Twenty years is two, three...five lifetimes in network television years. Yet it has been 20 years since Arsenio Hall hosted his namesake late-night talk show.
Hall will re-emerge on Sept. 9 with a revamped yet familiar "The Arsenio Hall Show."
"It's kind of the same Arsenio you know -- less hair, less shoulder pad -- but inserting myself into this culture of music, comedy, pop and hop," he told an audience today at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Hall's second coming talk show will be done in the familiar late night format, featuring comedy, music and the ever present celebrity guest. This time, however, Hall's effort will be “syndicated” rather than networked. His September “debut” starts with a 200-station base, according to USA Today.
The original 1989 to 1994 Arsenio Hall Show was groundbreaking.
First, let's get this out of the way. Hall was the first black person to host of a late night television talk show. Even if this new attempted comeback fails, that fact alone places him prominently in all television history books.
Secondly, his first show was indeed a spectacle worth watching. The heaviest hitters of the day back then had no choice but to gravitate to Arsenio's “office,” including quintessential jazz trumpeter Miles Davis sitting alongside Sigourney Weaver, Bill Clinton playing the saxophone, and Mariah Carey making her first television appearance. A particularly enthusiastic cheering section of Hall's studio audience became known as "the Dog Pound." “Woof Woof.”
The entertainment world, “show business,” has fundamentally changed since Hall last regularly appeared in our living rooms. The Internet was just a rumor then. The term “social media” was simply unknown.
Hall told USA Today he was "trying to take anything left over on (Johnny) Carson's plate." Johnny Carson reigned supreme, dominating the late-night TV airwaves for almost 30 years. Carson set the standard for guys like Arsenio Hall.
But, despite the Internet and social media, Hall believes that he can still be relevant, popular. He thinks that he can join an already crowded field in late night television because there there is an audience out there.
"I know that everybody doesn't have a late-night host," he says.
Hall says he wants to reach everybody with a television set. That includes younger viewers who may know him more from his victory on the fifth edition of NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" in 2012.
"I just have to be funny in the way I do it and hope people see you and laugh," he says. "I make kids laugh who are 19 and I made a lady who's 90 at the mall.”
Again, 20 years is a long time to do anything...or to not do something.
I was a big fan of Arsenio in the first go-round. As stated, he was a breakthrough figure for black people on TV. And he made me proud.
But, I'm sorry. It's time for some new, younger blood and talent to be given a chance, an opportunity to strut their stuff, to move the movement forward. We do not need more singers and dancers. Times are too serious...too deep for simple “entertainment.” How about some education?
Don't get me wrong, though. This latest reincarnation of Arsenio Hall is important. There are currently no black late-night hosts of any sort on television. He broke the ground originally. And he is about to do it again.
And I am going to watch him. I encourage you to do so as well.
But, I keep getting this nagging, annoying feeling about this particular comeback.
It's like those ultimately sad, sad caricatures of once great athletes who retire from the game, but keep unretiring because they miss the limelight, the adoration, the money.
A has-been is just that – a has-been.