Is the New Tonight Show the New Coke of the ’10s?


1.14.09 :: If you haven’t been stimulated by any photon emitting devices for the past few week, then you’ve missed the NBC/Conan drama on TV. What I find more important is the Facebook page, ‘I’m with Coco’, who’s purpose is simply to show support for the orange-haired comedian after his ejection from his current Tonight Show time slot. This amassed 25,000 fans in its first 8 hours live (thanks to illustrator Mike Mitchell) and achieved web notoriety of some of the big blogs in its first day.

While some people might look at this as standard pop culture upheaval, I would like to remind you of similar situation regarding another beloved pop culture icon that was once pulled from our eyes– Classic Coca-Cola. In 1985, Coca-Cola execs came out with new formula for the timeless soft drink, calling it New Coke and sold it as the best thing since sliced bread. Despite all this, consumer outrage brought Classic Coca-Cola back to the store shelves a mere two and half months later. People didn’t want something they felt apart of changed.

Now, I am not claiming that Conan is anywhere as iconic as our beloved corn-syrup filled can of nostalgia. However, the idea of the Tonight Show is. For the past half a century, this veritable American institution has aired at 11:30 and promised to pass on the late night comedy torch every 15 or so years. Conan mentions this in his public announcement and you can see this supported in many responses across the web.  To some extent, people are making sure their Classic Coca-Cola, The Tonight Show, maintains its integrity as an institution and a brand. Conan, is merely their shining knight in the moral battle for late-night comedy– a figurehead with great hair.

Now, will NBC listen? It depends on how big these groups grow. The next few days will determine if the idea of the Tonight Show belongs to its broadcasters or its viewers. At very least, NBC has to remember that this type of communication elected a president in 2008. Can it preserve the Tonight Show? Tune in at 11:30 for the next few weeks.

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