Changing Channels – Perry S. Mulls Switching From From Coco to Jimmy

It’s been just over four months since the man with the most recognizable pompadour in television made his debut on TBS.  We all know the Conan O’brien story so no need to rehash the gory details.  Despite losing the keys to the most valued franchise in late night, O’brien left the desk at NBC as the everyman underdog of Hollywood politics, and we all loved him.

While on hiatus Conan and his team did an amazing job at building his brand by leveraging online and social media tactics built around his successful live comedy tour across the continent.  When Team Coco finally took to the airwaves on TBS (CTV/The Comedy Network up hear in Canada-land) in November 2010, I believed we were about to witness a revolution in late night TV.
Don’t get me wrong, Conan, the man and the program, have been funny.  If I’ve noticed one thing about the new show versus his NBC run it’s that Conan plays with and off the crowd now more than he ever did prior – something the NBC brass had actually advised him to do while transitioning to The Tonight Show but that he and producer Jeff Ross ignored at the time.  It’s these impromptu and genuine moments that remind us of why we fell in love with Conan during his last few weeks at NBC.
Other than that, the rest of Conan has been a little flat in my opinion.  It starts with the bookings.  Sure Conan has had many big Hollywood names on the show to promote their new projects, but night-in/night-out the show doesn’t exactly read like a ‘who’s who’ top-to-bottom.  Lots of unknown comedians, b-list sitcom actors and bands that have yet to break the top-40.  While these ‘alternative’ guests may have played well at 12:30, they don’t exactly match-up with the calibre of guests adorning the couches on Leno or Letterman. 
Even more telling is the fact that in his first four months on air, I don’t believe Conan has been able to produce a single ‘did you see that on Conan’ moment.  Unable to use any of his old gags or proven shtick, Conan and company are really starting from scratch.  So far only the reoccurring visits to the Warner Brother Animation headquarters and the development of the outstanding Flaming C superhero (Blackberry holder, marijuana belt buckle, Star of David, steaming oven mitt, jai alai glove, golf shoes, socks with garters and fishnets) has really worked well and delivered the laughs. 

While all this Conan drama was taking place, I quietly found myself following Jimmy Fallon on Twitter – Fallon is the ex Saturday Night Live cast member who ironically took over Conan’s spot on NBC when he was promoted to 11:30.  On a weekly basis I have been blown away by the number of amazing moments Fallon tweets about and I find myself watching much of his show online whenever I can. 
From his Rolling Stones In Exlie and Bruce Springsteen The Promise exclusive performances, to his hilarious pre-taped spoofs on Lost and Twilight, Fallon has taken late night to a new level.  His house band, The Roots, is incredible and he leverages them to either ‘slow-jam’ the news or jam with an impromptu guest – like Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zach from Saved By The Bell) for a special Zach Attack reunion performance.

Fallon himself has gone from awkward to awesome.  Check out his spot-on Neil Young impersonation while singing the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song, or better yet covering the Willow Smith hit Whip My Hair with none other than Bruce Springsteen, decked out in his Born To Run-era cap and shades, on backing vocals.
While Fallon doesn’t exactly remind you of Johnny Carson when interviewing a guest, he does deliver enough ‘aw shucks’ fanboy authenticity to make you wish you were sitting in his chair – and more importantly, that you actually could.

For these reasons, I will be making a major move this week.  Until I have a reason to go back to Conan I will be deleting him from my PVR pre-sets and adding Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to my roster of shows.  Sure I could record both, but what’s the point.  I really only have time for one, and let’s face it, one guy has already had his shot at late night supremacy; the other is just getting started. 

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