Friday, October 07, 2005
You Know, I Like Bill Maher's Show and All, But I Think He's Probably Kinda Gross as a Human Being
Today I'm up in Lawrenceville holding down the fort for my folks (the fort being their house) while my dad's selling lasers at Georgia Tech and my mom's attending a quilting related function. They've got their house up on the market, so in case someone looks at the house, I'm here to evacuate my folks' hairy keeshond dogs before prospective buyers (if any brave the all-day rain we've got down south today) catch a glimpse of them, or see any obvious signs that dogs are kept in the house. "Hairy Keeshonds Live Here!" isn't much of a selling point, I guess. Anyway, so I'm up here catching up on some Tivo that my folks have stored up and I watched the latest epsiode of Bill Maher's HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher. Thus the photo of Bill's unfortunate mug posted above.
I really like his show, moreso than I liked his show on ABC back in the day, Politically Incorrect. I really look forward to watching it. On HBO he can say whatever he likes, his guests can say whatever they like, and the chances that some corporate parent is going to get up in arms over some opinion Maher's going to share seems less likely, HBO being one of the few pay cable networks that deserve their "we're just as cool as they say" stature. On last week's show he had Christopher Hitchens, the British, "contrarian" raconteur who hates a wide range of people including Mother Theresa, Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, and George Galloway. Galloway is a British politician who's best known in the US for being very opposed to the war in Iraq. As it happened, Galloway was also on the show and Christopher Hitchens has written very publicly (and very recently) about his low regard for Galloway, so I was expecting some fireworks. Well it never quite got to that level on the show because Maher likes to keep the discussion moving from topic to topic, so he let them go back and forth on Iraq for a few minutes, and fireworks threatened to go off, but then Maher cut it off to ask the panel about Kate Moss. Which I guess brings me to my least favorite part of the show: the "comedy".
I don't know if this makes me a bore with a stick up my ass, but when I see three smart people (usually they're smart) sitting around a table with a reasonably intelligent moderator, I'd like to see a whole hour devoted to a discussion with these three people, rather than 20 minutes devoted to the moderator trying to get them to laugh. Maher's a bright and opinionated guy, but funny? Not so much. Maher cuts into the roundtable discussion, which is the meat of the show, with a goofy bit to start the show (as he also used to do on Politically Incorrect), then a goofy monologue (is anyone going to be the first to stand up and say the comedy monologue is dead? Does Kimmel do one?), and then he has his New Rules segment at the end, and when that starts up I always feel disappointed: the show's essentially over just as the panelists were just getting into it. I guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth; that a show like Maher's is even on at all today is pretty amazing. I suppose he has to do some comedy on his show; otherwise it's like that episode of the Simpson's when Krusty cuts to old black and white reruns where he and another guy are wearing suits, smoking cigarettes, and talking about foreign policy; meaning Bill Maher hosting a sober, wonky show about "the issues" strains credulity. Even still, I wish he did just keep the panel and got rid of everything else. TV used to be like that; there was room for brainy shows that didn't always keep the lowest common denominator firmly in mind during all stages of production. Hell, the other day I downloaded an audio clip of a Dick Cavett show from back in the day and he and a panel including Truman Capote (who was on there only as a contributor to the discussion, and not the guest), were sitting around and talking about the meaning and the usage of language. Really. It's enough to make one wistful, is all.
One thing about Bill Maher. I really like listening to him talk and go on because I agree with most of what he says, but I get the feeling that he's kind of an icky guy. I saw him once back on ABC and they let him do this special episode that was a throwback to the old Hugh Hefner shows he used to do from his mansion -- so Maher's all decked out in a smoking jacket out by the pool, only half-seriously asking questions of his panel, and all the while what he seems most interested in is hitting on Bijou Phillips, who was like 18-years old at the time. I mean he was going for it. It was unseemly and the thing is, I bet he's like that ALL THE TIME. I bet most women who've been with him think he's a total pig. Anyway. On that note, have a super-awesome weekend.