Saturday, September 8, 2012

Real Time with Bill Maher #258 09/07/12

Real Time with Bill Maher #258 (airing September 7, 2012) was one of those rare Real Time episodes that just didn’t gel. Bill’s opening monologue was weak, the guests were dull, his comedy bit that comes during the middle of the show didn’t really work, and even the highlight of the show for me, the “New Rules” segment was only so-so. I’m going to name this episode “Treading Water” because it could barely stay afloat.

One of the best lines from the opening monologue was Bill’s comparison of the Republican National Convention to “a seminar to flip real-estate for Jesus.” Another good line was when he said, referencing Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention and Republican’s complaints about having an ex-president appear, “not every party has an ex-president who can talk.” Yes, they were clever put-downs, but rather weak as far as Bill’s zingers go. 

You know the show is not up to par when the best segment is Bill’s interview with Christine O’Donnell, the former ditzy U. S. Senate candidate from Delaware. You know, the one who said “I am not a witch.”  (By the way, although Republican’s are all about personal responsibility, she blamed her advisors for that ad.)

Christine livened up the show because everything she says is so bizarre that she is inadvertently funny.  Her lies and off-the-wall statements come so fast it is like a batting machine pitching balls at warp speed.  Bill just couldn’t keep up.

Some examples:
Christine repeats the Republican talking point that Obama could have done everything he wanted during his first two years because the Dems had majorities in the House and Senate.  Wrong!  The House did pass bills for everything on the liberal agenda, and then the bills died in the Senate because the Republicans filibustered them. The Democrats had 50+ votes, but nothing could be passed because the filibuster requires 60 votes.

Christine then went on to prattle about economic theory, evidently under the mistaken impression that she is an economics professor instead of a nitwit who probably can’t even balance her checkbook. Her words came so fast and furious, Bill didn’t know what to swing at first. She didn’t wait for a response; she just kept up a barrage of verbiage. She has evidently learned that if she gives someone a chance to respond, she is going to be shot down.  

On ‘Overtime”, an online discussion after the TV show, she got even worse. The other panelists were practically crying due to the futility of trying to talk sense to her. Christine got a viewer question about why Republicans who want small government are mandating medical procedures for women (e.g. medically unnecessary ultrasounds for women seeking an abortion that the woman must pay for). Christine denied that there were mandates (Wrong). She said it was wrong for the federal government to infringe on a woman’s rights, but OK if the states did it (What!). She said abortion is a risky procedure. (Blatant lie—it is safer than carrying a pregnancy to term if done by a doctor in a medical setting.) She compared the mandates to requiring certification for heart surgeons. (Spurious analogy, abortion doctors are certified and there are no laws mandating that people have to have pace-makers whether they want them or not.)  She just kept moving from one outrageous statement to the next, so fast no one had time to get a word in edgewise. 

Then she announced that churches in New Jersey lost their tax exempt status because they wouldn’t perform gay marriage (Outrageous lie—New Jersey doesn’t even have a gay marriage law—the legislature passed it, but Governor Christie vetoed it. Further, not a single church in the country has lost their tax exempt status for this reason; no one has even suggested telling churches who they must marry or how to perform their ceremonies.)

I’ve gone on at great length because Christine needs refutation, and Bill and his panel just couldn’t manage it.

There was a big “ick” moment-of-the-week during Bill’s interview with Christine.  Bill at one point told Christine that she should have sex with him “right here right now.” Not funny, Bill. Really icky, Bill. Now I understand why Christine didn’t want to go on Bill’s show during her Senate campaign. She was probably tired of being propositioned by him. This suggestion put an image in my head that made me want to bleach my eyeballs.

The panel was bland on bland. 

Katerina vanden Heuval, the editor of The Nation is earnest and erudite, but has no excitement, unless you find wonkiness exciting.

Jim Vanderhai, co-founder and executive editor of Politico, is a soft-spoken nice guy. He denied that Politico has a conservative bias, describing it as middle-of-the-road, yet every comment he made supported Republicans and conservatives. He defended himself against the charge of political bias, by saying that Fox News said he had a liberal bias.  Right, Fox News also claims to be fair and balanced.  But I guess, to Fox News anyone who is not a raving right-wing radical is a liberal.

Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist and former head of the McCain campaign, is having an identity crisis. He looks pained having to defend Republican positions; he pretty much doesn’t even try anymore. (I see him on MSNBC all the time looking just as pained and just as unable to defend the indefensible positions of the Republicans.)

The special guest, David Simon, executive producer/writer of the HBO shows, The Wire and Treme, appeared to be a really smart guy whose heart is in the right place, but he is just not a quip-master. He’s too thoughtful.
Bill did a mid-show bit about the “The Dueling First Ladies”, each trying to out-poor the other.  “When hubby and I were young we were so poor that ….”  Nice concept, but it just didn’t make me laugh that much. I think Bill was rushing it a bit, and that may have muted the impact.  

Here’s a bit I really liked. Bill gave a shout-out to Michelle Obama. He said, she had “a shiv in a velvet glove.” When she said “Obama doesn’t judge success by money”, she hit an artery. I noticed it immediately as she said it, but the talking heads didn’t say a word about it that night. However, they were all over it the next day and pointed out a few other knife strikes that I had missed. One pundit said, “She cut Romney to ribbons, and you never even saw the knife.” Way to go, Michelle! 

Even New Rules fell a little flat. But Bill did get in a few slashes with his own shiv in the final rule talking about how rich Republicans think they got rich all by themselves, ignoring the fact that they had a little luck going for them just because of the family they were born into. Then he did a “rich kid/poor kid” bit imagining how Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump would have fared if they had been born into a poor family.
Spoiler Alert: Here are the punch lines. Ryan ends up a bouncer at Chili’s, Romney ends up a greeter at Staples, G. W. Bush ends up a skid-row drunk, Trump ends up as a mop-pusher at a fried chicken joint and his signature line is “you’re fried”.  (“You’re fried”—that was funny!)

This episode won’t go down as one of Bill’s best, but he kept his head above water and  the guests paddled the roiling waters proficiently making some good points. But no one made any really big waves.
This picture from abc news.
Christine O’Donnell dominated the show.  First Lady Michelle Obama was mentioned only briefly, but I’d rather look at a picture of Michelle, wouldn’t you.