Use the scroller on the images above of Arsenio Hall to see him in 1994, left, and today.
By Geoff Edgers | Globe Staff
So I’ve got an idea that’s clearly brilliant and I’m hoping to get your ear. The last time you did late night was 19 years ago. Obviously, the world has changed. Everybody has a show, trust me. But not everybody is Arsenio. You were good back then. Why mess around? I’ll even let that Louis Farrakhan episode slide. And you were good because you were real and slightly corny and you had that enormous mustache.
So you shaved. Fair enough. Not what I would have recommended. But a man can’t wear shoulder pads forever.
Back to my idea. Instead of trying to “innovate” or tweet or become something you’re not — a modern-day competitor to Fallon and Kimmel and even old Jay — why not just go back to the golden era? Bring back the old bits. Wave that fist. Rev up the doghouse. Your guests? New rule: You can only bring on icons of the first Bush presidency. No Miley, only Billy Ray. I’m sure Prez Bill wouldn’t mind bringing back his sax. Then there’s your big five, guests who were on more than a handful of times during your first reign. Bill Cosby, Barry Manilow, Sinbad, Alyssa Milano, and Whoopi Goldberg. Book ’em, Danno!
Arsenio, there are also guests you can bring back who have a renewed cultural relevance. Kirk Cameron was pushing “Growing Pains” back in the day. Now he’s an evangelical Christian and the star of the “Left Behind” series. Ask him about twerking! And remember his TV dad, Alan Thicke? That’s Robin’s real poppa. Stage a mock game show with Rae Dawn Chong, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and Judd Nelson. Run an in memoriam (always touching) for Guests We Lost. Frank Zappa ain’t walking through that door. Eazy-E has left the building.
I know you’re probably not reading this. The TV people have got your ear. They must have an endless list of hip, ironic bits. I already saw that Internet thing where you drink a 40-ounce with Nancy O’Dell. Not funny.
I say ignore your advisers. Need I invoke the roots of your undoing the first time, the syndication mess that ensued when the TV idiots thought they might succeed in late night with shows hosted by Pat Sajak and Chevy Chase. This time around, you’re going against the traditional late night crew, but there are plenty of other sharks in the water. Reality TV dominates, with even “Duck Dynasty” reruns crushing most comers. Plus, audiences are just as likely to be watching you on their phones as their TVs.
But you’ve got a secret weapon. Andrew Dice Clay! My research shows that the Dice man appeared three times on Arsenio 1.0. Now he’s in a Woody Allen movie. Talk about a double agent! Just don’t have Woody on, though. That Soon-Yi mess is still way too fresh.
Geoff Edgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.