After enjoying a sweet victory on Celebrity Apprentice, comedian Arsenio Hall is looking to stretch his legs as a late night talk show host yet again. The Coming to America and Black Dynamite star hasn’t been in the spotlight too much other than his reality show appearances and guest hosting stint on Piers Morgan Tonight, but Hall is now confirmed to return to late night television with a new syndicated talk show airing across the country.
Deadline reports the currently untitled late night talk show has been confirmed to make a debut in the fall of 2013 and that it has been sold to stations that will make it available in 85% of the country via syndication. It actually marks the first syndicated late night talk show in about 15 years (the last two were The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show and Vibe back in 1997), and that’s kind of a big deal. Syndicated television itself is a difficult thing to pull off nationwide. In late night, it’s almost impossible.
Hall made a surprising splash on the late night scene in 1989 with The Arsenio Hall Show, which ended up running through 1994 (with a total of 103 episodes). With a twist on the similar format used by other staple talk shows at the time, like The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Hall brought a new and honest voice into the late night game. Having guests like Eddie Murphy, MC Hammer, and Bill Clinton, Hall helped revolutionize what late night could be. As for his return, the comedian said, “It’s an amazing feeling to be going home to my old friends and colleagues and firing up our ‘Night Thing.’ Let’s get busy again!”
Here’s Arsenio Hall interviewing Jim Henson just 12 days before he died in 1990
Though it’s been 20 years since Hall was a prominent figure in the public eye, research recently conducted by CBS Television – the studio making the syndicated series – found that late night talk shows are very popular among adults aged 35-54, and that’s the same audiences that would have been watching Hall’s first late-night show back when they were just 18-34. However, with late night being much more saturated now than it was back in the late ’80s/early ’90s, the competition is much more stiff. From Jimmy Kimmel to Jimmy Fallon and the mainstay of Jay Leno and David Letterman, there are a lot of options, but at least Letterman won’t prove to be a problem for Hall this time around. It was the success of Letterman’s new talk show on CBS – following his departure from NBC that spawned the late night wars – that drew CBS affiliates away from supporting Hall’s show.
Either way, Hall was a breakthrough star on the late night scene, and paved the way for African American comedians to have a bigger presence in late night TV. Without Hall’s work, comedians like Chris Rock may never have gotten their own talk shows. Even more recent fare like Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell have followed along the path that Hall helped create. Can Hall drum up the same pomp and circumstance that he found over 20 years ago? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.