The Dog Pound will woof again: Arsenio Hall is returning to late-night TV.
Two decades after his self-titled show rebuilt the talk genre for a new generation, the 56-year-old comic and recent “Celebrity Apprentice” winner will attempt a major comeback with a nightly syndicated offering starting in September 2013.
Hall is partnering with syndicator CBS Television Distribution and Tribune Co., which will broadcast the 11 p.m. show on its 17 TV stations, including WGN-TV in Chicago and KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, giving it instant access to more than half the country. Tribune also owns or is a partner in scores of websites and operates eight daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times.
“In the end I’m a comic, and nothing fits the talk-show mode like a stand-up comic,” Hall said in an interview Monday. Referring to the crowded field in late-night TV – which includes “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” as well as traditional venues such as “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” – he added: “I know there are a lot of shows, but I think there’s a space for my show.”
Hall’s earlier show was a surprise smash when it premiered in 1989, bringing a youthful energy and diversity to a format that had been dominated by Johnny Carson on NBC’s “Tonight” for nearly 30 years. Hall’s studio audience greeted the host by pumping their fists and barking, coming to be known as “The Dog Pound.” His status as the only black host in late-night TV gave him a special access to rappers and African American entertainers, including Eddie Murphy, his costar in the hit comedy film “Coming to America.”
The show reached a peak 20 years ago this month, when Bill Clinton, then a presidential candidate, appeared as a guest, wearing sunglasses and honking a saxophone rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel,” a crucial moment in the crossfade between retail politics and pop culture. But the show suffered after CBS brought David Letterman to host a late-night show that displaced Hall on many local stations, and it went off the air in 1994.
What do you think of Hall’s return to late night?