Reel Television | The Arsenio Hall Show

Arsenio_Hall_LeadAfter just one season, the comeback of The Arsenio Hall Show came to a screeching and unexpected halt. As the sun sets on the second run of his show, we take a look back at a man who in failure changed the late-night game forever.

When Hall burst on the scene in the late 1980s, the late-night talk show landscape was lily-white. Johnny Carson was king and there were no serious contenders to the throne. In 1986, the Fox network introduced The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, created to directly challenge Carson’s The Tonight Show. After a moderate start, ratings for the show sagged. Behind-the-scenes relations between Rivers and network executives at Fox quickly eroded, and Rivers left in 1987. The series was subsequently renamed The Late Show, and featured several hosts, including Ross Shafer, Suzanne Somers, Richard Belzer and Robert Townsend before it was cancelled in 1988.

Hall was also chosen to host the show in the fall of 1987, and his stint proved to be immensely popular, developing a cult following which eventually led to Hall landing his own show in syndication. From January 2, 1989 until May 27, 1994, Hall hosted the nationally syndicated late night talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show. The show became a breakout, late-night success, especially rating high among the coveted younger demographic and known for its audience’s distinctive alternative to applause: chanting “Roo, Roo, Roo!,” while pumping their fists. The practice soon became such a ritual that by 1991 had become a “pop culture stamp of approval” — one that Hall said had become “so popular it’s getting on people’s nerves.”

Hall’s couch became the proverbial place to be as the most popular entertainers, politicians and musicians quickly and consistently flocked to his show. The show also became a place for many alternative and urban acts that were routinely not booked on other shows.

The second stint of his show begain in September 2013 but the irony is that in a new landscape that features late-night hosts such as David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon that now book and routinely feature guests that once populated Hall’s show that his presence in the 90s rendered him obsolete in 2014.

Here is a look at some of the best moments from both his first and second shows: