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Case Number 09823: Small Claims Court

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Bill Maher: New Rules

HBO // 2003 // 45 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Geoffrey Miller (Retired) // August 9th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge Geoffrey Miller has been suffering withdrawal all summer while waiting for new episodes of Real Time. So this disc is like a little piece of Maher crack to ease the pain.

The Case

New Rule: Everyone in America with the least bit of interest in politics needs to watch Real Time With Bill Maher.

The Charge

After his infamous post-9/11 remarks that got his old show, Politically Incorrect, canceled on ABC, Bill Maher jumped ship to HBO to host Real Time, which copied the basic format of PI, except with the freedom of pay cable. In the case of a curse becoming a blessing, Maher is more popular and relevant than ever, a superb unfiltered counterpoint to increasingly homogenized and sanitized mainstream news. He is uncensored, both in language and ideas. In 2003, back when all the major news outlets were still making every orange alert breaking news, Maher was already railing against Bush and the shortcomings of the War on Terror. Even as the attitude of the country and media has changed, Maher remains the most daring political commentator on TV, and Real Time hosts controversial guests, like Noam Chomsky, practically verboten outside of the occasional dusty PBS documentary.

New Rule: A spoonful of sugar will make the politics go down.

The panel debate that takes up most of Real Time's hour—a lively conversation between three guests and Maher—can be fierce, furious, and deadly serious. Even the one-on-one interviews are often tense, as Maher's occasionally confrontational and blunt interviewing style has angered more than a few guests. So these segments are bookended by comedic material: a sketch and brief monologue at the beginning and the lighter New Rules at the end. With New Rules, Maher simply reads off a statement that he believes should be a rule, then expounds on it further. They aren't always necessarily about politics per se—he often pokes fun at pop culture, life's little irritations ("The more complex the Starbucks order, the bigger the asshole!"), and general odd ongoing news (like the never-ending parade of "missing white girls").

It's often gut-bustingly funny, the painfully truthful observations of a guy who has fine-honed his ability to articulate the absurdity of modern culture. New Rules has become the best-known segment of Real Time, and it has spun off into a book and now this DVD, descriptively titled Bill Maher—New Rules, which collects the best of New Rules from the first three seasons of Real Time.

New Rule: No matter what your political persuasion, Bill Maher will offend you at least occasionally.

While he's often been pegged as a liberal, especially since he's been one of the harshest critics of the Bush administration, Maher can't truly be tied to one political ideology. He is to the left on many big topics, but mixes that up with a libertarian streak and a healthy dose of no-BS common sense. He has no allegiance to any political party, respects no sacred cows, and never holds back. Sometimes you'll agree with; sometimes you won't. No matter what, he'll always invoke a passionate response.

New Rule: Political jokes have a short shelf life.

The clips on here are broken down into highlight reels from each of the three first seasons of Real Time (roughly 10-15 minutes of material from each), and the oldest ones date from 2003—roughly around the time when the Iraq War was just beginning. Cracks about Freedom Fries and "the Runaway Bride" should be relegated to the dustbin with the Judge Ito and Viagra jokes of years past. What does hold up, however, is good enough to give you a good fit of the ROFLs. Maher is a master of delivery, and his wit is always razor-sharp.

New Rule: The extras on a DVD can't be equal to half the material on the disc.

While the compilation reels of New Rules comprise the main program on the disc, the "special features" section practically doubles the content. There's another additional reel of New Rules and a handful of extended "editorials" in which Maher discusses subjects like gay marriage and 2004 presidential campaign commercials in depth.

New Rule: Maher fanatics might enjoy this disc, but everyone else should just tune in to Real Time.

Having all this material archived in one place is nice—far from essential, but nice. Hardcore fans who have an active interest in seeing old New Rules segments again will be happy to have this. If you are a Real Time newbie, however, you'd be best served by jumping right into new episodes of the show. They're practically worth the price of admission for HBO alone, and cheapskates can download audio-only podcast versions for free a few days after shows air. Watch that, not this. You can thank me later.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 72

Perp Profile

Studio: HBO
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 45 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• New Rules Extras
• Editorials


• IMDb
• Real Time Official Site

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