With the recent attention to US late night talk shows, it is the right moment to highlight French differences. The American talk show has long consisted of a desk for the host, accompanied by guest seating, normally a couch to the left. The backdrop varies based on the location of the show.
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, 1964, in New York with a solid backdrop
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, 1983 in Burbank with nature and cityscape backdrop
The Merv Griffin Show used a solid backdrop high glitter set with moveable chairs, parodied on Seinfeld below
The Late Show with David Letterman, a New York backdrop
Leno, Los Angeles cityscape
The Daily Show, 2006, solid backdrop and screen
The French talk show by contrast is much more of a roundtable, considered as a televised debate. The host is typically at the center with guests to either side, surrounded by an arena style audience. The French take the talk show very seriously as there are about 650 different talk-shows on French television each week, most of them with a studio audience. One exception is "Bibliotheque Medicis" which is filmed on a closed set that resembles an enormous private library and emphasizes intellectual topics. For more on French talk shows, click here.
On n'est pas couché, France 2
Le Grand Journal, Canal+
Bibliotheque Medicis, Public Senat