LOS ANGELES — The launch of “The Arsenio Hall Show” on Monday isn’t Arsenio Hall’s first foray into the talk show world. He turned the format on its ear in 1989 with a brash younger perspective on the chat world, a hipper approach to booking artists and a group of followers known as the Dog Pound.
“Arsenio” is one of the syndicated shows purchased by local television stations to fill in the time slots between their local and network programming. Hall joins a group of new talk shows launching this fall — including those hosted by Bethenny Frankel and Queen Latifah — to go along with a host of returning talkers.
Hall’s show was only sold into late-night hours, which puts him up against network and cable talk shows by Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien. Because he’s going to face established competition, Hall knows the first week is important. But having been on the air before, Hall says, isn’t giving him an advantage in landing guests.
“I was really a big part of making Mariah’s (Carey) career but when we contacted her people about being on the show, they told us that they wanted to wait and see how things go,” Hall says.
Hall knows one of the big names he could try to land would be Hillary Clinton.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, candidate Bill Clinton made an appearance on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” where he chatted and played the saxophone. Political analysts credit that appearance with helping give Clinton a much larger profile with young voters.
Hall would love to see Hillary Clinton walk out, carrying a saxophone, as a way of launching her own White House campaign. That would be the boost he needs as he re-enters the talk show arena.
“What I have done in the past means nothing,” Hall says. “I am starting from the bottom. Any success I have will have to be earned all over again.”
And he will have to earn it differently.
When Hall started, he was the new kid on the block and young TV watchers responded. Hall’s approach then was to pick up those viewers who thought Johnny Carson was too old for their TV tastes. Now, its Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon who attract young viewers.
“One of the biggest challenges for all of us, as late-night hosts, is to get people to even make an appointment to watch TV and not say, ‘I’ll watch Fallon yodel tomorrow,’ because you have that ability to Google anything and find anything that’s been on,” Hall says. “So the challenges are gigantic now.
“Your biggest fan doesn’t watch you every night. You hope for three nights. And 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 personality that’s not there so that you can just be in the game. I’m trying to be in the game. I just got to be better than one guy that’s there.”
It’s been almost two decades since Hall was a regular part of nighttime TV, but he hasn’t fallen out of the public eye. Along with film, radio and TV appearances, Hall was the 2012 winner of the NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice 5.” By the time he was on the reality show, Hall had been thinking about a new talk show for years.
Hall plans to throw a talk-show party that will be more than discussions of the latest movies or TV shows. He put together a house band, The Posse, that will be led by Robin DiMaggio (drums) and include Alex Al (bass guitar), Rob “Fonksta” Bacon (lead guitar and vocals), Sean Holt (sax, keyboard and vocals) and Victoria Theodore (keyboards and vocals).