This is a really odd idea for a DVD release. In Bill Maher’s HBO television show, Real Time with Bill Maher, he does a short segment called New Rules. This segment is mostly made up of one-liner jokes that take shots at celebrities and the Bush administration. Each segment runs less than a minute, and this disc contains every one of them from the show’s three seasons.
The jokes themselves are funny enough, but my big complaint is that this entire disc just plays like one big overblown special feature. The short segments are played one after another over a repetitive music bed for 45-minutes, and then the credits roll. There is nowhere near enough content here to justify a full DVD release of just this. This disc would make a wonderful companion piece to a Bill Maher stand-up special, but it by no means justifies a separate release all to itself.
The audio on this disc is just what you would expect. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is the very same track that was used during the original HBO broadcast. The dialog comes squarely from the middle of the sound field, and the audience reaction comes from the outside. This is a perfectly acceptable sound format, and I was pleased to hear that the audience noise didn’t overpower Maher’s dialogs. In fact, the “whoosh” sound used between segments even has a powerful bass level, without being too overpowering. The content may be brief, but at least the sound quality is clean.
The picture quality on this disc really surprised me. I was expecting the regular old standard-size, slightly washed out, grainy TV transfer. However, this presentation is just one widescreen transfer away from being perfect. The color is excellent, and the black levels are simply extraordinary. In fact, the contrast is especially apparent when he shows clips news from regular programming. There is no grain here whatsoever, and flesh tones are amazingly accurate. This is really a first rate transfer.
There are two extra features on this disc (that is pretty much an extra feature in itself). The first is called new rules extras, and it features even more of the New Rules that are featured in the main program itself, without the music bed. This is like calling the West Wing‘s 9-11 special an extra feature, on a disc full of West Wing episodes. This is not an extra, it it just more.
The other extra here is a set of four bonus editorials. The editorials are the segments that come right after the New Rule segments on the show. They are, just as they sound, short monologues made up of Maher’s thoughts on various topics. While much more rambling than Dennis Miller’s diatribes, they are still entertaining nonetheless. While the extras are really just more of what is on the main feature, they are entertaining, and so I can’t really say that they are bad.
As I said earlier, this disc would really make an excellent bonus disc to some other product, such as a Bill Maher stand up special. The audio is good, the video is better, and the content is both funny and insightful. The problem is, there’s just not enough “meat” here for the disc to stand on its own. A 45-minute clip show most certainly does not warrant a stand alone release. However, if you are a big fan of Real Time with Bill Maher, this is the only product on the market today that addresses that niche. I really want to rate this disc higher than I have, but it is missing one key element… a feature presentation.