'Anderson Live,' 'Wendy Williams,' 'Rachael Ray' Among Syndicated Shows Getting Set Makeovers (Photos)
The sets of several syndicated shows are getting face-lifts this season.
Anderson Live, Family Feud, Live With Kelly and Michael, Rachael Ray, Right This Minute, The Wendy Williams Show and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire are all debuting new or improved sets. Many of the makeovers were a result of either relocating to new studios or transitioning to high-definition -- or both.
Here's a breakdown of each show's set changes, along with photos.
Anderson Live (premieres Sept. 10)
The Anderson Cooper-hosted show is going live and relocating from Jazz at Lincoln Center's Allen Room to the CBS Broadcast Center in New York for its second season. Along with that, the Warner Bros.-distributed talker is getting a brand-new set. "One of the things that was most important was to not make it a stage, and we wanted it to be interactive," executive producer Terence Noonan says. "Anderson isn't above everybody talking down. He sits very close to the audience. The producers are also out on the floor, so there's a lot of interaction between him and the staff." The new set also features several windows, controllable lights, more entrances and more places to put monitors, while the seating is actually smaller than before -- room for 300 audience members vs. about 200-210 -- lending itself to a more "intimate" feel. There also will be a special section for audience members who will be tweeting during the show. Meanwhile, the setup at the CBS Broadcast Center also is more ideal for delivering a live, topical show, Noonan adds. For his part, Cooper was closely involved in picking out the new studio and designing the new set. Among the personal touches he asked for were a place to display his mom Gloria Vanderbilt's paintings and a photo booth where guests and staffers can take pictures, something Cooper is "obsessed" with and typically brings out for parties he throws. In addition, "Anderson lives in an old firehouse, and we wanted to give the set that sense of a restored loft space," Noonan adds. "I think people will a much more personal side of him this season."
Family Feud (premieres Sept. 10)
Family Feud's set tweaks were a result of its transition to high-def, executive producer Gaby Johnston says. The podiums, lighting and graphics are among the features that got updated on the long-running game show, which is distributed by Debmar-Mercury and produced by FremantleMedia North America. "We did the podiums particularly because the shots of families are going to be different in high-def, so we had to make those longer," she says, adding it because of the new cameras, it "took a lot of research to get it right." Johnston adds that the crew pored over the entire set with a fine-toothed comb to make sure nothing was amiss. "If you go into high-def, you notice things in the back ... like when a tile or something is not painted properly," she says. "Everything has to be absolutely perfect, or you can see it. Everything was repainted and there's new material." As for what viewers at home will see, "everything about it is so much prettier," Johnston adds. "The difference is night and day." As for the switch to HD, "viewers see every little thing about the [contestants] now. If they are nervous and start sweating, it's right there for the world to see."
Live With Kelly and Michael (premiered Sept. 3)
Kelly Ripa got a new co-host last week in Michael Strahan, but earlier this year, she also got a new set. The new digs, which debuted April 9, are said to be the "most extensive update" to the studio since the show's 1988 debut in national syndication. It was designed to have the feel of a "contemporary downtown-style loft, spacious and yet maintaining the studio’s warmth and intimacy" and features "a warm golden palette accentuated by punches of color," according to Disney-ABC Domestic Television. In building the new set, designers chose earthy and textured materials -- including wood and stone finishes -- and also added a 20-foot-tall stacked stone tile wall backing by the main staircase. Other additions include more production spaces for performances and demo segments and an updated lighting system with state-of-the-art LED fixtures.
