'Arsenio Hall Show' Showrunner & Exec Producer Steps Down. What Might This Mean?

Television
by Tambay A. Obenson
October 7, 2013 6:05 PM
16 Comments
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It's a sign/indication of something. What that is, I don't know yet. We'll just have to wait to find out.

The new show's dipping ratings (after a promising premiere week) likely prompted this change - a ratings slide that I can only attribute to what I've said since the first episode, which is that, it's just not funny enough (his opening monologue and the numerous skits inserted throughout each show); and also the interviews haven't been all-that interesting, and I recommended that he reconsider his writing staff or style, and maybe even the show's overall format. 

After watching the first full week of episodes, I just wasn't hooked. I've tuned in irregularly since that first week, but rarely long enough each time to watch entire episodes, because I'm just not engaged enough.

A restructuring was definitely in order if the show must be saved, and maybe this is only the beginning.

I hoped that maybe it'll take a few more episodes for him to regain his mojo, because, despite my lackluster reactions to the show, I'm genuinely rooting for his success - especially given the noticeable absence of black late night talk-show hosts. And I was a huge fan of the previous Arsenio Hall Show. Maybe I was too young then, and it worked for Tambay at that age, but not-so-much today, 20 years later.

Although I should add that I don't watch late night talkshows much anymore. None of them with any regularity. I'm more likely to catch individual short clips online, the day after they air, than I am to actually sit through one in full. So it's not just an Arsenio Hall Show problem - at least, in my case.

However, I really wanted him to come out swinging - hard - with the guests, the skits, the excitement for what's to come, so that I could experience a similar kind of excitement that I did 20 years ago; but I haven't felt any of that. The show just hasn't been able to tap into that for me. 

The Arsenio Hall Show has announced that exec producer/showrunner Neal Kendeall is stepping down. While a replacement is found, Eric Pankowski, senior VP of programming and development for the show's distributor CBS TV Distribution, will step in as interim showrunner.

Arsenio himself is performing the search for a new exec producer - one that will maybe be a better fit, able to identify and highlight Arsenio's strengths, and help make the show a success.

And while I'm not suggesting that the show might eventually be canceled, or not renewed for a second season, the times have changed folks. The TV landscape isn't at all what it used to be, as television itself has seen a radical transformation in the last decade, thanks in large part to the information superhighway known as the world wide web. Competition for eyeballs is INTENSE, with so much demanding the audience's attention, even when at home. So content creators really need to stand out if they're to survive.

They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression, a statement that carries even more weight today in TV land than it ever did, with network execs and their itchy trigger fingers, not hesitating to cancel new shows if they aren't hits right from the start.

Let's see where this search for a new showrunner leads...

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16 Comments

  • Ferdinand | October 23, 2013 9:35 PMReply

    I can't shake the nagging suspicion that the comfortable predictability of the current version of The Arsenio Hall Show is deliberate. The late-night landscape has definately changed in the ensuing years since Mr. Hall bowed out. There is little shame in the realization that he cannot maintain the same prominance a second time around the block. That said, I think his return is hardly curious at a time when his former opponents (Leno and Letterman) are either retiring or of little significance. The other late-night entries are either too unique in format or style (The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and The Late Late Show) or skew to a much younger demographic (Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon). Mr. Hall may just provide the forty-plus crowd the correct mix of nostalgia (akin to Carson's final years on The Tonight Show) and orchestrated youth. Pay close attention to his audience members. His show may fill the same role as Classic Rock and Pop radio.

  • Avril | October 9, 2013 12:57 AMReply

    I was a huge fan of the original Arsenio Hall Show, but times have changed. Back then he really was booking all the black artists that Johnny Carson and Letterman would not book. So his show was like a late night party. Now black artists are on all these shows including Leno, Letterman, Kimmel and Fallon. I'm not saying we've arrived, I'm just saying that it's not as unheard of for black artists to be on mainstream TV. His skits are not funny and he reminisces too much about the good old days. I want his show to succeed but he's got to step it up in the writing dept and step into the 21st century in terms of what's funny now.

  • Steve | October 8, 2013 5:41 PMReply

    To add to that, JB Smoove is funnier than Arsenio when he was recently on the show.

  • Lauren | October 8, 2013 6:32 PM

    JB Smoove was not only funnier but more robust since he probably eats regularly. Even Arsenio's complexion looks ashen and his hair cut so close isn't helping either. smh eat something please! I hope he's not ill.

  • Steven | October 8, 2013 5:38 PMReply

    I watched the show on a few occasions and I find that his material is just stale. He needs to lose that 90's schtick and step into the now. I'm an Arsenio fan but he could use some personality and better writing. He's competing with some funny and talented late night hosts out there. I mean Fallon and his team are great and he has The Roots as his house band. Kimmel jokes and skits are on point. CoCo remains king with gen Xers, Y, Z and whatever else. He needs to step his game up.

