HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher Turns 21

Seth Meyers isn’t the only LateNighter marking an anniversary this week.

On February 21st, 2003, HBO aired the first episode of Real Time With Maher. 21 years and 650 episodes later, Maher’s still at it most Friday nights, taking on the hot button issues of the day with a diverse panel of politicos, journalists, entertainers, and others.

Real Time is HBO’s longest running series still on the air, and the third longest overall, behind Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (which ended in December 2023 after 29 seasons) and Inside the NFL (which aired for 31 seasons from 1977-2008).

The show was nominated for twelve Emmy awards between 2005 and 2017, and has spawned two books based on Maher’s trademark “New Rules” segment, which remarkably began with the show’s very first episode:

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Maher isn’t known for his sentimentality, so perhaps its not surprising that his show’s 21st anniversary came and went without mention from him (or HBO, for that matter).

In 2022, he reunited with two staffers from his former ABC series, Politically Incorrect, to launch an independent podcast titled Club Random with Bill Maher, leading some to speculate that he might be plotting a post-Real Time future.

Maher’s current contract with HBO expires at the end of the show’s current 22nd season this November.

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