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‘Maher’ Renewed for Third Season

Nov 22, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The presidential election was bittersweet for Bill Maher. President Bush, the object of his scorn, got four more years, but “Real Time With Bill Maher” got one more season.

HBO last week confirmed it renewed the caustic comic’s one-hour program for a third season. Thirteen new episodes have been ordered and are expected to air next year. An HBO spokesman declined to comment.

The Friday night show did not appear to be a sure thing to come back to the premium network. It averaged a 2.6 rating and 6 share in HBO’s universe, averaging about 1 million viewers. But the most recent two episodes of the program, which aired just before and after Election Day, drew audiences that suggested the show still had vitality.

On Oct. 29 “Real Time” drew a 3.3/6 with 1.3 million viewers and on Nov. 5 it attracted a 3.5/6 with 1.5 million viewers. Year-ago comparisons for HBO are difficult because Nielsen Media Research has changed the way HBO and its multiplex channels are measured.

The renewal also comes amid a headline-making palimony suit involving the comedian. Coco Johnsen, a former model and flight attendant, sued Mr. Maher in Los Angeles Superior Court for $9 million. She claims she gave up her career because he promised to marry her and buy her a home in Beverly Hills. In public, Mr. Maher makes a point of saying he never plans to marry, and his attorney called the breach of contract suit “frivolous and false,” according to a Reuters report.

In his topical comedy Mr. Maher, who is registered to vote as a Libertarian, frequently takes unpopular stands and makes controversial statements.

On his last show of the season, Mr. Maher scolded Democrats: “Stop saying you’re going to move because Bush won. Real liberals should be pledging to stay because Bush won. Trust me, you can’t get away from Bush by moving to France. Because that’s where we’re invading next.”

And he had harsh words for red-state values. “I’m not out of touch with them. I just don’t share them. In fact, and I know this is about 140 years late, but to the Southern states, I would say, `Upon further consideration, you can go. I know that’s what you’ve always wanted, and we’ve reconsidered. So go ahead. And take Texas with you.”‘

Mr. Maher’s rants have sometimes landed him in hot water. Before joining HBO Mr. Maher had a show on ABC called, appropriately, “Politically Incorrect,” which was canceled in 2002 after he suggested it was less cowardly for the 9/11 terrorists to fly planes into buildings than it was for the United States to fire cruise missiles at Afghanistan.

“Politically Incorrect” originated on Comedy Central in 1993 and moved to ABC in 1997.