Arsenio Hall mulling late-night return

Get ready to woof again: there’s a possibility Arsenio Hall may return to late-night television with a new version of his talk show.

According to Broadcasting & Cable, CBS Television Distribution and Tribune Broadcasting are looking to bring the Cleveland native and recent Celebrity Apprentice winner back into the fold, with an eye toward a September 2013 launch. CBS and Tribune were not available for comment, but an announcement on the project could be weeks away.

If this works out, Hall would re-unite with his former employer, which was once known as Paramount Domestic Television. Paramount launched The Arsenio Hall Show on January 3, 1989 and ran until May 27, 1994 (Aresnio went into repeats until September.) Arsenio taped on Stage 29 at Paramount Studios, which is now home to CBS Television Distribution’s Dr. Phil and The Doctors (other talk shows that taped at Stage 29 post-Arsenio were those for Marilu Henner and Stephanie Miller.)

Arsenio was known for its fun late-night atmosphere and drew hordes of young, urban viewers, with its median age lower than competing talkers David Letterman, Johnny Carson, and Chicago native Pat Sajak, whose CBS show launched days after Arsenio did and lasted just fifteen months. Arsenio also prominently featured hip-hop and R&B artists on his show, something mainstream entertainment shows didn’t really feature at the time.

Aresnio was cleared on many CBS affiliates – including WBBM-TV in Chicago. But Arsenio lost some of those key time slots when Letterman jumped from NBC to the prized post-late local news slot on CBS in August 1993 after the peacock network picked Jay Leno to succeed Johnny Carson for The Tonight Show (and the saga of course, was the subject of Bill Carter’s book and movie The Late Shift.) Ratings fell, and Hall and Paramount agreed to part ways several months later.

Syndicators haven’t had much luck launching a similar late-night series targeting younger, urban viewers – in a thirteen-month stretch between August 1997 and September 1998, Vibe, Keenan Ivory Wayans, and The Magic Hour all came and went. Since then, local stations have mainly stuck with off-network series, low-budget dating/relationship shows, or even reruns of daytime shows in late fringe.

Ironically, the charity Arsenio Hall was playing for on Celebrity Apprentice was that of Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s, who fronted The Magic Hour in 1998.