05/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ron Howard? Has Bill Maher Lost His Mind?

I love Bill Maher's attitude and comedy and watch Real Time without fail.

But I was totally stumped as to why he would devote a half-hour last week to an interview with Ron Howard. Especially on a special-edition show where the other half-hour was devoted to a one-on-one interview with Gore Vidal.

How do they even equate?

I mean, I sort of get it: Maher hurled brickbats, smashed icons and otherwise gave the finger to religion with his audaciously funny documentary, Religulous, last year. He has a constant stick up his ass about religion -- and Howard has just directed a sequel to The DaVinci Code, which caused consternation within the Catholic Church. The new film, Angels & Demons, is sure to ruffle Vatican feathers as well.

But it's not as though Howard is an iconoclast himself; he just happens to be directing a movie that caused controversy -- not because he believed in its ideas but because it was based on a best-selling book and was a guaranteed box-office smash.

So why would Maher kiss Ron Howard's ass, giving him the one-on-one treatment as though he were a major filmmaker? What -- wasn't Joel Schumacher available? Is Richard Donner dead? God knows there's a long list of hacks of similar mediocrity.

I hate to be harsh about Howard. When I see him on TV, despite the beard and bald dome, I still see Opie and Richie Cunningham and Winthrop Paroo in The Music Man and even the snarly teen in The Shootist. (Whereas my 17-year-old son, who was watching Bill Maher with me, admitted that Howard just looked like "somebody's dad.") I've interviewed Howard a number of times over the years (beginning with Cocoon) and he's always been gracious, articulate and friendly.

But a major filmmaker deserving of that kind of attention?

Please. That's the kind of hagiography I expect from Turner Classics (which actually did run a Richard Schickel-produced career retrospective of Howard last year.)

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