'Live!' Goes Live With New Set

When a new cohost is eventually named, he will join Kelly at more modern, roomier home

After having its hosts sit on the
same stools in the same studio since
1996, Disney/ABC Live! With Kelly
unveils a new golden-hued set on April 9.

The catalyst for the change was twofold.
WABC New York, with which Live! had always
shared its Upper West Side studio at 66th
Street and Columbus Avenue in New York
City, moved last fall to a new street-side studio
in the same complex, leaving more space for
Live! to play with. Plus, plans to make changes
were already in the works when Regis Philbin
announced he was leaving the show.

“We began thinking about designing a whole
new set for a whole new show,” says Michael
Gelman, Live! executive producer.

When Gelman, set designer Michael Fagin and
director Brian Chapman began discussing what
they wanted out of the new set, they quickly
surmised that accomplishing their goals—more
depth to the stage, more width for more production
space and more room for a larger audience—
was a lot tougher than simply adding a
few more rows and pushing back the walls a bit.

And while all of these changes were being
made, “we didn’t want to lose the intimacy of
our current studio,” says Gelman.

Fagin set to work, coming up with more
than 30 designs over the course of the year.

“The great challenge was ! tting more people
into the space,” he says. “Our studio is a long,
narrow rectangle. To get the number of [audience
members] we were looking to fit in and
meet these other requirements was a real challenge.
We looked at the box from every angle.”

Previously, the Live! stage ran along the rectangle’s
diagonal, allowing it to occupy a wide
area, but only allowing for a small audience.
What’s more, due to sharing the space with
WABC’s local news and being a live show, set
changes to accommodate music acts or cooking
segments had to be completed within twoand-
a-half minute commercial breaks.

To solve the space problem, Fagin decided
to position the stage lengthwise, giving it
maximum width while still preserving depth.
Then Fagin added a mezzanine to accommodate
a larger audience.

Some parts of the old set will be preserved,
including the feel of being inside a New York
home, but the new set will feel more like a
downtown loft than an Upper West Side
apartment. And Kelly—and whomever sits
beside her—will still sit on stools.

“That’s kind of our signature,” says Gelman.

The rest of the set will be surrounded by technology.
A solid wall of ultra-thin high-de! nition
monitors, the bezels of which are only 1/16th of
an inch wide, will sit behind the hosts, allowing
producers to use several screens at once or
combine the screens to form one giant image.

“There is also a lot of LED technology built
into the walls,” says Gelman, which will enable
producers to change lighting on the fly.

Live! continues to try out cohosts, with Jerry
O’Connell, Mark Consuelos, The Bachelor’s Chris
Harrison and ABC News’ Dan Abrams all appearing
recently. The show’s ratings have held
up in Philbin’s absence, taking the pressure off finding a replacement quickly, says Gelman.

“We are happy with how this transition has
gone, but it’s not going to go on forever,” he
says. “Our whole thing is that we’re a family,
so it’s important for the audience that we have
a steady presence on the show every day.”

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