Arsenio Hall’s improbable late-night comeback will continue for at least another season, as Hall learned from Jay Leno last night on his show. Producer CBS Television formally announced the renewal today, but viewers of the show heard the news last night when Leno came out during Hall’s monologue.
Arsenio debuted strong last September, but ratings dropped quickly. Four weeks in, the show replaced its executive producer, and by November, Fox News characterized Arsenio as in “a downward spiral.” Around that time, Hall was quoted as saying he could be sustained by “urban” viewers alone. “There was a time where a guy like me would be encouraged to get a crossover audience, but it’s a new day,” he said. “It’s a Barack Obama day. And I literally can be myself.”
CBS and partner Tribune Television apparently agree, with CBS Television Distribution president Joe DiSalvo boasting that Arsenio is “the youngest late-night talk show on broadcast television.” How young? The median age for an Arsenio viewer is 50.1, which goes to show late-night remains the domain of the olds.
Variety calls Arsenio’s renewal “expected, though it wasn’t a slam dunk,” and as recently as a three weeks ago it was on the bubble. But with The Tonight Show now back East, Arsenio could score some better guests, Variety speculates. That’s good, because the show’s bookings haven’t made it appointment viewing. This week’s lineup of LL Cool J, Scott Bakula, Deion Sanders, Cloris Leachman, and Jada Pinkett Smith is typical.
The renewal press release notes that Arsenio is watched by “6.7 million unique viewers weekly,” notably omitting the show’s ratings, which Variety pegs at 1.05 million every week. For comparison, Letterman pulled in 2.9 million the week of February 17, with Kimmel at 2.6 million. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon scored a whopping 8.5 million that week, its premiere, which was the highest since Johnny Carson was at the helm. (During the Leno era, it pulled in between 3 and 4 million.)