Syndicated (check local listings)
If Pat is a ficus, Arsenio is a fern-bar fern. He’s a party plant. But enough of this horticulture. Arsenio is better described as just a well-dressed Merv Griffin for the ’90s. He adores everybody, and everybody adores him. He is the Great Gusher. “I love your work,” he says to Jackie Collins. “I love you too,” she replies. “You know I love you, right?” Quincy Jones says. “Hey, man, you know how far we go back,” Arsenio reaffirms. And Arsenio points to comic Paul Rodriguez and tells the world, “I love this man.” All right, then, just shut up and kiss. But the show’s slathering is preferable by far to its attempts at serious chatter: obnoxious boy actor Judd Nelson announcing that he’d rather be seen as a nonintellectual than a fake intellectual or Arsenio lecturing on science: “Speaking of stupid, what’s the deal with this radon gas?” The show is too hyper, too huggy and none too bright. The problem: Arsenio is trying too hard. But he shouldn’t. He has gallons more charm than most would-be talk show hosts; he proved that when he alone survived the ordeal of the late Fox Late Show. If he doesn’t quit with the kissy-kissy, though, he may not survive his own show.