On this day in comedy on September 20, 1984, The Cosby Show premiered on NBC!
This sitcom revitalized the tired formula that was a few short steps away from being declared a dinosaur and pronounced extinct. Then in swooped Bill Cosby with the perfect sitcom for the throwback Reagan Era. The Cosby Show brought back the type of family entertainment where the entire clan could gather around the glowing box for a half-hour of wholesome, shared laughter. The man who’d built a solid comedy career based on universal and family themes had a show about universal themes surrounded by his television family.
The Cosby Show was all about the upper-crust African-American brood, the Huxtables. The dad was a doctor. The mom, a lawyer. The kids – adorable and their suburb problems were the kind any race of kids could have, which was the point. The sitcom, like Cosby the comedian, was cultural without being racial. You don’t get dubbed, “America’s Dad” without reminding people of their own or an idolized version. Thus, Bill Cosby had succeeded in fooling everybody . . . with a colorblind sitcom.
Created by Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner (former ABC executives) the show boasts an amiable cast. Lisa Bonet, Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Keshia Knight-Pulliam, Tempest Bledsoe and Sabrina LeBeauf (in the part originally meant for Whitney Houston, who turned it down to concentrate on being a fulltime recording artist) played the kids and Phylicia Rashad played wife Clair Huxtable. Other cast members included Joseph C. Phillips, Raven Symone, Erika Alexander and Geoffrey Owens.
The Cosby Show was a smash hit; one of the few in television history to rank #1 for 5 consecutive seasons. It was the gold standard for TV sitcoms thereafter and had a huge viewership on its finale. However, in November 2014 reruns were yanked from the majority of markets carrying the show in syndication based on multiple sexual allegations against its star, Bill Cosby. Some broadcasters even eliminated Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids from their schedule as well as I-Spy (two of Cosby’s other shows from the past).
Despite efforts to wipe the program from memory based on the personal actions of its star, the collaborative product assembled by the remaining cast and technicians has a legacy that remains intact. The Cosby Show won 6 Emmys, 2 Golden Globe Awards, 3 NAACP Awards, a Peabody Award and 11 People’s Choice Awards. It’s received honors from TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, Time Magazine USA Today and Bravo; spawned 2 albums and an alter ego (Dr. Hibbert) on The Simpsons.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
Check out this clip: