Expect a little song and dance in between videos of groin hits, cute kids and crazy cats on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” next season. “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” alum and “Dancing With the Stars” champ Alfonso Ribeiro is taking the reins as host from Tom Bergeron next season.
Ribeiro was one of five finalists in the hunt to follow Bergeron, who has hosted the enduring video-clip series since 2001. ABC’s “AFV” ranks as one of primetime TV’s most family-friendly shows and one with the highest component of multigenerational viewing, a quality that is important to ABC.
The show, which wrapped its 25th anniversary season on Sunday, has become an institution for the Alphabet in its Sunday 7 p.m. slot.
Although the show is built around goofy amateur videos sent in by everyday folks, “AFV” exec producer Vin Di Bona said the host’s role is still crucial. Bergeron, who also hosts ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” announced his intention to step down from “AFV” gig early in the season but the effort to audition his successor only heated up about two months ago, Di Bona said.
“There’s got to be a sincerity and a connection with the audience,” Di Bona told Variety. “You’ve got to be someone who cares about kids. That connection you make with the audience is of the utmost importance to me. That’s something you just don’t get by reading copy. In our auditions, it just became very, very apparent that Alfonso is a genuinely nice man.”
Ribeiro brings pop-culture cred to “AFV” thanks to his run opposite Will Smith on the 1980s NBC sitcom “Fresh Prince,” where he became known for “the Carlton,” a dance named after his character that is performed to the Tom Jones hit “It’s Not Unusual.” More recently, he was the 2014 winner of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” and he served as emcee of the “DWTS” live touring show that wended through 40 cities this past winter.
Ribeiro got his start as a child actor on Broadway starring in “The Tap Dance Kid.” His varied resume over the years included five-year run as host of GSN’s “Catch 21” and of the ABC Family spelling quiz show “Spell-Mageddon.” At present he also hosts Cooking Channel’s “Unwrapped 2.0.”
“I’ve definitely spent a lot of time in the past decade in host-land,” Ribeiro told Variety. “I think I’ll be able to really connect with the games they like to play with the audience and with the interviews and banter. I love talking to people.”
Ribeiro’s song and dance skills will surely be put to good use, Di Bona promised. Ribeiro passed the first test when he assured his prospective new boss that he understood “the videos are the star of the show,” while he is the friendly tour guide. Production on season 26 begins in August.
Ribeiro’s appointment marks the fourth entry on the list of “AFV” hosts since its debut as a special in late 1989. Bob Saget was at the helm from 1989-1997, during the period he was also doing double-duty as star of the ABC sitcom “Full House.”
Daisy Fuentes and John Fugelsang took over as a duo in 1998 and 1999. “AFV” went off the air briefly as a regular series but was revived in 2000 as specials hosted by D.L. Hughley and Richard Kind. Bergeron’s tenure began the following year when “AFV” was restored to weekly series status.
“The show is an old shoe that works,” Di Bona said. “With Alfonso coming on, we’ll experiment more with performance elements and we’ll ease into some new things. But we will do it slowly.”
Bergeron got a final laugh on the May 17 finale which ended with a special cameo appearance by Saget, who drove Bergeron off the set in a golf cart. “Tom was the consummate host and a joy to work with,” Di Bona said.
(Pictured: Alfonso Ribeiro and Tom Bergeron on “AFV” this season)