Bill Maher Says Show Will Return Despite Writers’ Strike

The HBO host said he sympathized with the writers but needed to return for the good of other people who work on “Real Time With Bill Maher.”

Bill Maher said his weekly HBO show would return to the air despite entertainment writers, including members of his own staff, still being on strike.

“Real Time With Bill Maher” is the latest talk show to announce a return in recent days, even as the writers’ union has vowed to picket any “struck shows.”

Drew Barrymore announced this week that she would begin taping new episodes of her talk show. “The Jennifer Hudson Show” and “The Talk” will also return. Other talk shows, including “The View” and “Live With Kelly and Mark,” have been taping throughout the strike.

Mr. Maher said on his social media feeds on Wednesday night that it was “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,” he wrote. “Despite some assistance from me, much of the staff is struggling mightily.”

He also said he had been hopeful there would be some sort of resolution to the labor dispute by Labor Day, but “that day has come and gone, and there still seems to be nothing happening.”

The writers have been on strike for 136 days, one of the longest screenwriter strikes ever (the longest was 153 days in 1988). Tens of thousands of actors have been on strike for two months as well, the first time writers and actors have walked out at the same time since 1960. The result has been a near-complete shutdown of Hollywood scripted production.

There was hope throughout the entertainment industry that a resolution could be in the offing when the major Hollywood studios and leaders of the Writers Guild of America, the writers’ union, resumed negotiations last month after a lengthy stalemate. But over the past three weeks, bargaining has again stalled out, frustrating some big-name Hollywood showrunners in the process.

More than 11,000 writers walked out in early May, arguing that their compensation levels and working conditions have deteriorated in the streaming era. The strike caused many talk shows to go dark, including “The Tonight Show,” “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and “Saturday Night Live.”

After Ms. Barrymore announced that she was returning to her show, the backlash from writers — as well as others on social media — was swift. The Writers Guild promptly picketed outside the show’s studio. The National Book Foundation dropped Ms. Barrymore as host of the upcoming National Book Awards.

In a statement on Wednesday night, the Writers Guild called Mr. Maher’s decision “disappointing,” and said that members would begin picketing the HBO show.

“As a W.G.A. member, Bill Maher is obligated to follow the strike rules and not perform any writing services,” the guild said. “It is difficult to imagine how ‘Real Time’ can go forward without a violation of W.G.A. strike rules taking place.”

Other talk show hosts have showed no indications of returning to work. Five late-night hosts — Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and Mr. Maher’s HBO colleague John Oliver — have instead started a group podcast, “Strike Force Five.” Proceeds are going to their out-of-work staff.

During the 2007 writers’ strike, which lasted 100 days, late-night shows returned after two months, even with writers still on picket lines. The “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno was reprimanded by the Writers Guild for performing a monologue that he wrote himself.

Mr. Maher said on Wednesday that he would not perform a monologue or other “written pieces,” and would instead focus on the panel discussions that are a signature of the show.

“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,” he said.

Source: Television -


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