Wednesday, July 13, 2005

a couch, a couch, my kingdom for a couch.

After a week off (the withdrawl was hell) The Daily Show has returned...with a new set. Now I'm all for change and and upgrade in technology, but the new look of one of the best shows on television has somehow managed to appear as cold and uptight as the multitude of pundit-filled talk shows one can find on any of the 24-hour news channels; the very same shows The Daily Show mocks so well.

Slate writer Dana Stevens takes on the topic in a piece titled Talk Show Feng Shui. As I read I couldn't help but nod my head and agree with more than a few of her observations.

On the new Daily Show set, both desk and couch have been replaced by a large bean-shaped conference table in a drab grayish white, behind which both Stewart and his guest sit upright in rolling chairs. This setup gives the interview segment of the show a far more formal feel than before, like a Sunday morning public-affairs show.... As Stewart and the guest converse, we see them both only from the waist up, hands folded demurely on the table with their mugs and books between them.

The new desk looks like the kind of table you could find at most public libraries around the country (ten bucks there's already gum underneath it and a sticky spot right where your elbow rests). It is cold and drab and, to be honest, looks cheap as hell. The previous desk was huge, bright blue, and while lit up, radiated the same feeling of fun as the man who sat behind it...then Lewis Black ended his rant and the cameras went back to Jon Stewart.

The guests' couch, on the other hand, is all about informality and coziness: Make yourself at home, it says, never mind the audience and those silly cameras. When the interview portion of the show began, Stewart used to stand up and walk over to the edge of the couch to greet his guest with a handshake (always a fun chance to compare the guest's stature with that of the wee Stewart), then usher him or her back to the sofa for a chat.

The advantages of the couch format are multifold. Guests can not only be seen from head to foot, giving us a sense of their physical presence, their posture, and even their choice of shoes; they can also use the space however they want.

And people did use it however they wanted. Most sat upright on the side closest to Stewart with legs together and feet on the floor, sometimes reaching for their mug to take a sip of what most likely was moonshine made by Stewart himself. Others draped themselves out across the couch looking as relaxed as they would on their own couch in their living room. Recently Will Ferrel even feigned a nap after unzipping his fly. You can't do that in an office chair...well, not without some significant physical discomfot and a high liklihood of a sexual harassment suit being filed by a coworker.

Then there's the issue of the background screen. In the era before the move, Stewart sat in front of a large graphic of a world map. At the top of the show, large capital letters reading "The Daily Show" would scroll by behind his head, but they were transparent, superimposed on an aerial view of Manhattan's skyline that gave a feeling of openness to the space behind his desk. Now, the only graphic visible behind Stewart for the full half-hour is a continuous scroll-by of the words "The Daily Show" in solid cobalt blue. As if this constant movement of letters weren't distracting enough, the words "The Daily Show" also continuously radiate forward from the back of the screen in smaller white caps, originating from directly behind Stewart's head....On its own, the continuous blue scroll might have been forgivable, though it does give the studio a more claustrophobic feel than before. But those radiating white caps are just maddening. It's as if Stewart's head is actually producing the letters, like promotional dandruff.

The background as a whole, not just the radiating white caps, is maddening. Not like bovine spongiform encephalopathy maddening, but more like 'why is it that I can't go 60 seconds without laughing at this?' maddening.

Despite trying to focus on Stewart as he pontificates on material that you just can't make up, you can't help but be a little distracted by the background flashing behind him. Stewart, for comedic purposes, has always wanted to be able to put himself in front of the graphics and pictures that are flashed on screen during the news portion of the show, and now he can as they are displayed on the screen located behind him (note: he has already molested the private area of one picture).

The new set won't keep anyone from watching as the writing is still fantastic and Stewart and Co. are still the best fake news people on the planet, but the new look smacks of The Daily Show taking themselves a bit too seriously, and a lack of seriousness is the halmark of this truly great show.

Let me end by saying that the new set, with it's cold, serious design reminds me of another show Stewart has been on, Crossfire. Just give him a bow-tie and a surgically remove his spine...and I've said too much.

Please look for less serious comments on this topic here and at our affiliate blog:


Blogger porchwise said...

It's the big, blue, moving damn sign that is maddening. It was so distracting last night, I pulled out the old sixteen guage and shot the damn thing out. I hope he changes it soon or I'll be running out of boob tubes.

4:28 PM  
Blogger The Jeffman said...

I agree with porchwise. It always distracts me from Jon's reports. The only parts I ever hear or see other than the scroll are the special reports from the other reporters. Oh well. It's a great show when I can pay attention to its melody.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree...I do not like the new set and the worst part is the scrolling. Not only is it distracting and annoying, it was actually making me sick. During the interview, it feels to me as if they are spinning around.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Blogboozle said...

I have to disagree.
The new set gives a feeling
of intelligance.During the
interviews the new desk allows
for a more one on one head to head approach to conversation and debate.I do admit they need to
work on the angles.

4:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bring back the old set, pleaaaaaaaase. *cries*

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember watching a show before the move and Jon actually said something along the lines of "You're not going to be happy with the new set..." and well... he was right. As soon as I saw the new set, my heart sank.
The new set is sterile and devoid of the coziness the old one offered. It feels just as uptight as all the other formal news shows. Do they want to be taken more seriously or something? I think this is just a bad move even if the writing remains wonderful and fairly just, the new look screams "We're definitely Republicans!"


8:14 PM  
Blogger meag said...

I think this sitee is greatt.. I agree with all of yahss!! Except blogboozle. Sorry, but a feeling of intelligence and one on one debate is not what this show needs.. It needs to have a fun atmosphere.. and it was robbed of that..

bring back the couch


7:12 PM  
Blogger uchtungbaby said...

Fat backsides polished by oversized furniture. What's new?

