The late-night landscape has changed dramatically since Arsenio Hall last hosted his talk show in the ’90s. For starters, there are quite a few other talk shows on the air. Then there’s the power of the Internet, time-shifted viewing, and any number of other issues spawned by technology. Ultimately, the approach Hall is taking on the updated version of “The Arsenio Hall Show,” which premieres in syndication on Monday, Sept. 9, is to “put on a good show.”
“One of the biggest challenges for all of us as late-night hosts is trying to get people to make an appointment to watch TV and not say ‘I’ll watch tomorrow,’” Hall recently told journalists when discussing the new syndicated series. “Your biggest fan doesn’t watch you every night. You hope to get a guy for three nights to check you out. Two nights they’ll be watching other people. Sometimes you’ll get one night. But you hope you do a good, funny show and you assert a unique personalty that’s not there [already] so that you can just be in the game. I’m trying to be in the game.”
The competition started to get stiff before “The Arsenio Hall Show” went off the air in 1994. But in 2013, there are three late-night talk shows on NBC, two on CBS, one on ABC, two on Comedy Central, one on TBS, and one on E! — and those are just the highest profile ones. Executive producer Neal Kendall says there’s room for everyone in the current late-night landscape.
“I call this a golden age of late night TV right now,” Kendall says. “Everybody who’s doing a show right now has carved out a niche for what they’re good at and has brought an audience with them. There’s been a fallacy that the more people who get into late night somehow is going to bifurcate everything and no one is going to work. I think everyone’s working incredibly well. We’re thrilled to just be the new kid on the block.”
Of course, Hall is a veteran. He promises the new show will feel familiar, first of all, because “it’s kind of the same Arsenio you know. Less hair, less shoulder pads.” Second of all, there’s only so much you can do to differentiate yourself from the pack. “It’s really about inserting personalities with the same guests,” Hall explains, noting that movie stars will make the rounds to several shows in the same week. “Being in late night is very much like running for an office. You’re trying to represent the people for their questions and their desires.”
Essentially, just imagine Hall time-traveled from two decades ago to speak with the people relevant in pop culture today. Says executive producer John Ferriter, “Just imagine [Hall] took a long break and came back when you’re looking at what the show will actually be.”
“Arsenio’s” guest list for his premiere week is an impressive one, with a diverse list of stars helping welcome the late-night host’s return to late-night TV, including: Lisa Kudrow, Magic Johnson, Chris Tucker, Mark Harmon, Ice Cube, George Lopez and Angela Bassett, along with “a number of surprise guests.” Hall’s first week will also include musical guests Nas, Mac Miller, Earth, Wind & Fire and Emblem3.
“The Arsenio Hall Show” premieres Monday, Sept. 9.