ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption (weekdays, 5:30 p.m. ET) will debut a new set this Monday, Jan. 20.
This new space will offer a technological upgrade coupled with some slight graphic enhancements, but the look and feel of the show that fans have been accustomed to for 18 years will not change. And, of course, there will still be heads on sticks in the background (see the photo gallery at the bottom of the post).
The three-time Sports Emmy-winning ESPN discussion show featuring Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon will continue to originate from the ABC News bureau in Washington, D.C., where it has been based since 2010.
The guiding thought was, ‘Same, but better.’ – PTI executive producer Erik Rydholm regarding the studio upgrade
The new set – which will also be home to SportsCenter with SVP when Scott Van Pelt moves to Washington later this year – is literally just a few feet away from PTI’s current location and the main desk dimensions are identical.
“We feel the show is already so comfortable to host and to watch, so we made no drastic changes,” said longtime executive producer Erik Rydholm. “The guiding thought was, ‘Same, but better.'”
PTI’s technological upgrades include a large LED screen (approximately seven-feet high by 12-feet wide) behind Kornheiser and Wilbon that will display graphics, animations, segment titles and more.
There’s also an LED screen that hinges out for the show’s popular “5 Good Minutes” segment – or when Wilbon is co-hosting the show from a remote location. The hosts will now look right at the new LED instead of looking off at it.
On the screen, there will be a slight change in the rundown that will better reflect the 16:9 format, using the screen in a more effective way while utilizing the same color scheme, layout and fonts.
Heads on sticks is something that the audience gravitates towards and is a hallmark of the show. There’s actually more space for heads now! – ESPN creative director Noubar Stone
Most importantly, ESPN Creative Services and the PTI production team wanted to ensure that the essence of the show – the interaction between Kornheiser and Wilbon – did not change.
“It was paramount that Tony and Mike have that same relationship – the same space around them at the desk,” said ESPN creative director Noubar Stone, who has now overseen all three of PTI’s set debuts since the show launched in 2001. “At the beginning of this process, we went down to the stage and measured everything – probably spent 1.5-2 hours making modifications to ensure the exact same relationship.”
That distance between Kornheiser and Wilbon is two feet, six inches to be exact. The hosts will also have a familiar console table behind them that showcases their memorabilia items and tchotchkes – Sports Emmy awards, the leg lamp, Northwestern football helmet, etc.
And about those heads on sticks …
“Heads on sticks is something that the audience gravitates towards and is a hallmark of the show,” said Stone. “There’s actually more space for heads now!”