the strike, but Maher said he can no longer sit idly by as many of his below-the-line work crews leave without be paid.
In doing so, the iconoclastic animator follows the example of several other leading animators who have chosen in recent days to stop their production projects. Drew Barrymore had planned to launch a new cycle of her daytime program on CBS, and the network was ready to launch its afternoon series “The Talk.” Both changed course after the plans provoked backlash. The WGA said it plans to protest outside of any production of “Real Time.”
Maher had planned a stripped-down show, devoid of many of its signature elements. Under his plan, a “Real Time” episode produced during the strike would have featured no monologues, no comedy pieces, or the series’ signature segment, “New Rules.” “And I’m telling the audience up front: The show I’m going to do without my writers is not going to be as good as our normal show, period,” Maher said last week.
The WGA strike thwarted many television stations’ late-night plans. CBS had hoped to launch a new show at 12:30 a.m. this fall to replace the departure of James Corden. The strike changed that timetable, according to people familiar with the matter. Instead of a companion to Stephen Colbert’s program, CBS operated “Comics Unleashed,” a collection of stand-up routines produced by entrepreneur Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group on a short-term basis. Comedy Central, which had tested a wide variety of hosts to succeed Trevor Noah on “Daily Show,” scuttled those efforts, although comedian Hasan Minhaj is considered a leading candidate for the role.
Late-night television shows continue to spark discussions and threads of popular culture. But the longer shows like NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” remain dark, the more likely viewers in the age of streaming video are to permanently alter their consumption habits. In 2018, seven late-night programs: NBC’s “Tonight” and “Late Night,” CBS’ “Late Show” and “Late Late Show,” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” » – generated more than $698 million in advertising in 2018, according to Vivvix, an ad spend tracker. In 2022, that total stood at $412.7 million, a decline of about 41% over five years.
Some of the hosts seemed eager to get back to their wee-hours antics. Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers. Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and John Oliver have banded together to produce a podcast in hopes of donating the revenue generated to their out-of-work teams.
The strike scuttled production of “Real Time” midway through the show’s 21st season. “Real Time” debuted on HBO in 2003. It incorporated some elements from Maher’s previous show, “Politically Incorrect,” which aired on both Comedy Central and ABC.