The Cosby Show (1984–1992)
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I'm sure faithful viewers all have their favorite episodes, and we can always reminice in this terrific journey through the life of Bill Cosby through the fictional existence of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable.
For eight glorious seasons, The Cosby Show ruled the airwaves and our hearts, and luckily, we can still enter this great world on syndication all over the world.
Bill Cosby is, of course, the main character in this show, taking the role of a husband and father while adding comic relief to the show.
Cosby was one of the best comedians of the eighties it's too bad he isn't in the movies anymore, because he is a funny guy. He's not over the top and outrageous like, say, Chris Rock or Eddie Murphy, etc., both of whom are loudmouthed black comedians that are stereotypical of African American comics; they try to get in the limelight by shouting and yelling and not REALLY being funny. I think many black comedians had resorted to this because (a) they thought it was the only way they could get famous back then and (b) it became expected of them (that would explain Rock).
But Bill Cosby is calm yet funny. I think he's one of the best REAL comedians out there (in other words, one of the best stage performers/comedians).
`The Cosby Show' is one of the best reruns out there catch it when you can.
Just try to ignore the bull surrounding this brilliant show and enjoy it at face value. It's a funny, intelligent show that shouldn't be ignored due to the actions of its star.
Indeed, there were those who enjoyed the show, and the others who knew what they missed thanks to a fantastic word-of-mouth. So we subscribed... and I'll never forget that "Hallelujah" feeling when I finally discovered the Huxtables. We enjoyed the "Physican of the Year" then the "First Day of School" episodes but the show won us with "The Juicer". There was something unique in the way Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad) handled the incident with little Rudy (Keshia Knight Pulliam), and such a beautiful moment when Cliff (Bill Cosby) hugged her. And I still remember that glee in my Dad's eyes in the following scene where Clair, like a good lawyer, confronted Cliff to his own responsibility and he had no other choice than naughtily pleading guilty. No other show had such inspiring displays of good education and a marital chemistry that was very sexy under a family-friendly cover. The show became an instant favorite.
To make it better, my father had to record it for his sister who didn't have the decoder, which ended with an interesting collection of Cosby VHS tapes we've been borrowing from her for years and years. These are not gratuitous anecdotes, they illustrate the power of the best family sitcom: to be deeply connected with your own family memories, this is how big 'Cosby' was at that time. And I still remember my 4-year old brother answering the phone saying "Huxtable Residence", imitating Cosby's groovy moves at the end of the second season's intro or "zerbutting" on my father's cheek the show affected our life. And when I heard the "Night time" song in the film "Ray", I immediately remembered that hilarious anniversary episode, and "I Just Called" still brings me back to that magnificent episode with Stevie Wonder. "The Cosby Show" was THE wonder and we were familiar with names like Malcolm-Jamal Warner or Tempest Bledsoe before any Bruce Willis or Julia Roberts and even at 8, I understood why the show was titled by the name of his main actor.
On a sad note, this is why I've been thinking for a long time that Malcolm Jamal Warner died: because my grandma told me that 'the son of Cosby' died, it was his real-life son, Ennis, shot dead in 1997. And the fact that Cosby and Huxtable almost make one might explain why the series is being tarnished by the rape scandal, to the point it's pulled off the air almost everywhere. It was even more revealing when my favorite website made a list of the greatest TV dads and overlooked Cliff Huxtable. But should all the harm Cosby might have done cancel all the positive things the show provided? Can we just ignore a show of such historical magnitude and with so many great messages to the youth?
Remember the pilot, Theo confesses, during a heartfelt speech, that he might not be a doctor or a lawyer like his parents but that they should love him as a son anyway. The long pause, followed by the audiences applauses are instantly swept off by Cliff's iconic answer "that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard"... there's no pride in being an underachiever if you give up before trying. Cosby was the father of five children, whose names started with 'E' as in Excellency, and his hymn to efforts was not just typical 80's inspirational stuff, it was ahead of its time because it made the 'obvious' race issue look insignificant. We never cared for the Huxtables family being Black, they were a regular successful family "happening to be Black"... but it certainly encouraged many Black young people to go to college. Should such a positive model be banned from TV?
