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The appearance of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was highly controversial due to remarks by Farrakhan that many felt were anti-Semitic and homophobic. Protests from Jewish and gay groups pressured Hall to cancel Farrakhan's appearance but Hall adamantly refused. Hall agreed to feature pre-taped segments featuring opposing viewpoints but he did not air any of them. Some affiliates put a disclaimer before the episode warning viewers. The furor over this episode was a major reason why Hall and Paramount decided not to renew his contract. See more »
Arsenio Hall's show contained a wide range of ups and downs during its five and a half-year history. There is much to comment, so LET'S GET BUSY!
Firstly, let's focus on the good.
1) This show had a Black person with his own late night talk show. 2) While Carson and Letterman appealed to Whites, Arsenio appealed to the urban sector. 3) Arsenio dressed really well. 4) Arsenio would have guests on his show that appealed to urban culture, but were not considered mainstream enough to appear on Carson or Letterman. 5) Arsenio had an ethnically diverse band. 6) There were several memorable moments in the guest category: · Muhammad Ali was on the show and Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson made a surprise visit. · Miles Davis' appearance. · Sammy Davis JR's appearance. · Louis Farrakhan's appearance (memorable only because of all the controversy it created). · His shows after the Rodney King acquittals, and riots. · The video collages commemorating highlights of the show. · Bill Clinton playing the saxophone. · Andrew Dice Clay weeping openly to the sympathetic public. · MC Hammer (or Hammer depending on your mindset) and his performances. There are other moments to recognize, but I have to stop here due to space constraints.
Now, let's focus on the bad, which led to its premature cancellation:
1) The constant ass kissing while giving interviews. No one liked that. 2) More often than not, he would have guests on the show that appeared so frequently that they became stale and boring to watch. One popular example was George Wallace. 3) The monologues were terrible. Naturally, some jokes don't work at times. When Arsenio delivered jokes that died, he would attempt to keep it going to make it funny. It didn't work. The material was poorly written, and poorly delivered. 4) The perpetuation of ethnic stereotypes associated with hip-hop culture. Many times, he overdid it to the point that it looked clownish. 5) The fact that he had to maintain his "high-top fade" to let people know that he was still "Black" appeared to be very plastic after awhile. 6) His filler guests. For a little while, there was a show which came on right after Arsenio called "The Party Machine", hosted by Nia Peeples. Why do you need to have Nia Peeples as a guest on Arsenio (at the end of the hour program, in fact), when she is hosting the next program? Filler! 7) The "Master Impressionist" routine. It got old after the first time! Some you could not figure out.
The program got so bad that his guest stars were of greater interest than he was. Towards the end of the series run, I would only watch the beginning of the telecast to see who his guests were and what he was wearing. I would then either turn the channel or turn the TV off.
His timing was very lacking. The audience hollering "WOOF WOOF WOOF" was going to get played out eventually. Though Johnny Carson's approach was conservative, it remained lively enough to last 30 years. Arsenio was not going to last a third of that. He did not keep up. He thought that the same antics were going to keep him on the air. It didn't.
Arsenio originally had a 6-year contract to do his show. That means that his 6 year anniversary would have come in December, 1994. However, his show ended in May, 1994. His show ended 6 months early. Why is that? It's because Paramount wanted to pull the plug. They probably bought out the last 6 months of his contract and ended it. Thank goodness. Thank goodness for Arsenio's sake.
Arsenio's style and format led to an attempt at shows that tried to duplicate his formula: "Vibe", "The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show". "The Chris Rock Show" on HBO was the best.
Arsenio was extremely overrated as a comedian, as a celebrity. There has to be more to him than being a former friend of Eddie Murphy to have a career. Too bad his career is gone. See you in 5,000 hours!
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