Jay Leno made a surprising appearance — his first on TV since retiring 20 days ago – on the Arsenio Hall Show last night in order to announce to Arsenio that his show had been picked up for a second season. It was kind of a cute moment, although hearing either Arsenio or Leno refer to one another as “gangster” is a little … strange. But the decision to show up on Arsenio first is also a weird one for two reasons.
First of all, during the late-night wars back in the 1990s, Letterman may have been the bitterest enemy of Leno, but Arsenio was the most vocal. There was a ugly rivalry between Leno and Arsenio, and Arsenio had even made accusations of racism against that “punk-ass” Leno, as he called him. It went on for a few years (uh, Arsenio lost), and they did bury the hatchet in the late 90s. Arsenio has made many appearances on Leno’s The Tonight Show since.
The second reason it’s odd is because rumor has it that Letterman has been making a huge push to get Leno on his show, and while I’m sure that will still eventually happen, it won’t be Leno’s first post-retirement appearance, which is to say: Leno wasn’t about to give that honor to Dave. That might very well be because Leno doesn’t want to hurt Fallon by going to his competitor first, although honestly, the way Fallon’s ratings are going now, Fallon doesn’t really have any competition (The Tonight Show is a monster hit; Fallon’s ratings in the 18-49 demo on Tuesday were higher than every other show on television, not only in his own time slot, but in the 10 p.m. slot).
I think appearing on Arsenio first diffuses any drama. Arsenio is probably considered neutral ground. He’s not really competition to anyone. After all, Leno was there to announce to Arsenio that he’d been picked up for a second season, which wasn’t at all a guarantee.
Anyway, here’s the clip, which is ironically the only time I’ve seen anything from Arsenio’s new show.