News broke of Bill Maher’s new late-night summer talk show – Amazon Fishbowl – in January 2006, when the pilot “preview” episode was filmed at the Sundance Film Festival. The premiere aired in late May 2006.
12 episodes (and weeks) later, the HBO Real Time star had interviewed dozens of actors, directors, reality TV stars, and musical guests. Episodes aired each Thursday at 11pm EST/8pm PST throughout the summer, with archived content available on the site at all times.
Though Bill Maher is known for his political satire and musings on his hit HBO show, he said that he’d attempt to avoid politics – although he didn’t – in this broadcast, which was to be solely a venue to promote artists. Presented and sponsored by Cingular and UPS, the show aired its final episode at the end of the summer of ’06.
Bill Maher’s tongue-in-cheek appeal does well outside of the HBO format, particularly because of the internet’s lack of strict FCC regulations.
Showcasing interviews with celebrities like Stephen King to Teri Hatcher, and musical artists spanning from 50 Cent the Indigo Girls, the show follows a typical talk show format without all the gimmicks. Taped in front of a live studio audience, Maher begins with an opening monologue, usually citing big news in entertainment, such as Lance Bass’s coming out; then, he does three celebrity interview segments, in which he meets one-on-one with guests to talk about and promote their latest projects. At one point in each show, a celebrity makes a personal delivery of an Amazon product shipped via UPS, surprising a fan with his or her own DVD, CD, or book. Musicians are also interviewed before performing to close out the show.
Viewers can choose to watch an episode in its entirety, or skip around, watching different segments on their own by clicking on the playlist.
Maher turns out to be a rather charming host, allowing guests like Daniel Powter to feel comfortable playing songs other than his tired hit, “Bad Day.”
His friendliness is apparent in his interviews with guests as well; at one point, Teri Hatcher gets a case of the giggles while promoting her new book, Burnt Toast, when she mentions that she and Bill are friends, and that she’d never been interviewed by a friend before. Their playful banter makes for a relaxed, carefree interview.
His decision to at least somewhat avoid politics also pays off, allowing him to focus on the artists and their projects, and taking his monologues into a Perez Hilton-esque direction.