Arsenio is Back. Woof. Woof Woof. The fact that he is back on late night television is enough for people in my generation to get the coffee ready and stay up to see that good ole magic once again.
My first taste to late night talk show was the Arsenio Hall show. At the time, and I am talking the 90’s here, Arsenio was the only African-American personality on TV that spoke the language, understood the culture and certainly had the soul of the demographics networks were trying to reach- the urban generation. His popularity created the unofficial “Pop TV Generation” soon to be known as the MTV generation, and soon the only place to be seen was the Arsenio Hall show. Arsenio then is what Oprah is now – THE SHOW of SHOWS. If you didn’t hear or see it on Arsenio it did not exist. Many an artiste, Tupac, Vanilla Ice and Magic Johnson used that platform to set the record straight to the rumors affecting them at the time.
Arsenio started a lot of the trends that are happening today. The Woof Woof Woof sound from the audience started from his show from a section of his audience fondly called the “Dog Pound”. His musical band’s name was called ‘The Posse”, a term used in urban culture that pointed to your closets friends. Arsenio also made it cool for politicians to come on late night show to reach a particular audience and when Bill Clinton appeared on the show and played his saxophone, that musical note took him to the White House.
Arsenio’s had his ear to the ground and he pushed the right envelopes and brought guests on his show that you would never expected. Coupled with the un-expected ones that just showed up, made the show a must watch . You never knew who you would miss. How can you forget Michael Jackson walking on the set with Eddie Murphy in the couch or Luther Vandross appearing on the last show and spontaneously singing. There were so much spontaneity it gave the show an authentic handle on the term ” talk show”, It was unscripted , un rehearsed and from the host point of view he too was floored by these unannounced appearances. That was the magic of Arsenio Hall show- It was preaching the gospel late at night to the young and even the older generation. It was like going to church.
19 years later Arsenio is back and up to his old antics. I hope he and the producers do not try to fit the show into the stereotypical talk show presently on the networks. These days the guests are vetted, the questions are certainly manicured and scripted, the audience is controlled to the point of being just by standers. Letterman, Leno and Obrien are nothing but sterilized hospital rooms.
Let Arsenio go. Let him be spontaneous because that’s what he is. Let him bring the un known artiste to give them a stage to showcase their talent; let him have his ‘dog pound’; let him have the cat calls; let him bring on the controversial guests; let him have his rant with homophobic audience members like he did with Queer Nation; Let Arsenio be Arsenio. I can assure you , when this happens late night talk show will not just be late night entertainment, it will assembling the church to come to the altar to worship.
Welcome back Arsenio- the church is waiting in the pew. And the church says…Amen.