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It has been a long time, a very long time, before I have seen something intelligent on TV. I never watched "Politically Incorrect"; I just never got into that show. But I do like the political nature of Bill Maher's comedy and prose, and while I do not agree on all his points, I do deeply respect his true representation of them; he doesn't mollify his points because others may not want hear them. This is something truly refreshing. If you don't like flagrant intellectualism and polar politics, this show isn't for you. However, if you have an open mind and want to hear some of the questions people don't want you to ask, this IS for you.
Of course, some people are attracted to the unstable. I have to watch this show whenever I notice it is on, even when I find it to be an episode that I have already seen. You are never sure if you should laugh or wince as Bill takes aim at everything ridiculous about America. He even lets himself be ridiculed, which is the mark of a fair commentator. The guests on his shows frequently disagree with him and the show is more fun when they disagree. The first time I really took to Bill's style was watching a show where one of the guests(Andrew Sullivan, I think) slammed a comment of Bill's that they then discussed for a few minutes. The only thing I don't like about the show is that it is too short. Bill frequently has to cut discussions off to make way for other topics, which gives it the feel in pace of PTI. An important show with a perfect home in HBO, where you can actually say what you want to say.
Network: HBO; Genre: News Analysis, Comedy; Content Rating: TV-MA
(profanity, sexual humor); Perspective: Contemporary (star range: 1 -
Seasons Reviewed: Series
As a more conservative-minded person (70% of the IMDb readers just skipped to another review) I've always found Bill Maher to be a social guilty pleasure and an intellectual workout. The late-night roundtable series "Politically Incorrect" was network TV's first and last introduction to the silver-tongued comedian, not to mention a regular time-slot favorite of mine. Whether telling us that pregnancy isn't "sexy" or that all Christians are brainwashed bigots, Maher is a true original who challenges the audience and their safe notions that the First Amendment only protects speech that they like. I say this because HBO's "Real Time" is so free; your likeness of it will directly relate to how much you like Maher and, in a time when everybody wants to listen to ideological parrots, your likeness of him may relate to your own politics.
I defended Maher on his supposedly controversial post-9/11 comments on "PI", though in retrospect being kicked off ABC and onto HBO was the best thing that could have happened to Maher. "Real Time" allows Maher to be his clever, acerbic and deeply iconoclastic best. It is a fully open venue to speak his mind, shape it into riotous laughs and rip into the hot button issues of the week, his own annoyances and his own personal enemies without commercials to break the momentum and network TV channel changers flipping by and catching his comments out of context. Even fans of "PI" might find a now off-the-leash Maher too strong, raw or abrasive.
It all works like dynamite because the guy is funnier, smarter and a better interviewer than Jon Stewart, Jay Leno and David Letterman combined. He really asks the tough questions and pins down the guest to answer them. In the final New Rules segment Maher's rapid-fire wit is shown to be in top form. At any point, his off-the-cuff improvisations are laugh-out-loud funny. He's also more out in the open about his angry liberalism than Letterman (I'm afraid Letterman is really going to explode one day). From one angle you could say that its anger holds it back from really reaching the comic heavens. Maher hates President George W. Bush and the way he twists every joke back to the "Bush is an Idiot" punch-line becomes repetitive and tiresome. The show has a one-track mind. Bush and the Republicans only get a brief break when Maher goes after the ding-bat celebrity of the moment.
The really accented problem with "Real Time" is the audience. For one of TV's smartest infotainment shows it has TV's dumbest audience. Listen as they clap and cheer at the mention of faile US foreign policy or soldiers who come back from war missing limbs in a twisted backward celebration of something they think legitimizes their view. You have to admire anybody remotely conservative who braves this lion's den, gets the back of their ears flicked all night by Maher and the 2 other guests ganging up on them and still maintains their composure. Often the show gets me heated and occasionally Maher's jokes even go off the edge and into tacky, but that is the razor's edge of iconoclastic comedy. It doesn't work if someone isn't offended. A knee-jerk reaction would be to wish that Maher balance it out, but that would be disingenuous wouldn't it? That wouldn't be Bill Maher.
"Real Time" is a red-hot ideological spit wad show. Nobody is able to or given the time on TV to lay out a linear-logical liberal case the way that Maher can on this show. Conversley, the arguments many of the guests are making feel either insightful or clueless and circle, which is another reason the show is such an addicting watch. Conservatives should be listening to Maher the way liberals should be listening to Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh. There is also something special about it, tucked away on HBO. "Real Time" is like looking through the keyhole and in on a private New York cocktail party where politicians, pundits, actors, salon.com writers, musicians and other pseudo-intellectuals get together, sit around, complain about middle America, pontificate about the world going to hell, pretend that Maureen Dowd is funny and generally pat themselves on the back making themselves feel like geniuses and think their rants are accomplishing something - except on "Real Time" there is probably more smiling and laughing.
Freedom, baby, freedom. To debate and freedom to be heard in your entirety. "Real Time" is the greatest testament to it on American television. A work that becomes great because HBO (a network that craps quality) simply lets the inmates run the asylum. This is an addictive hour of TV that I only wish it was on more regularly. It is great to have Bill Maher back and better than ever. Unequivically, this show is awesome.
* * * * / 4
One of the best reasons to watch HBO, is "Real Time with Bill Maher" a 60-minute program that is no holds barred and pulls no punches back. Comedian Bill Maher is your host starting the show off with stand-up jokes, then his program becomes real as he and selected guest talk about real issues in the world from political, social, entertainment, and environmental you name it. Unlike other news host Maher always comments on issues with a unique and bitchy comic twist, which being on a network like HBO lets him do that, making him much better from when he hosted "Politically Incorrect" on ABC. Even though Maher is a liberal democrat a fact that he doesn't hide he always includes a priceless panel of pairings of liberals, moderates, and even always at least one republican or conservative guest each week so that way you get to hear both sides of the story on the most hot-button political issues in discussion format. So don't miss it when it runs on HBO on Fridays at 11PM, check your listing though like most HBO series this is a program that starts each season at a different month. Watch you'll be sorry if you don't.
In an time when the pundits and talking heads on the "news" networks, or what constitutes as them, bring on guests with usually partisan sides, and making wisecracks that aren't funny, there's Bill Maher. While his counterpart, Jon Stewart, has perhaps the best overall program of political/social satire on cable, Maher's program follows very close behind. The show starts off often with a great opening joke of the week, with Maher sometimes in costume (I think I once saw him as the Pope), or with actors playing some strange, hilarious part. Then he moves into the typical news of the week. But then come the guests, and this is where the goods come in. Often news shows try and make things "fair and balanced" (and the station that professes this the most does it the least), but Maher keeps it real. While his audience is sometimes more leaning to the left, he doesn't shy away from having on the right wing or conservatives, and then it brings about intelligent, sometimes cringe-worthy, discussions. Finally the show ends with "New Rules", that vary from small laughs to the biggest Maher gives on the show. There's something about Real Time- not just that Maher is funny and is on the ball with current events- that makes it a solid, thought provoking hour of television, especially in times like these. We need people to really be discussing the issues, even if its for laughs.
I'd like to first and foremost state that Bill Maher is a
comedian/political satirist - and I realized this from the moment I
first began watching his comedy act. I'd also like to state that I
personally think he's a bit of an a**hole, albeit an a**hole with an
occasional funny streak. I never watched his previous current-events TV
show "Politically Incorrect" from 1997 (because I was only in my early
teens at the time, yet I was able to watch "South Park" - go figure),
but whenever I get the chance I've been watching his new current-events
TV series "Real Time with Bill Maher."
I got into this show fairly late in the game, only within the last three years or so. To avoid declaring any political allegiances here (as if I really have any), I will say that I do fall within this show's primary demographic. Although I agree with Maher on many points, there are some things where I feel he is blatantly wrong (especially regarding religion - though while I do believe in God, I don't really claim any specific religious order, despite my Christian upbringing), and I also don't care for his tendency sometimes to push his points as fact (at least, within the context of the many politically-charged discussions on his show). But because we must remember that Maher is first and foremost a comedian, we must also remember that we should not take anything he says seriously - whether it offends us or not; no one said that comedy - not to mention, good comedy - had to always be in good taste.
And lastly, here is where I put the most praise on "Real Time with Bill Maher." Maher is not one to sugarcoat the insanity of modern politics (as of 2013); I personally thought his coverage of the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election was hilariously tasteless and informative. He is also not one to tread lightly on sensitive topics - he says it like it is, and he says what needs to be said, regardless of how PC or un-PC it may sound. It's harsh stuff, but again, it needs to be said, and plus he has free speech on his side.
The other area I shower praise over is that Maher's show often touches on topics that are often under-reported - simply glossed over with little or no in-depth coverage or follow-up - or are ignored completely, by mainstream media. There have been times when I've watched "Real Time with Bill Maher" and he brings up current events that I was never even aware of. This one goes hand-in-hand with my comments that he does not need to tread lightly in sensitive areas (simply because the majority of mainstream media refuses to cover it for fear of offending, and turning off, viewers, which I personally find to be highly irresponsible of a supposedly "free" press).
And Maher's "New Rules" segments are utterly hilarious!
Bill Maher is an annoying character. You can appreciate his humour, his
political views and his humanity but his smirk irks. That smart ass
grin he gets when he tells a gag, especially a controversial one, takes
the shine off an otherwise great performance. Maybe it's just me.
I'm an Australian. I live in Australia and visit the US about once a year for business. I find watching Real Time and Jon Stewart's The Daily Show all I need to keep up with what is happening in that country. I get that education in an entertaining way. I don't agree with everything Maher espouses (smoking pot is dumb - period) his views sit well with a right wing Aussie. It amazes me that a right wing Aussie is about level with an extreme left wing American. Our countries are similar but so different.
The show starts with a short Johnny Carson style monologue - and Maher should either refresh his writers or look at his delivery style as it isn't as great as it could or should be. A few chuckles on the events of the week but nothing you want to remember for the water cooler Monday.
We then go into an interview with a weekly guest. Maher brings in some interesting guests, some of which I would normally go out of my way to avoid, but he manages to extrude interesting television from each and every one of them. I remember he once brought in a rapper I'd never heard of and had my finger poised on the fast forward button. To my amazement the interview finished before it got pressed.
We then get into the panel where three guests discuss and debate issues. This is where the show gets into its own space. The conversation bubbles along with a rapid pace and humorous tone. Maher chips in with his two cents worth which is normally death to a chat show host - there's an unwritten rule that the moderator sits in the middle and steer the conversation, not get involved in it. Maher somehow gets away with it most of the time.
We wrap up with New Rules where his writers earn the money. This is regularly the funniest part of the show making fun of everything from teenagers cell phone addiction to the president. New Rules finishes with a semi-serious dig and social commentary which proves to be Maher's issue of the week.
All in all, a reasonably entertaining show considering it's subject matter. Not as funny as Jon Stewart but Maher goes a bit deeper in his hour than Stewart can.
There is a small faction of my generation who grew up watching Chris
Matthews and Hayes. Can't forget Rachel Maddow. Hearing your story,
going to college for 8 years and constantly watching your show. It
continues to be refreshing.
The hysteria the hysteria. Gun violence and terrorism can be triggered by a text message from a big fish upstairs who got an email. Hysteria is manufactured and timed. But not on this show. Serious issues get a block. But so does everything else. Smart people also get a chance to explain themselves in paragraphs, usually without being yelled at by an @Orielly character.
Mainstream media spews the same footage in loops -or from such a distance that it doesn't matter unless something horrendous happens. When I turn on this show I laugh and then engage in the political thought process.
Can't wait for reruns on VICE.
P.S. This show, is what political discourse should look like, probably what it used to look like.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't usually wright reviews so I'll be short: Real Time with Bill
Maher is a 1 hour show on HBO based around a "roundtable" discussion
and debate that addresses US politics, policies, foreign affairs and
domestic issues with honesty, humor and a slightly liberal bias.
Despite that bias, the show and it's host Bill Maher remain objective
throughout but with a tendency to lean left in a humorous way.
Since I'm not tied to any political party I tend to really enjoy the whole essence of this show. Nothing Bill says will offend me, although he tends to offend a lot of people who are mostly conservatives. That said, he is also critical of liberals as well. He's not afraid to critique or question either side.
The show is filmed in front of a live audience which, in my opinion takes away from the show. The audience is almost 100% liberal and will applaud everything negative towards conservatives and they tend to gang up on Republican guests of the show. That to me is a drawback. Audience participation is the reason why I can't stand The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. While I respect Jon Stewart, his audience is very annoying and it takes away credibility from the show's claim to be news. It seems that The Daily Show is more-so entertainment and caters to a less mature demographic. Not to sound snobby, but I'm just saying. Real Time's audience doesn't go that far nor does the show stick so faithfully to entertaining it's audience. While the show does make you laugh, it remains a poignant piece of political news and satire without being too goofy.
Towards the end of the show Bill Maher does his "New Rules" segment which is basically just a taste of his stand up routine. The segment consists of about 5 or 6 "New Rules". The last "New Rule" however is not a joke, it is a heartfelt and passionate commentary on the state of American culture, politics and overall standing in the world. It is sometimes alarming, other times it's depressing but it's always important. It is with this finale that we see Maher's true passion for his country. He may be a pot smoking, snobby, liberal douche bag but he's still an American. And it's obvious that he truly cares about his country and where it's headed. It's important to see through the facade and understand the point he is trying to make, it maybe funny and satirical but it's something we all need to hear. Whether we agree with it or not, it's a step forward in attaining a greater understanding with which we could help ourselves and our country for the future.
I am a Podcaster and listener, and this show is never far away from my mp3 player or computer. I needed more insight about what is going on, but it is hard in this time, at least it is hard to find the "right" information because of all the "right." The show is often criticized by the way bill makes his way to his point, which is often cruel, direct and very blunt. But this is a little price to pay for engaging in a conversation so damn controversial even David Letterman himself would say: "I don't think that I have ever done that before." Looking forward for more Maher and new rules. I do think that the show should be more often that it is, but that being said we do not want bill to get fired for anything anywhere anymore.
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