John Ridley, David Axelrod, Matt Taibbi Topline Real Time With Bill Maher

bill maher

TV Picks: John Ridley, David Axelrod, Matt Taibbi Topline Real Time With Bill Maher Friday night on HBO.

HBO’s whipsmart salon is back this Friday night (last week VICE Special Report on Cancer slotted in) as Real Time with Bill Maher continues its 13th season Friday, March 6 (10:00-11:00 p.m. live ET/tape-delayed PT), with a replay at 11:45 p.m., exclusively on HBO.

Allowing Maher to offer his unique perspective on contemporary issues, the show includes an opening monologue, roundtable discussions with panelists, and interviews with guests.

Author Lawrence Wright is the top-of-show interview guest. Screenwriter John Ridley is the mid-show interview guest. The roundtable guests are political advisor David Axelrod, editor Matt Taibbi and commentator Genevieve Wood.

Lawrence Wright—armed with his investigative talents, years of archival research, and more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—uncovered the inner workings of the cult of Scientology. He researched founder L. Ron Hubbard, the highly imaginative but mentally troubled science-fiction writer, and his tough, driven successor, David Miscavige. Wright revealed specialized cosmology and language, the church’s legal attacks on the IRS, its vindictive treatment of critics, and its phenomenal wealth. In his HBO documentary, Wright shows how the church court celebrities such as Tom Cruise while consigning its clergy to hard labor under billion-year contracts. Wright asks what fundamentally comprises a religion, and if Scientology in fact merits this Constitutionally-protected label. Brilliantly researched, compellingly written, “Going Clear” (airing March 29 at 8 PM)  pulls back the curtain on one of the most secretive organizations at work today.

Taibbi, 45, is (or was) part of a super elite cabal of reporters who frequent Real Time as guests: Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and now “CITIZENFOUR” doc director Laura Poitras. Read a blistering recounting of Taibbi’s eventual ouster at First Look Media. Make sure you read the comments on that blog too.

Monsters and Critics has hailed Maher as “a singular voice of pragmatic reason in a landscape of polarized pussies” while Variety noted, “There may not be a more eclectic guest list on all of television.”

In an unprecedented move, Maher visited Washington, D.C. for two live hour-long shows, presented back-to-back without a break, last September, hosting a new edition of REAL TIME, followed by the stand-up special “Bill Maher: Live from D.C.”

Maher headlined his first special on the network in 1989 and has starred in ten solo specials to date, including the hour-long presentations “Bill Maher…But I’m Not Wrong,” “The Decider” and “I’m Swiss” (both nominated for an Emmy® in the Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special category), “Victory Begins at Home,” “Be More Cynical,” “The Golden Goose Special” and “Stuff That Struck Me Funny,” and two half-hour stand-up specials, plus the specials “30 Seconds Over Washington” and “Comic Relief VI™.” Maher is also an executive producer of the innovative news magazine show “VICE,” which concluded its second season on HBO in 2014 and returns this year.

Maher was the creator and host of “Politically Incorrect,” which was produced by HBO Downtown Productions and debuted on Comedy Central in 1993. The series moved to ABC in 1997 and ran through 2002. He also produced and starred in the 2008 feature film “Religulous,” the seventh most successful documentary of all time.

Other HBO playdates: March 8 (2:00 p.m.), 9 (1:45 a.m.), 10 (4:45 p.m.) and 11 (11:00 p.m.)

HBO2 playdates: March 6 (3:30 a.m.), 7 (8:00 a.m., 11:50 p.m.), 8 (7:00 p.m.), 9 (8:00 p.m.) and 10 (10:00 p.m.)