The Couch

July 19, 2005

Last week, The Daily Show unveiled its new set, with giant video screens and no more couch. The first uses of the video screens were hideously awful and distracting, with text zooming around behind Jon's head, but the graphics have gotten much better in the last week.

Bloggers extort TDS to Bring Back the Couch.

Slate's Dana Stevens discusses the couch in more detail: Talk Show Feng Shui- Is anyone else freaked out by The Daily Show' s new studio set?

Stewart sent a clear message by arranging his onstage furniture in this odd but by now familiar mixture of office and living room. The host's desk telegraphs a sense of security and professionalism: I am at my job, it says, acting in my official capacity. You can trust me. 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.

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. They're free to hump the couch, as Al Green did in a Daily Show interview earlier this year, or jump up on it and make asses of themselves, like Tom Cruise on Oprah last May.

In the last few years, The Daily Show has brought on guests who would otherwise be more likely to appear on CNN or C-SPAN than on Letterman or Conan.

In The Book Standard, Jessa Crispin argues that TDS is the most influential television show when it comes to selling books: Jessa ♡ Jon: How The Daily Show Does the Book Thing Right: "Appearances by Seymour Hersh for Chain of Command, Reza Aslan for No God But God, Jim Wallis for God’s Politics and Steven Levitt for Freakonomics all led me to buy each of those books within the week. Hell, it even made me give Thomas Friedman another chance with The World Is Flat."

Overall, TDS seems to be heavier on the authors and wonks than on the celebs these days. In the first 5 shows in the new studio, Jon interviewed Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (Washington Post), Michael Isikoff (Newsweek), Bernard Goldberg, Matt Taibbi, and Marci Hamilton (Cardozo). All are journalists or authors. None are entertainers or celebrities. OK, tonight, Jon will interview Billy Bob Thornton, who is also on Late Night with Conan tonight. TDS hasn't gone all hard news on us.

But for the guests who are not used to being on television-- the authors, reporters and analysts who won't be on Letterman or Conan any time soon-- sitting behind the conference table may be more comfortable and may make it easier to interview people who aren't on their fourth talk show of the day. Will Ferrell and David Cross will find a way to be funny whether it is sitting on a couch or behind a desk.

Posted by Andrew Raff at July 19, 2005 09:00 PM
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