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.
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.
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.
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.