The show was also ahead of its time on another topic: feminism. Forget "Girls", "Desperate Housewives" or "Sex and the City", "The Cosby Show" was the first feminist show and with four daughters and a mother of such classy strong-mindedness as Clair Huxtable, it was unavoidable although this "battle of the sexes" aspect annoyed me a little when the "woman-always-right" became a pattern for redundant and uninspired episodes (from the "perfect parents with imperfect kids", the series became about a "perfect mother"). I also never bought the way poor Elvin (Geoffrey Owens) was branded as a macho when most of the time, he should have grown a pair and tells Sondra (Sabrina Lebeauf) how he felt, but I guess it makes it all the more ironic that the show's reputation is ruined because of a scandal involving women.
Now, I wish I could speak about the best and the worst of the show, how I could pinpoint the start of the decline with Rudy's story episode in Season 4, the attempt to replace her with Olivia not to mention the infamous Muppet nightmare (literally), but the series needs kinder words, reminding how important it was back then, when every 80's/90's sitcom, whether to copy the model ("Growing Pains") or work on a blue-collar level ("Roseanne"), was an answer to "The Cosby Show", starting with its the biggest rival, "The Simpsons", still airing today maybe because, contrarily to "The Cosby Show", kids couldn't age and time was frozen, so the appeal stayed the same. And now, every sitcom is an answer to "The Simpsons", but that doesn't diminish the legacy of its 'big brother' "The Cosby Show", on the contrary. And ignoring this legacy by pulling the show off the air is as harmful to the show as it is to the people it inspired and can inspire in the future.
And speaking for myself, I can't ignore the show just as I can't ignore my best family memories, which the show is part of.
The program chronicles the amusing interactions of the Huxtable family, who live in a lovely, well appointed Brooklyn brownstone. The father, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, is an obstetrician and the mother, Claire, a lawyer. They have five children ranging from kindergarten to college age...Sondra (initially off at Princeton), Denise (a funky rebel), Theo (a charming underachiever eventually revealed as dyslexic), Vanessa (originally an insecure pre teen), and Rudy (the cute, precocious, and rather spoiled baby of the family). As the series progresses, four of the offspring go off to college, various romances come & go, Sondra marries med school student Elvin and has twins (Nelson & Winnie, after the Mandelas), and Denise weds the divorced sailor, Martin, who has an adorable little girl, Olivia. The Huxtable family is eventually also joined by Claire's teenage cousin, Pam.
The cast are all stellar in their roles...Phylicia Rashad (Claire), Sandra Le Beuf (Sondra), Lisa Bonet (Denise), Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Theo), Tempestt Bledsoe (Vanessa), Keshia Knight Pulliam (Rudy), and of course the incredible Bill Cosby himself as Heathcliff. Personally, my favourite character apart from Heathcliff himself, is the charismatic, cool ne'er do well, Theo. I also love his sidekick, Cockroach, as well as Rudy's hilarious little friend, Kenny!
In a sense, it's a bit of a modern Father Knows Best, albeit well laced with humour. The perpetually funny but wise Heathcliff has an amazing relationship with his children, a treasure trove of sound fatherly advice, and especially endless patience. He never loses his temper but always deals good naturedly with every challenge...whether an outrageous outfit, dead pet goldfish, poor report card, unsavoury boyfriend, dropping out of college or surprise marriage announcement. One of my favourite episodes depicts Cliff demonstrating to Theo just how rapidly his puny salary will disappear if he doesn't get a college education, especially if he has a girlfriend! Not only is Cliff a wonderful father, but also the obstetrician every female viewer wishes could deliver her babies! The chemistry and banter between him and wife, Claire, are both fabulous.
My sole complaint may not be popular, but I believe this series strengthens the myth that women can truly do it all. Claire has a successful law practice (bringing home a briefcase, presumably containing work), maintains a fairly large and spotless home, prepares lovely meals, always appears drop dead gorgeous & stylishly clad, enjoys outings with her children as well as social engagements with her husband, and invariably responds positively (never too weary) to her charming but rakish husband's bedroom advances. Above all, she's an exemplary mother to her FIVE children, always appropriately in the know regarding their homework assignments, school antics, relationships with friends, college or dating woes, and parties they shouldn't be attending. Really, she's quite a remarkable lady...and all with no sign of any maid, live in nanny, or significant involvement of her husband and youngsters with household chores.
However, though many aspects may not be realistic, it's a wonderful series overall. The Cosby Show presents uplifting programming for Afro Americans (and everyone else), frequently bringing into discussion Martin Luther King Jr. and other such inspiring personages. A tip of my hat to this series and all the entertainment contributions of Bill Cosby, who must surely be one of the funniest human beings alive. The show provides a humorous take on many everyday family challenges and generally speaking, bears a wealth of positive family messages, all conveyed in a way that induces a chuckle.
