Bill Maher returns to HBO sans writers


HBO’s "Real Time with Bill Maher" returns Friday without writers, his monologue and the closing segment "New Rules." The guest roundtable discussion, however, will stay. The most recent season of "Real Time" was ended early by the strike. The 11/9/07 season finale was canceled and a rerun ran in its place.
Monologues performed by hosts who are WGA members are at the center of a controversy driven by Jay Leno’s decision to write openings for his show, which returned last week without writers.

The WGA has been adamant that, under its strike rules, hosts cannot perform any writing services for their shows, including penning their own monologues. Meanwhile, NBC has claimed that the hosts are exempt and are within their legal right to write monologues according to WGA’s 2004 collective bargaining agreement.

"The WGA agreement permits Jay Leno to write his own monologue for `The Tonight Show,’" NBC said in a statement. "The WGA is not permitted to implement rules that conflict with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the studios and the WGA."

The agreement between the WGA and AMPTP expired, but its terms remain in effect, Andrea Hartman, EVP/deputy general counsel for NBCU told The AP. “Material written by the person who delivers it on the air" is exempted from the contract. The exception applies to shows outside prime-time, which includes “The Tonight Show."

"Our position is that our strike rules don’t conflict here and, because he’s (Leno) always been employed as a writer" on the show, the contract exception doesn’t apply to him, guild spokesman Neal Sacharow was quoted as saying.