The Cosby Show, by almost any measure, was the definitive 80s sitcom. Based on the real life and stand up routine of Bill Cosby, the show revolved around the Huxtable family. Patriarch Dr. Cliff Huxtable, his lawyer wife Clair, and their five kids. A show that really doesn’t need much of an introduction, on to the tale of the tape…
Relevance: While comics like Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx made their name by telling jokes aimed square at the racial differences between us, Cosby’s humor was built more around being a father, a husband, and the ups and downs of family. I make this point again to say that while we all saw the superficial element, The Cosby Show rarely, if ever, addressed race in a direct way. The culture was always there from beginning to end, but with the success of the show wasn’t necessarily because of, nor in spite of the family being black. They just…were.
Legacy: Where to begin? Well, the direct ‘legacy’ of course was A Different World, which was impactful enough to earn its own place on this countdown. On the business side, The Cosby Show turned Thursday nights into “Must See Television” (not Friends or Seinfeld, The Cosby Show came first.) Speaking of Jerry Seinfeld, him and many, many other stand up comedians owe him a debt of gratitude for establishing the ‘stand up comedian turning his act into a sitcom’ genre. There are literally too many to name at this point, but The Cosby Show proved how successful that could be. Am I missing anything? Oh yes, in terms of why it stands where it stands on this countdown, for the vast number of black (and white) kids who had never seen a black doctor OR a black lawyer in their lives, The Cosby Show planted the idea in their heads that yes, it’s possible to have a black family like this. Can not be underestimated.
Craft: Nobody was ‘looking’ for a show like this, to have the impact it had, when it came out. Even in reruns and syndication, The Cosby Show holds up extremely well. I personally will always have a soft spot for the scene where Cliff educates Theo about finances using Monopoly money, but you can look through every season and find all kinds of (clean) and funny segments. If casting is 80 percent of the battle, then Phylicia Rashad, Lisa Bonet, Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Tempest Bledsoe, and Keisha Knight-Pulliam deserve all the credit in the world.
Crossover: The undisputed number one show in the ratings for a good five or six years (until The Simpsons came along). Winner of Emmys, Golden Globes, Image Awards. Cliff Huxtable still wins polls as the best TV dad ever. Not best black TV dad, best Dad. Nuff said.
Apollo: Come on now…
And on that note, I’m off to find me a woman and start my own Huxtable family. The most important Black TV show of all time next month.