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Bill Maher Reverses Course: Pauses HBO Show Due To Writers’ Strike

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Updated Sep 18, 2023, 04:58pm EDT


Bill Maher is pausing production on his HBO show Real Time, he announced Monday, after previously saying the Writers Guild of America strike would not delay his long-running commentary show from airing—joining a growing list of stars who have reversed course in recent days and decided not to continue airing their shows during the strike.

Key Facts

Maher said his initial decision to go back to work was made “when it seemed nothing was happening” and there was no end in sight for the strike, but with both sides returning to the negotiating table, Maher said he’s going to delay the return of Real Time in hopes “they can finally get this done.”

Maher would have been the only late-night host to return to work during the strike if the show had gone into production.

News Peg

Late last week, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which is handling negotiations for the studios, said the WGA asked for a meeting to move negotiations forward. The groups are scheduling a time to meet this week for the first time since mid-August.

Key Background

The WGA has been on strike since the beginning of May, with SAG-AFTRA, the actors guild, joining the writers union in mid-July. Both guilds are seeking higher residual payments for work done on streaming platforms as well as strong protections in their contracts involving AI, as the technology becomes more common in the film industry. The dual strikes have shut down production on most scripted TV shows, but last week, Maher said he planned to launch a stripped-down show that would not include a number of signature elements that are handled by striking WGA writers, including monologues or the series’ segment “New Rules.” In a post on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, Maher said the show he would be doing without his writers would “not be as good as our normal show, full stop.” Maher signaled his reasoning for restarting the show was the need for his staff who are not members of WGA to return to work. After Maher’s initial announcement, the WGA said it planned to protest outside Real Time, arguing Maher was obligated not to provide any writing services for his show during the strike, and it’s “difficult to imagine how Real Time with Bill Maher can go forward without a violation of WGA strike rules taking place.”


Talk show host Drew Barrymore made headlines in the past week for a similar reversal. Initially Barrymore announced she planned to start a new season of her CBS daytime program, The Drew Barrymore Show, without writers but in compliance with strike rules. That announcement sparked immediate backlash from actors and writers on social media. On Friday, Barrymore doubled down on the decision, calling it “complex” but noting there are “other people’s jobs on the line.” Two days later she announced she was pausing the show’s return, saying she has “no words to express my deepest apologies to anyone I have hurt.”

Surprising Fact

The Jennifer Hudson Show, one of the other shows that had previously planned to premiere amid the strike alongside Maher’s show, has paused production, Variety reported Sunday.

Further Reading

Drew Barrymore Backtracks: Talk Show Paused Until Hollywood Strikes End After Union Criticism (Forbes)

Talk Shows By Bill Maher And Drew Barrymore Are Returning—But Are They Breaking Strike Rules? (Forbes)

Stars Auction Off Dinners, Pottery Classes, And Even Relationship Advice To Help Crews During Hollywood Strike — See What They’re Offering And How To Bid (Forbes)

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