Some shows are for a time, but this show most of all, will be on as long as time exists.
For the critics of the show, it was a little ideal and a bit unrealistic for the people who say that I say this: THis is TV but TV is based on real life, and if you sit for 30 minutes in any household, it will be boring as all crap, and more importantly a lot of work goes into creating & writing sitcoms, critics should be writers themselves before they criticize a show, because is too easy to criticize but not to rework it to be accessible as you see it Thank you
It is a constant reminder of how greatness falls
In my memory, three things changed that. There was the civil rights movement of course and its nobility in peaceful stands for justice. There was the profound decision by Coca-Cola to fashion ads that portrayed a nation of many colors. Many people overlook the significance of this and its powerful effect, cinematic equality.
And then there was Cosby. Here was a man with practices affability. No joke was demeaning. All jokes had to do with family, kinship, a world with no disharmony and only small everyday events. He did not invent domestic humor. TeeVee had it cooking long before he arrived. But he did it better than anyone then and since. His warmth made it. And he had a black face.
That face is the device on which all episodes of the show rely. A setup, a comment and then Bill's face reacting. A simple formula. Simple jokes; powerful face. I wouldn't want to overemphasize his intent or impact. He happened to be a good man at the right time, but no less obsessed and commercial than Opra, who inherited and demeaned the role.
Revisiting these shows is revisiting history, a noble history of a noble time before the US found another way to marginalize: let kids do it by themselves.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
The patriarch of this loving, and well structured nuclear family was none other than veteran actor/comedian Bill Cosby himself. Cosby played an obstetrician named Heathcliff Huxtable, with a loving,loyal yet very independent and professional wife Claire, played by Phyllicia Rashad.
Cliff and Claire a litigation attorney by trade, had five kids ranging in age from kindergarten to college. Rudy, the youngest (Keshia Knight Pulliam), Vanessa (Tempest Bledsoe), Theo (Cliff and Clair's only son played by Malcolm Jamal Warner), Denise (Lisa Bonet) and oldest child Sandra (Sabrina Lebeauf) living away at Princeton.
"The Cosby Show" went through the trials and tribulations of all of the kids growing up and their adolescent problems. Even though the sitcom was centered around the dean of comedy, Bill Cosby, the only irreplaceable member of this show, the other actors were well cast and their characters were well drawn out. Claire was also fabulous as the 80's do it all mother, hard working and strong willed yet conscientious and nurturing to all of her children.
Of course Bill Cosby was perfectly cast as the patriarch of the Huxtable clan. He was a father who could do it all. Spend quality time with all his kids, always give them good advice, tend to all of their problems many of them being silly and trivial, and still hold down a great full time career.
There was one thing I always loved and admired about Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, the father. He never lost his temper with his kids, despite their immaturity and bad decisions.At least Heathcliff never showed it in his demeanor to his kids,whether it was Theo failing in school, or Sandra living in squalor with her husband Elvin, or Vanessa refusing to leave Cliff and Claire alone for the night because she was having nightmares of a R-Rated movie Claire forbid her to see.
Cliff never lost his temper with Denise, even with all of her contemptuous boyfriends, her weird outfits, and high strung personality. Densise never really fit well into the feel good, well structured authoritarian Huxtable household. She was always like a rebel without a cause, and when her rebellious boyfriend (Kristoff St. John) broke bread with Cliff and Claire for the first time, Denise decided to join his cause, even though she didn't really know what it was. David James was a vegetarian and not for ethical or environmental reasons, but because he had a vendetta against the medical establishment. He also had a vendetta against the legal establishment too, Claire's profession.
When David came to dinner with intentionally wearing mismatched socks, he looked like the perfect boyfriend for bandanna wearing, nose piercing, totally 80's hip Denise. But she quickly broke it off with him. HE WASN'T HER TYPE.
"The Cosby Show" drew light on many of these new teen fashion trends, which used to make parents blood boil, but today are commonplace. Remember the episode when Theo came home with an earring, and was desperately trying to hide it from his dad. Today half of all young males who weren't born when this episode originally aired in 1984 have their ears pierced.
