June 23, 2024

“Real Time with Bill Maher” is returning to HBO this Friday, a week later than originally planned. Maher delayed plans to bring back “Real Time” last week as the WGA and AMPTP resumed its negotiations — and rumblings of a resolution to the writers strike appeared to be in reach.

Now, with the writers strike over and scribes able to return to work as of Wednesday, “Real Time” will become the first late night show to make the return after the daypart went silent in May (as the strike began). Other talk shows are expected to return in the coming weeks, as showrunners send out the word for staffers to return.

“My writers and Real Time are back! See you Friday Night!” wrote Maher in a short post Tuesday evening on X/Twitter. “Real Time” has been off the air since April 28, when its last guest was Elon Musk.

Maher had originally planned to revive “Real Time” last Friday, Sept. 22. “’Real Time’ is coming back, unfortunately, sans writers or writing,” Maher said on social media on Sept. 13. “It has been five months, and it is 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.”

But just as Drew Barrymore incurred the ire of striking writers for announcing on social media her plans to bring back her daytime talk show, Maher also angered many on the picket line. “Bill Maher’s decision to go back on the air while his Guild is on strike is disappointing,” the WGA said at the time in a statement. “If he goes forward with his plan, he needs to honor more than ‘the spirit of the strike.’ Bill Maher is obligated as a WGA member to follow the strike rules and not perform any writing services. It is difficult to imagine how ‘Real Time With Bill Maher’ can go forward without a violation of WGA strike rules taking place. WGA will be picketing this show.”

But Maher ultimately opted not to move forward, announcing on Sept. 18 — days before he was supposed to return — that he was pressing pause. “My decision to return to work was made when it seemed 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 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 done.”

Because the production had already returned, and was planning for last week’s season premiere before the postponement, it should be relatively easy for “Real Time” to ramp back up in time for Friday’s episode.

As Variety wrote on Sunday, because talk shows fall under SAG-AFTRA’s network code deal (which isn’t a part of the talent guild’s current strike), that should allow the late night hosts to come back soon. Most insiders predict that the major network daily shows will coordinate an exact time to return at the same time — continuing the cooperation between competitors that has even led to the “Strike Force Five” podcast, featuring Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver. Those hosts have been in close contact during the strike, and will likely want to maintain that spirit of cooperation.

Although the late night shows — among them “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” — have been off the air since the end of April, many of those weeknight strips have continued to operate with a skeleton staff. That includes non-writing executive producers, digital teams, production managers and bookers.

“From a production standpoint, I think you could turn it around pretty quickly,” one insider said.

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