DAR TV: The Arsenio Hall Show

There are some shows that leave their mark on the world. While television goes through phases and stages for the most part, some programs captivate the audience as well as the culture in general. There might be other shows with importance, but there is no show that truly meant more to the culture than The Arsenio Hall Show. Unabashed, risky, honest, raw, and real, The Arsenio Hall Show was the most powerful late night show period. Today, we reflect.

The first thing I think of when it comes to Arsenio Hall was his late night talk show. I used to watch The Arsenio Hall Show, but I wasn't old enough to fully appreciate what he was doing at the time. I just knew he was on everyday and I got a kick out of trying to hold the sound of his name as long as the announcer did. Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on his show, having Hulk Hogan and Michael Jackson on his show, having Kid-N-Play & Kris Kross perform and letting George Lopez do stand up were a lot of my favorite moments. In terms of being a comedic genius, I wish he had more opportunity to display it. Coming to America put him on Eddie Murphy's level of funny, the standard of funny at the time. In 1997, he had a sitcom with Vivica Fox. He played a sports analyst in Atlanta. There weren't shows set in Atlanta at the time so I thought that was cool. It was short lived, but gave him another opportunity to showcase his funny.

When The Arsenio Hall Show made its return in 2014, I was pleased to see that it was almost the same as the original. I felt that this time around, I could fully appreciate it where I couldn't before. Unfortunately it didn't last long either. Hopefully we've not seen the last of Arsenio on TV.

In the 90s, there was one place celebrities had to visit on their way to the top. The Arsenio Hall Show served as a catapult to stardom. Anybody who was anybody graced Arsenio's stage once or twice then went on to do great things.

There was a signature "Woof! Woof! Woof!" cheer that resonated on the late night talk show. To this day, people that came up during the show's tenure can identify with it. Arsenio also featured a band called the "Dog Pound" that interacted with audience members. He had quite an unorthodox way of introducing talent to an audience that may have been oblivious to it before.

I can remember vividly Whitney Houston having several appearances on Arsenio's couch. They were friends as well so that made the experiences even better. When Whitney wasn't in the spotlight, she sang background for gospel artists BeBe & CeCe Winans. Arsenio's show reached a younger generation of all races and that's extremely dope.

One of the most memorable portions of the show involved President Bill Clinton. During his 1992 campaign, Clinton was in a completely different element aside from what he'd been presenting politically. He played "Heartbreak Hotel" on the saxophone behind a pair of dark shades. Clinton was on the right stage at the right time. He went on to win the presidency that November.

I can't name a more influential show right now than the one hosted by Arsenio Hall. He was funny, well-dressed, and down to earth. People want to see entertainers they can relate to. Arsenio provided that on a regular basis. These days, reality shows are what's hot...to some. Arsenio was original and people gravitated to that. Even though he was unsuccessful in trying to revive it in 2013, we still consider him one of the best to do it.

When I was growing up, late night television consisted of a lot of crap. Either you'd get porn-esque hotlines, middle-aged-to-old-ass white dudes talking about stuff that, while it had an effect on me, it still wasn't overly "oh, Speed, this is something you should pay attention to," or reruns of off-network television shows. When Arsenio came, he changed the game.

We finally had someone who looked like us on TV and he wasn't in a, like, Kevin Eubanks role. That's no shot at Eubanks or any of his modern contemporaries, but Arsenio was the host. And it was great. So many people got their start on the show, from Bow Wow to former President Bill Clinton (seriously, man! Look up his sax skills. He can blow...and I resisted several jokes just now). The show created so many pre-meme-era memes that if someone goes "Woof, woof, woof," your brain still automatically goes to Arsenio.

Now, truth be told, I was, like 6 when the initial show ended. However, there are enough stamps of its legacy that any 80s or 90s baby can get into it and say "hey, this show helped shape my world." We got a decent sized amount of late night talk shows with black hosts or cohosts from the original series as well (hi Kenan Ivory Wayans). The reboot series, however, is another story.

Remember the scene on Real Husbands of Hollywood where Arsenio Hall, deranged as hell, is hosting his own show in Paula Abdul's house? That's what the 2010s reboot felt like in a way. It was still Arsenio, and we still got that. But, the magic was gone, possibly because he kept trying to go back to the well that made him famous versus reinventing himself for the 2010s. I mean, even Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon restructured themselves upon receiving promotions.

But, even with the miscues of the reboot, Arsenio Hall deserves his spot among the legends.

My mother always reminisces with me on my love for the Arsenio Hall Show as a kid and how I would watch it regularly at night before falling asleep. She says that I used to do the "Woof! Woof! Woof!" chant and drag out Arsenio's name like the announcer used to. Ah, Young True. Never change. I mean, I remember seeing Eazy E, 2Pac, Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man, Bret Hart, and all the great New Jack Swing Era performers on the show back then. I loved the show, especially the moment when Arsenio was attacked by what I assume were gay studio audience members who felt that he didn't feature enough gay guests on the show, and Arsenio stood his ground. He took them to task and put them in their place and in today's society, that would be seen as some form of bigotry or that he was homophobic, but in reality, the audience members were idiots. Arsenio's show appealed to the whole world, including minorities, which is why it was successful, but there's always that one group searching for MORE. Arsenio handled it well, stating the iconic line that someone's sexual preference is really no one's business. If only that were to be said and understood today. I digress.

Near the end of his first run, Arsenio began getting what felt like more political in some ways and he even featured Louis Farrakhan on the show. Farrakhan's appearance, as well as behind the scenes nonsense that led to shows abandoning Arsenio for The Chevy Chase Show (who really watched that though? Anyone?), which Fox forced their local networks to push and air instead of Arsenio. I remember Nas, in 2008, said "Bring Back Arsenio", and after the show first ended in 1994, we got a reboot in late 2013. Now, this one didn't seem to captivate as much because it was a nostalgia act so to speak, but ratings went well for it and it had got ordered for a second season due to success. Somewhere in Hollywood however, after renewing the show for another season, they suspiciously cancelled it out of nowhere. Arsenio announced he had a second season to do, but that changed quick. I wonder why.

Regardless, the Arsenio Hall Show is one of the most powerful shows I've ever watched and had the pleasure to live through.



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