For Arsenio Hall, revisiting the talk show circuit after a nearly 20-year absence, comes with at least two caveats for the Dog Pound looking to get reacquainted with their ol' late night pal: less hair, littler shoulder pads.
"It's kind of the same Arsenio you know," Hall joked while promoting his upcoming late-night talker, "The Arsenio Hall Show," Monday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour.
Hall made a splash on the late-night arena in the late '80s and early '90s, with his hit syndicated talk show, bringing a new voice to the scene and creating memorable moments along the way (he cites Magic Johnson's revealing he had HIV, and then-presidential hopeful Bill Clinton playing the saxophone as his most personally memorable shows).
Now, the 57-year-old comedian will rejoin the increasingly cluttered late-night ranks when his new talk show premieres Sept. 9.
The talker, unlike its current competitors, will be syndicated. 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. (Tribune also owns the Los Angeles Times.) Hall understands the challenge he faces in trying to break through the noise.
"I actually was down at the courthouse trying to change my name to Jimmy," Hall joked, referring to current late-night princes Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. "I think Jimmy Hall would work."
More seriously, Hall doesn't expect to swoop in and cause havoc. And the challenge isn't just limited to a gaggle of competitors, but also the morning-after effect.
"It's a huge challenge today," said Hall, who also serves as an executive producer. "But I know that everybody doesn't have a late-night host. It's already a challenge. You have the ability to Google [any clip from late night the next morning. It's hard to make anyone actually watch. The challenges are gigantic now." Part of Hall 2.0 includes embracing the ever-changing digital world that helps facilitate the morning-after word-of-mouth.
"[Jay] Leno and [David] Letterman are not as into the digital aspect," said Hall, who was somewhat propelled back into the limelight upon being named last year's "Celebrity Apprentice" winner. "At the same time, Leno is No. 1. As my mom used to say, 'There's more than one way to skin a cat.' I'm more of the Fallon mode. I love the digital world."
And while his return has the host back in the late-night boxing ring with old competitor Leno, Hall doesn't harbor animosity for the long-chinned late-night kingpin as perhaps some other competitors might.
"[Muhammad] Ali and [Joe] Frazier didn't get along back in the day," he said. "When you're in the heat of a battle, it's easy to hate each other. Bottom line is that lasted a couple of weeks. We truly are friends. I was battling with Jay the competitor." Hall went on to note that Leno rang him up shortly after last year's "Tonight Show" layoffs to recommend show writers for hire.
Leno, of course, is the least of Halls problems. He's focused on the laughs -- and the whole new world that's taken shape.
"I'm asserting myself into this culture of music, comedy ... It's the same guy being put into a whole generation of new talent and opportunities." When once Hall interviewed "Growing Pains" actor Alan Thicke, this time around he'd be more inclined to interview Thicke offspring/music star Robin Thicke.
Neal Kendall, also an executive producer, said the key to the show's finding success is attracting an untapped audience, not necessarily usurping someone else's.
"We're thrilled to just be the new kid on the block," Kendall said. "People keep asking, 'How's the show different?' He's different."