By Alan Pergament
I’m a big fan of Bill Maher’s HBO weekly show "Real Time" and especially love it when the guests on the panel try to suppress their laughter when he delivers his often witty, politically-incorrect and foul-mouthed "New Rules" segment at the end of the hour.
But I don’t always agree with Maher, who performs at Kleinhans Music Hall on Sunday.
Case in point: In an interview with Buffalo News reporter Steve Watson last week, Maher likened the predicament of disgraced former Food Network star Paula Deen to his own situation when he left ABC’s "Politically Incorrect" after making some controversial statements about 9/11 terrorists that led to sponsors pulling out of his broadcast network show.
Here’s what he said on his former ABC show: "We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly."
In his interview with Watson, Maher said "the whole idea we have to disappear people because they say something that upsets us, or they make a single mistake, is ridiculous and it's very very, un-American."
He predicted Deen would be able to rebuild her career soon enough, according to Watson.
After discussing the comebacks of Don Imus and the Dixie Chicks after they became toxic, Maher added: "I had my show six months after I left 'Politically Incorrect.' I was back on the air on HBO."
But there is one significant difference between being on ABC and being on HBO: The pay-cable network doesn’t rely on advertising.
And advertisers are today’s censors, as they have been throughout the history of television. Without advertisers, Maher is free to spout some unpopular, controversial and even sac-religious statements that he couldn't say if his show was advertiser-supported.
And advertisers are Deen’s biggest problem right now. They are fleeing, perhaps because they are fearful that she didn't just make a single mistake and more revelations about Deen's racial views may be coming. Unlike Maher, Deen is unlikely to land on a pay-cable network that doesn’t worry about
Perhaps she will eventually make a comeback. Or perhaps the Food Network and other networks like it that deal with America's fascination with food will just figure that they created Paula Deen and there is another Paula Deen out there without the problems attached to her.
There have been published reports that some big advertisers have fled Rush Limbaugh's radio show, which is carried locally by WBEN, because of a Stop Rush movement that began when he called a Georgetown law school student "a slut" because of her support of women’s access to birth control. Limbaugh has said he hasn’t lost any sponsors. A website claims he has lost more than 2,500 advertisers and his show now runs ads from sponsors who are less desirable.
Some of my readers have questioned why advertisers want to be connected with the conservative WBEN talk shows hosted by Tom Bauerle and Sandy Beach, who have been known to say some insensitive things about a variety of topics.
I don’t know why. My guess is that the advertisers don't listen to their shows as much as they look at the size of their audiences.
If the advertisers ever listened to some of the offensive things that the hosts say or heard from a significant number of disgusted listeners, it might be a different story.
I wish local indie rockers Colors in the Air well, but I would be surprised if the two songs "featured" in Wednesday’s episode of the USA Network's "Royal Pains" would have a great impact on their career.
You could hear a few lyrics of their song "Going Home" for a few seconds as background in a beach scene but that was about it. I didn't really hear a second tune, "Fly High" (New Light Remix), as the closing credits ran. Still, the band’s appearance can’t hurt.
The episode also featured a cameo by New York City sports talk host Craig Carton, who worked at WGR radio before he was paired with Boomer Esiason and became famous.
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