All Set For ‘Late Late’s’ Ferguson

Jul 10, 2006  •  Post A Comment

When “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” returns July 24 from a week of vacation reruns, it will be to a brand-new set designed by Akira Yoshimura, the award-winning creator of more than one set for “Saturday Night Live” and “Tonight,” among numerous other shows.

Mr. Ferguson’s last night on the set he inherited from Craig Kilborn in January 2005 will be this Friday. There are hints that no fan of Craig Ferguson — and regular readers of The Insider knows she thinks the Scotsman can do no wrong — would want to miss it.

The dismantling of the old set will be done briskly. Gary Considine, the former NBC executive and late-night producer who became Peter Lassally’s co-executive producer of “Late Late” nearly a year ago, will need plenty of time to load the new set into the CBS Television City studio and play with it until all concerned are confident it will look the way they want it to and do what they want it do by the time July 24 rolls around.

Mr. Considine said the set is “another step in making this Craig Ferguson’s show.” He said it will conjure up the air of a trendy Los Angeles loft, with soft furniture, eclectic accents, L.A. iconography and colors that flatter Mr. Ferguson and his guests.

There will be a little more breathing room for bands who perform live in the “Late Late” studio, which could be described most charitably as intimate — original “Late Late” host Tom Snyder’s long legs sometimes seemed to fill the space, which was usually so quiet as to suggest a hermetic seal.

There’ll be a permanent green screen area in which Mr. Ferguson and his comedy repertory group members will continue letting the studio audience in on the process as well as the punchlines in skits.

Mr. Ferguson is partial to sound effects — the cracking of a whip, a riff of evocative music — to punctuate his comments to the audience. Now, video is going to be incorporated into the set after some quiet testing.

“He’ll have toys at his disposal, both audio and visual,” Mr. Considine promised. “What we like to do is present him with as many options as we can, and then we go along for the ride and see what he does.”

Mr. Ferguson, who knocked the socks off reviewers with his first novel, “Between the Bridge and the River,” this spring, has taken the predictable out of late-late programming.

He has redefined the monologue, turning it into a nearly 19 minutes of freewheeling standup comedy marinated in his philosophy, which is two parts common sense and one part unhinged absurdity.

He treats guests like conspirators in conversations that seldom if ever get around to the projects they are ostensibly plugging.

He has steadily built the biggest audience in “The Late Late Show’s” history, averaging 1.9 million viewers in the second quarter of 2006. While that may be a half-million viewers behind “Late Night With Conan O’Brien’s” 2.4 million viewers in the same time frame, it’s the closest CBS has come to NBC during that hour in 11 years. And “Conan O’Brien” was flat year to year for the quarter, while “Craig Ferguson” was up 9 percent.

So will the cost of the new set reflect the improved fortunes of the network in the time period?

Mr. Considine humorously fended off The Insider’s attempts to pry out some kind of price tag.

“We’re a small-budget show operating in a studio that was originally occupied by Tom Snyder. This is a 12:30 CBS type of set,” the executive producer said. “It would be hard to spend a whole lot of money on the set.”

But it would be worth it.