Beverly Hills, Calif. • Arsenio Hall is eager to get back in the late-night talk show game, minus the big hair and shoulder pads that marked his initial foray nearly 20 years ago.
Joking to the Television Critics Association on Monday that he’s “been away making turkey bacon,” Hall said the challenges are much bigger now than when he was a pop-culture tastemaker on his old show that ran from 1989-94.
Back then, there were fewer channels and Johnny Carson was the dominant late-night host of “The Tonight Show.”
“It’s a huge challenge this time to bring people to the television,” Hall said. “Your biggest fan doesn’t watch you every night. You hope to get a guy three nights to check you out, the other nights they’ll be catching someone else.”
Hall isn’t focused on going after fans of Jay Leno or Chelsea Handler, for example.
“I’m trying to be in the game,” he said. “I just got to be better than one guy that’s there.”
He offered few details on the format and style of the new “Arsenio Hall Show” other than the old theme song is coming back with a new bit of music that Hall wrote added to it.
Hall said no guests have yet been booked for the syndicated show debuting Sept. 9. More than 200 outlets have signed up to carry it.
Soon-to-be rivals Leno and Jimmy Kimmel have reached out to Hall. Leno offered the phone numbers of the best writers on his staff who were forced out during layoffs, while Kimmel wrote a check to support Hall’s charity when he won “Celebrity Apprentice” last year.
“Maybe they’re setting me up to knock me out,” he said, “but the bottom line is everybody is being real nice to me.”