Rachael Ray (premieres Sept. 17)
The talk show, distributed by CBS Television Distribution, is moving from its old home at EUE/Screen Gems' New York facility to Chelsea Studios on 26th Street, where Martha Stewart's recently canceled talk show was located. The move, along with a transition into high-def, prompted producers to make upgrades for its upcoming seventh season. Executive producer Janet Annino says the improvements include a "bigger and better kitchen" for host Rachael Ray, along with a new prep kitchen in the back of the set, with more rooms for the cooks. The new set also features a 60-inch plasma screen monitor that will be used to show clips while Ray is cooking and flexible, switchable mirror film behind which the audience will be able to watch activities taking place -- say, a cookoff -- at the touch of a button. One thing that didn't make the move was the turntable -- a revolving part of the floor where audience members sat -- but the new space will allow for a slightly bigger audience, about 125 in total. "The turntable was fun, but we were limited in how far we could shoot and where we could shoot," Annino says. Some familiar features that remain include the cameras located inside the refrigerator and pantry. Annino adds that Ray had a big hand in designing the new set and kept a lot of the same colors from the previous set, including golds and greens and autumn colors. "The new set captures a lot of her personality," she says. "There are pieces based on things she has in her home -- a lot of reclaimed wood and rustic wood. It's just a warm, homey, beautiful place." And, thanks to HD, everything is "just prettier," she adds. "You can see the sizzle of the pans and the steam from the dishes. It's much lovelier shots."
Right This Minute (premieres Sept. 10)
The Arizona-based show, which focuses on viral videos and the stories behind them, is debuting a new set and state-of-the-art production facility in its second season. The strip, from Cox Media Group, Raycom Media, E.W. Scripps Company and MagicDust Television, is executive produced by Dennis O’Neill and Lisa Hudson, who say they built the new set from the ground up and were aiming for an intimate feel. "It's a feeling of a place where a bunch of people have gotten together and are sitting around talking about videos and having fun with them," O'Neill says, adding that it is actually a working set, with producers not removed from the on-air talent in a separate control room. "We're all right in the middle of where we work." Adds Hudson: "[Last season], we noticed that it was on the smaller, intimate place where people really let loose. For a completely unscripted show, a bigger set just didn't feel right. We didn't build a studio where people were talking to a control room. We wanted to be right there with the talent and getting genuine reactions and feeding off each other." The new space was designed with a warehouse vibe, featuring exposed bricks, as well as multiple monitors to show the videos featured in that day's episode. Adds O'Neill: "We wanted it to look a little bit homey and industrial, but at the same time have an intimate, comforable look about it."
The Wendy Williams Show (premieres Sept. 10)
The talker, which is distributed by Debmar-Mercury, is getting a new studio and enhanced set for its upcoming fourth season, which also will premiere in high-def. The show is moving from its 53rd Street, its home for the past three seasons, to the same 26th Street studios that now house Rachael Ray. "We are moving downtown, which is cooler and hipper," executive producer David Perler says. "We have a lot more room, which is really great, and we decided to take this opportunity [to make changes]." Whereas on the old set, the show's various segments all took place in one area, the new, bigger space allowed producers to divide the set into different "zones," so, for example, the "Hot Topics" segment now has its own space, while guest interviews will take place in another area. There's also a bigger area for performances. Meanwhile, the new set design will incorporate host Wendy Williams' signature pink and purple but is toning down some of the pink hues. "You'll still see her trademarks, but compared to seasons in the past, it's a little more mature color palette," he says. All the changes, combined with "slicker" graphics and a new show open, Perler says, are going to give the show a new vibe. "Now is the time to put on something a little bigger, a little fancier," he says. "We've definitely proven ourselves to be a serious competitor in daytime, and we needed a studio to match that."
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (premiered Sept. 3)
For its 11th season, the New York-based, Meredith Vieira-hosted game show has moved into a new studio with a newly constructed set that features several improvements that are intended to modernize the look of the show and take into account the high-def cameras, according to Disney-ABC Domestic Television. The updates include two new and much larger screens -- one for the trivia questions and another for the "money tree." Both screens have twice as many projectors, intended to make the images richer and brighter. Meanwhile, the screen that the questions are projected on is nearly twice as large as last year, measuring 25 feet by 9 feet. The show also has added a new contestant podium, new lighting with LED technology resulting in "more vivid" colors, new LED neon edging around the set's perimeter and a new circular ceiling piece with color-changings LED lights over the game podium, intended to give the set and game play area a more intimate feel.