1:52 AM  
Blogger Nate Fink said...

I agree. The set just make me shiver. Bring back the couch.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Wheezi said...

You can go to and leave your poll mark. Its crazy how many people hate the new set. GET OUT AND VOTE! Maybe enough uproar will bring back the couch. The viewers need to speak up or it will stay the same.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Juice McNizzle said...

Really can't say much that hasn't been said already, but i'm just glad i'm not alone in this set-hating shindig.

Maybe the couch got a spin-off show, like The Colbert Report.

"It's felt, bitch."

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the couch is on tour like on the Cranberries albums? LOL

Seriously though, I agree, the new set is for the worst and the couch needs to come back. All that success is going to the production designers' heads.

1:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The couch -- added a feel of comfort, style, dare I say love?
The new set -- so serious, so uncomfortable, so impersonal. Oh Jon, hear us! Bring us back our couch, that we may gazest upon once more. It was the mirror upon our couch-potato souls.

At least you dropped the vomit-inducing, sea swell-inspired, computer-animated chimera that we oft to call the blue-screen-off nausea. "Set sail for an evening upon thar rolling seas with yer captain, Jon Stewart. Ayy, matee. Avast, an' bring us 'nother couch, wench!"

1:55 AM  
Blogger Rory said...

Thank god someone took the initiative to comment on the horrible set design. The change is much too jarring, if they really felt the need to update things, it should have been more of an evolution of things. Although, I must say I miss the blue desk more than the couch.

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a feeling the new set reflects the role the Daily Show has these days: as an actual news show. A news show full of parody and satire, yes, but a news show nonetheless. They're pushing the paradigm further, going beyond a comedy/talk show format. For instance, the interviews are FAR MORE intense now than with the couch. I agree that the screens are distracting, but I like the chairs.

8:45 AM  
Blogger YouAreFire said...

Hello i stumble on this post out of luck.

I actually really agree with the last post. The Daily show has become something more than a parody.

And the new set isn't THAT bad. It'll just take some getting used to I suppose.

9:03 AM  
Blogger red snapper said...

Colbert got the couch as part of his negotiations with Comedy Central when he inked his deal for his new show.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the Daily Show, I do - but with the new set I just couldn't even watch the episode. I'm trying to keep in mind that it took some adjusting when they made the switch from Craig Kilborn to John - so maybe it will be the same with the new set.... But I don't think I'll ever warm up to the cold new set.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I find the set too dark, but it needs to be so the rear projection screens show up.

I think there's a bigger issue that could do more damage than a set change, though.

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The new set gives a feeling
of intelligance.

The show is already intelligent and doesn't need a damn new set to make it that way. The couch made those who felt superior a little less superior. Everyone else seemed to like the comfort of it. Bring back the couch; vive le couch!

It can always find a home with me.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Coolgamer said...

The blue desk was always a centerpiece in my mind... created a lot of the mood of the set. Now it's a cold and impersonal plastic-looking desk.

It's almost like they're trying to make look super high-tech and instead bringing attention to the simple fact that the design, in fact, sucks.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jon Stewart has not given up the couch yet - so it's still there. Bring it back and go out and buy a new desk. I don't know what, but you gotta do something about the back screen as well.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't stand the new set.All I can think of is how it looks like some cold high-tech add on to cross fire or hard ball. It feels like the daily show is trying to show that they are "uber serious" or "professional" by having a more newshowy expensive set but it doesn't work. The daily show is a show that tries to be different than hippocritical pundit shows, not model their decour after them.

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jon, c'mon. You're making Tucker C. look good! Let's get back to the comedy! This is why Henny Youngman didn't switch to a more serious viola.
See you on the couch Jon!
Tommy M.~

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help! I'm in London and desperately miss the Daily Show and haven't seen the new set. Can anyone post some pics so I can compare?

4:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't like it aswell but I often don't like set changes on any show. Always though when you see old clips of the show after you get used to the new set, well you see it different.

I always didn't like the Tonight Show set changes, but go look back at the old ones, dated. It is simply what you are used to.

12:12 PM  
Blogger janestarr said...

It's terrible! Just terrible!

10:42 PM  
Blogger Jane Kelly said...

It's just a couch. Close your eyes and just listen to the show. It will all be ok. In fact you can sit on YOUR couch and watch the show.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The new set must change to reflect what the loyal fans are crying out for. The Daily Show will lose a small percentage of new/old viewers and the sad thing is they won't even know why... they'll just stop watching or won't watch at all. The content is still amazing & I'll never stop watching but the new set is awkward, it distracts, it reeks of taking themselves too seriously. If they don't change the set, it will have an affect. Bring back the couch. Come back to our living rooms! Please?

2:50 AM  
Blogger Bad Picker said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Bad Picker said...

I can vouch for the couch. The couch symbolizes comfort, and just says welcome home.

Some people really can't live without their couch. Take for example the STUART, Fla. 480-pound Martin County woman who died after emergency workers tried to remove her from the couch where she had remained for about six years.Removing her from the couch would be too painful, since her body was grafted to the fabric. After years of staying put, her skin had literally become one with the sofa and had to be surgically removed. Now that is loving your couch!

11:03 PM  
Blogger jane said...

what is that all about? I'm eight.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Blogboozle said...

I fear change!

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi im john stewart i just happened to be searching the internet when i found this site as always i have to post a comment and freak people out that i was on this site p.s i really dont give a shit what you think

3:39 PM  
Blogger a mutalib said...

its great..............

11:38 AM  
Blogger Kitty said...

Blogboozle has hit the nail on the head: "the new set gives [the show] a feeling of intelligence". Excacly what we don't want!

12:31 AM  
Blogger jellygirl said...

I'm a little tired from if I could just find a couch...

6:46 PM  
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