  • Alias | October 8, 2013 5:26 PMReply

    I haven't seen the show, but I wasn't excited, curious or interested about its prospects when I heard he was trying to make a comeback. From everything I've read it seems like he was living in a Cryogenic machine for the last 20 years, and hasn't awoken to the fact that the world has changed. People's tastes in entertainment and pop culture has changed. Which means he needs to change in order to succeed.

    Entertainers are now brands. What is his brand? Old fuddies who like to reminisce? In today's climate there's nothing remotely interesting, funny, or original that he's bringing to the table, which would make most viewers interested in staying up to see his show, much less placing it in their DVR rotation.

  • Shut Up | October 11, 2013 4:34 PM

    Ah, Shut up Alias, you opiniated shit. Not everyone is interested in the shitty so-called "talent" that stinks up the 21st century.
    I prefer the entertainments and personalities of the 20th century, and I'm still interested in hearing what they're up to now, and I love the idea that Arsenio is still keep the 80s/90s ways of being and thinking alive.
    Just because the world has changed, doesn't mean it's changed for the better, and you are proof of that.

  • Nichelle | October 8, 2013 3:45 PMReply

    Everything is the same from 20 years ago. That's the problem. After the nostalgia has worn off, Arsenio has yet to decide on who is his audience. Is it for grown folks? hip hop folks? Cali folks? Black folks? His monologue and horrible skits are all over the place.

  • Marisella Cozier | October 8, 2013 1:44 PMReply

    Perhaps what work twenty years ago does not now. The audience have change what was funny then is no longer. Maybe a new producer or writer will be the remedy. I doubt its is about branding.

  • CareyCarey | October 8, 2013 10:41 AMReply

    Is there a law against voyeurism? I mean, I feel like I am breaking the law watching Arsenio kiss so much ass. Hey, I'm serious, it's just so nasty ugly seeing him being the lap dog for his guests.

    And, I find myself in an unusual position of agreeing with all the comment thus far. Yep, in these new days, something new requires - SOMETHING NEW. Arsenio, apparently, wasn't listening to James Brown's Pappa Gotta Brand New Bag. Nope, he's old-er and tired-er and never was funny.

    And, I don't know how to say this without sounding mean, or appearing to lack compassion, but agreeing with Lauren, Arsenio appears to be a dead man walking. Okay... maybe I shouldn't have said it like that but the man doesn't look healthy. Hey, I'm serious, I feel like getting him a glass of water and telling him to go lay down. Come on now, some have said Michael Jackson worked himself right out the back door so maybe it's time for Mr. Hall to exist stage left before he ends up in the upper room (sooner than the consolation notice lands on his table).

    Hey, don't get mad I me, on several occasions I tried watching the show but I was cringing the whole time. That reminds me, I forget the guest's name but there was this one dude who came out with a plate of food. Well, he said it came from down home at Big Roscoe's pig shack or something like that. Anyway, sure enough, Arsenio starting eating the left over ribs and collard greens. I wanted to tell him to put that down, stop skinin' and grinin' and go check your blood pressure but all I could do was shake my head.

  • Walter Harris Gavin | October 7, 2013 11:53 PMReply

    "The TV landscape isn't at all what it used to be, as television itself has seen a radical transformation in the last decade, thanks in large part to the information superhighway known as the world wide web. Competition for eyeballs is INTENSE, with so much demanding the audience's attention, even when at home. So content creators really need to stand out if they're to survive."
    This quote is the crux of the matter. Haven't watched the show, but I think after 20 years, you want to come back with something new and fresh, different from what everybody else is doing in late night. Be the New Arsenio Hall and not the "black" Jimmy Fallon or Conan or trying to copy whoever "white" late night host is out there.

  • lauren | October 7, 2013 11:41 PMReply

    Arsenio looks unhealthy which adds to the discomfort of watching.

  • Monique A Williams | October 8, 2013 4:39 PM

    He looks considerably healthier than he did on The Apprentice, bringing me to tears. I think he is on the upswing, given the former skeletal appearance.
    I'm rooting for him. I have him DVR'd for the guests that I do wanna see. I'm not a latenight fan, like Tambay, so I'm already not his audience. But my heart is in it for him to win it.

  • D.C. Kirkwood | October 8, 2013 10:24 AM

    My thoughts exactly. It troubles me soo much especially with him being that tall and so thin. His eyes look like they are about to pop out the sockets. Praying for him. I know he has a family.

  • Tracey | October 7, 2013 11:03 PMReply

    My husband and I watched the first week, but haven't been watching consistently since then. For me, it's been tough. I love Arsenio and was a faithful back in the day. I don't want to say he's lost his touch, but maybe he has? If he intends to make it, he definitely needs new writers asap!

  • Dankwa Brooks | October 7, 2013 6:38 PMReply

    I've only watched one episode (the one with Angela Bassett) and boy was it a chore. He definitely needs new writers. The show just plain isn't funny and he has still competition with Kimmel and Fallon going viral every other week. I too am wishing for him to succeed because while he's not as young skewing as Kimmel and Fallon he's not as old skewing as Letterman and Leno either.

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