Cliff always knew the right things to say to all kids, the good ones as well as the rebels. He was kind, considerate, sociable, yet still fatherly and authoritarian. Bill Cosby himself was always a master at relating to kids of all ages, from toddlers all the way through the oldest college students. It was fun seeing his character Heathcliff play fatherly figure to some of Denise and Theo's weird and drug using friends, yet also be able to warm up to insecure Vanessa and hers, and of course little Rudy and her little gang of rug-rats.
Cliff had so many great moments with Rudy, like when he was trying to teach her that eventually everything that lives, dies, like her poor little goldfish "Lamont", that she kept feeding even though it was floating on its back. Rudy was upset but got over it quickly, and Cliff got carried away with the goldfish's "funeral".
Vanessa unlike Rudy always had a problem with insecurity and lack of perseverance. She would always try a new activity, but would lack the motivation to excel at what she did. This reminds me of myself. This just brought out some of the immaturity of the Huxtable kids.
The only major problem I had with "The Cosby Show" is that it did not accurately and truthfully portray the average middle class American family, and certainly did not portray the average, urban African American family. How many average black families, all right, how many white families live in a beautiful Brooklyn townhouse where the father is a successful medical doctor, and the mother is a successful lawyer? And of course both still have more than enough time to devote to their kids without a live in nanny. I think that two lesser known but above average sitcoms from the 1970's "What's Happening!!" and "Good Times" were a more realistic portrayal of urban African American life.
"The Cosby Show" was written more in the style of feel good family sitcoms from the 1950's and 1960's like "The Brady Bunch", "My Three Sons" and "Leave it to Beaver", than a realistic portrayal of the mainstream African American family. Nevertheless "The Cosby Show" is among the fifty greatest sitcoms in television history. This show was a Thursday night 1980's classic.
I did see a comic book cartoon parody of the show I found hilarious. The point was that it showed a too-clean view of a family of five. For example, a house with five children would be far messier than shown on a television show. Also, when a family doctor comes home from his office at the end of the day, he would be typically exhausted from all the screaming kids and other headaches that a family doctor goes through.
If you removed the Cosbys and substituted a white family instead, the show would hardly be different.
While this could be mistakenly attributed to the last seasons of the show where the wheels fell of the premise and it started relying on its laurels, the real truth is that the Cosby Show had no real bite to it. As TV, it seemed to work because it was on every week and in the same spot so you could set your watch by it. But if one catches a few reruns in which the show is aired twice or more, the holes start showing. The Cosby Show doesn't have humor as much as it's a kickback to the pseudo-moralistic 1950s bland television in which something happens, someone finds out, and a moral is shot out. While a common criticism of this show is that it does not accurate represent race, the real truth is that the show doesn't represent human beings in any way, shape, or form. There are no real issues handled in a realistic manner. There are no real characterization outside of archetypes that date back to "Leave It To Beaver." Theo could be interchanged with Wally Cleaver or Eddie Haskell at various points in the show's run. Bill Cosby's character could be Gomez Addams mixed with the ghost of Dick Van Dyke. The lack of true characterization is what dooms this show. If anything, the Cosby Show was able to be a classic because it was right on the precipice of the old sitcom mold and what was to come but not yet formed style of television making. It did what it did well, but what it did wasn't anything groundbreaking. The Cosby Show could have been about homosexual Martian plumbers who collected Spawn figures, and the archetypes would have been exactly the same from every sitcom that came before it. Race wasn't a factor outside of publicity. Anybody could have inhabited those roles and made a classic. They did: it was a mold used for various sitcoms since the rise of popular television.
That said, the show just isn't interesting anymore. Now that Cosby's best-known show has faded into the ether for fifteen-plus years, its lack of characterization really plays against it. While most people alive and watching then could easily recognize the plot of the show, the fun is just no longer there. Outside of the new and the generally accepted opinion that the show was funny at parts, the show just has nothing to it. Most of the actors on it have faded into the ether along with the show or have done nothing of real consequence since then. They're not untalented, but the show gave them nothing to stand out with. With archetypes for characters, nobody stands out unless the plot directs them to.
In short, the show that represented the best years NBC has ever had is now just a forgotten relic without any punch in a world full of more interesting programming. While it is a piece of the past, there's nothing to recommend it outside of nostalgia. While this is unfortunate, it was the same fate that befell most of the shows that it based off of. Considering the fate of that sitcom mold, perhaps the Cosby Show can claim some sort of victory. At least it used the mold when it was somewhat respectable, and not tarnished by has-beens with the last names of Belushi and Sheen.
Not a good ending, but not as bad as it could have been. Too bad the DVDs haven't been given any respect.