Monday night proved to be an exciting one in the land of television, especially here in Philadelphia. The Eagles dominated the Redskins in the 7 p.m. installment of Monday Night Football. Charlie Rose’s interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was being broadcast all around the country, at midnight here in Philadelphia. And Arsenio Hall’s new show debuted.
Oh, I realize that to some people Arsenio Hall’s comeback shouldn’t be in the same paragraph as an interview with a head-of-state with whom we are poised to go to war. And to others, it shouldn’t live anywhere near talk of United States’ biggest religion, football.
But to me, the new Arsenio Hall Show is a big deal, as was the original iteration. I grew up in a conservative household that tuned into the conventional, stay-the-course late night shows, and so when a new (black!) face appeared in 1989, when I was all of 14 and in search of things that were new and different, I paid attention.
Unfortunately, if Monday night’s debut of the new Arsenio Hall show is any indication, I give it six months. Tops.
His comedy was old, tired and too obviously scripted. Too frequently, he seemed to be the only one laughing at his jokes, like when he pulled a 1990s-era cell phone, Kim Kardashian’s big-seated tricycle and an AOL trial disc out of a time capsule. If ever there was a time for the employment of a laugh track, this was it.
Hall’s featured guest was actor-comedian Chris Tucker. But Hall somehow even made that interview unfunny and uninteresting. He actually asked Chris Tucker the rookie question, So what can folks expect from a Chris Tucker show these days? It was like Tucker was being interviewed by some junior high school newspaper reporter instead of a late night television legend.
I heard an interview with Hall on NPR’s Weekend Edition the day before his big debut. Host Rachel Martin brought up some of Hall’s bigger, more controversial interviews from the early days, notably President Bill Clinton and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. And Hall pointed out that he also used the show to “reach people” during the L.A. riots. But this time around, Hall told Martin, his show “might just be about fun.”
Alas, it wasn’t even that. Not even a little bit.