Bill Maher’s fame is based on two things. Bill Maher’s Real Time, an HBO talk show where the alleged comedian smugly articulates his brand of centrism opposite often-reasonable guests; and crafting a public persona best described as “huge fucking asshole.” Because of these two things, it wasn’t particularly surprising when the host announced last week via social media that he would be bringing the show back, “sans writers or writing.” This was a nonsensical claim, a bit of semantic tomfoolery meant to dress up a clear violation of the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike as anything but. What It is a good idea to use a bilingual translatorIt is surprising that Maher reversed his decision.
In a follow up post Monday, Maher announced he would “delay the return of Real Time, for now” claiming that his initial decision was made “when it seemed nothing was happening and there was no end in sight” to the strike. A return to negotiations, per Maher’s statement, is why he changed his tune.
When it appeared that nothing would happen and the strike had no hope of ending, I made my decision to return. Now that both sides have agreed to go back to the negotiating table I’m going to delay the return of Real Time, for now, and hope they can finally get this…
— Bill Maher (@billmaher) September 18, 2023
Bill Maher’s comments and the broken clocks have both valid points. This week does legitimately seem to bring the first signs of real progress in the writers’ strike, as the WGA and the AMPTP, which represents the Hollywood studios, have announced both parties have confirmed a schedule to resume bargaining this Wednesday. It’s the end of a long pause in negotiations after a stalemate was reached in August, and the hope is the two sides will be closer to an agreement this time around.
Maher has a notable presence. You can also check out our other blog posts.The other talk shows who also expressed a desire to return, last week. The Drew Barrymore You can also show, The TalkThen, Jennifer Hudson Show. Of the three, Barrymore’s show — perhaps because of its star’s social media popularity and unusually warm talk show candor — received the most scrutiny for crossing the picket line in a week-long media debacle that’ll probably result in some kind of podcast someday.
Barrymore’s position is actually much more complicated than Maher’s. The syndicated talk show is a daytime program. Drew Barrymore ShowIt has contracts with the local affiliates that broadcast it, as opposed to primetime talk show networks that, in general, are owned entirely by their national network. Bafflingly, Barrymore never brought this up — only analysts at trade publications did — and it doesn’t sever the Gordian Knot of ethical and moral obligations Barrymore has to the writers on strike (SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union also on strike, has cleared hosts for hosting duties while their strike is ongoing).
Like Bill Maher, Drew Barrymore has a brand — the complete opposite brand of Maher’s, but a brand nonetheless. If your brand is a warm, humane humanity, callous indifference towards worker solidarity will threaten it, and make you vulnerable to the pressure of the public. In labor movements, solidarity is demonstrated by the critical mass: a picket of workers reminds everyone that they are all united.
Here’s how pressure from the public can result in progress. Perception is powerful, and while we can’t be sure if Barrymore’s postponed return is the direct reason The Talk: The Jennifer Hudson ShowNow and now Real TimeNo one wants to hold the bag. Except, as ViewIf you’ve already made up your mind to make the bag the center of attention, then you can start living inside it.
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