DAR TV: The Cosby Show

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-Black sitcoms are something we here at DAR specialize in. From the golden era of the 90s to the resurgence of today, we talk some of the best sitcoms in the history of television. Today is no different, but it is rather controversial. After some allegations and issues that Bill Cosby had in the news, which I'm sure you heard, The Cosby Show was removed from a number of outlets and harder to find. I believe it's on Hulu now at least, but for the most part, The Cosby Show is hard to find in general and we are well aware of why that is. But, the controversy is not why we are here today. Before the controversy, before the drama, before the allegations were really prevalent to the legacy of Cosby, we remembered and loved him for being Heathcliff Huxtable on our TV screens. For 8 seasons, we watched Heathcliff, Clair, and the entire family weave through hilarious moments and the normal middle class family dysfunction. The Cosby Show allowed us to see a black upper middle class family on our TV and aside from maybe one or two shows, we've never witnessed that before. In truth, what made The Cosby Show such a pleasure to watch was the imagery and the hilarity within real life situations.

Our mission today is to look back on one of the greatest sitcoms of all time and examine the flaws and best episodes of the show. Does it still hold up today? Let's get into it.

As controversial as the show's namesake has proven to be, I'll say this: The Cosby Show wasn't that bad. I know, you were probably expecting me to rip it a new one and defecate all over the idea of having Raven-Symone come in and whatnot. But, nah. I can't do it. If nothing else, we got A Different World out of The Cosby Show. And we got Lisa Bonet's almost ageless ass out of it. That there is worth the price of admission.

Getting back on topic (and getting out of possible sexist commentary on Lisa Bonet), True asked me to talk about my favorite episodes. I'll be honest. A lot of the episodes blur together for me with regards to The Cosby Show. It's not that the series was interchangeable, though. It's more so that many of the lessons learned in any given episode were present in the series as a whole. Working hard, not forgetting your roots (kind of), embracing Blackness (even though it wasn't as in-depth as some of its contemporaries), and building strong, Black families.

That's some shit I can get behind. Sure, The Cosby Show was corny as hell at times. But, Bill Cosby is corny as hell, so that's expected. However, it's a series that, if you need an introduction to what it was to be Black in the 1980s, you need to watch. Was it unrelatable at times? Yeah. But, it inspired a generation of people like me to get up and be better than our parents. So, Bill Cosby? I hate what you've done, I hate your ageist comments, I hate your adultery and sexual assaults, but I don't hate your show.

It's actually, with its flaws, pretty damn good.

As much as I'm appalled and disgusted by the recent allegations, crimes and plain stupidity and idiocy of some of the actors/actresses involved in "The Cosby Show", I can't deny that it was my favorite sitcom on TV (until I discovered Fresh Prince). It populated TV channels since 1984, but it wasn't until a couple years after it aired that I started watching it. The Cosby Show was such a highlight of the sitcom lineup and I was immediately a fan and ended up watching every episode in its 8 year/season lifespan.

The Huxtables were a upper middle class family from Brooklyn. A lawyer mom, an obstetrician father and 5 kids consisting of a college graduate and the other 4 in school. It was a hardly a show I could (personally) relate to, but somehow it was inviting, entertaining and the humor was one that made sense to kids, adolescents and of course adults. Usually I can identify my favorite characters, but this cast was so well put together that I really can't choose. Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad, Lisa Bonet, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Tempestt Bledsoe and the rest of the cast truly convinced us they were a family. The sibling arguments, the disciplinary conversations and the day to day drama that came from having a house full of teenagers was executed almost perfectly. I attribute that to Bill Cosby using elements of his experiences with real life son Ennis and his own stand up comedy persona. He took advice and tips from his real life wife Camille and while staying true to family dynamics, he also incorporated "lessons" in breaking stereotypes of race and class.

It was these details that allowed people from any background, any age and any country to enjoy the 30 minutes we would spend each day watching the Huxtables. Since I've seen every episode and each is hilarious and fitting in its own way, I'll take you through the three episodes that had me laughing hysterically and have stayed my favorites so many years later, starting with the third.

Now Vanessa was always the "goody goody", and she always managed to avoid situations that were problematic or would make her "parents" mad. She was always a studious girl, disciplined and carried herself with poise and respect while maintaining friends of the same caliber, so imagine the excitement for us fans/viewers when we saw on Season 6 the episode titled "Off To See The Wretched". Essentially, this is Vanessa like we hadn't quite seen. Her and some friends "borrow" a car to go to Baltimore to see a rock concert. She's deceitful, she's manipulative and of course the entire situation goes from bad to worse when the car is reported stolen, and they get screwed out of their tickets and have their money stolen. The reason why I love this episode: as outrageous as the entire situation seems, it played out relatively believable. It was entertaining while knowing Vanessa was going to be in so much trouble when her parents found out. Her mom played that very well. She was infuriated and you felt the moment through the screen. It was just a very well written and (believably) acted episode that made Vanessa a more connectable character.

My second favorite episode of the entire series is in the first season where viewers are still getting to know the characters and personalities. Everything just seemed a lot more humorous, the acting was very exaggerated and really served to draw audiences in. I credit that to episode 8 titled "A Shirt Story". This is where Theo is the one who supplies all the laughs when he buys a "Gordon Gartrelle" shirt that's overly expensive for his first date with Christine, but Cliff makes him return it. His sister Denise assures him (and has us viewers believing) she can replicate the shirt and it comes out looking like an absolute disaster. What kills me is Theo's reaction! It's over the top, he's whiny, impatient and damn near crying explaining all the things wrong with the shirt, while insulting his sister. The back and forth epitomizes sibling disputes and it doesn't end there. He goes to his father for sympathy which is met by hysterical laughter. Needless to say, Cliff ends up giving him the genuine "Gordon Gartrelle" and Theo is made happy once again.

And my favorite episode ever (and it's not even close) is in season 7 titled the "Last BBQ". This is just filled with humor, marital disputes and more laughs every step of the way. Words will NEVER do it justice, but here's the rundown: Theo is planning a belated bachelor party for his brother-in-law Martin, part and parcelled with strippers. This creates a family wide divide between the men and the women. Obviously the women hate the idea, saying it is demeaning and dated, while the men think it's great. As the family, including Kenny the neighbor's kid who is best friends with Rudy, gather for a backyard BBQ, the tensions rise and the bickering escalates. Everyone is angry, upset and try to avoid conflict, but can't control the outbursts. Cliff assures everyone the BBQ sauce he's using works as an aphrodisiac, but no one really pays attention. As this situation progresses, we see apologies happen and couples start to make up. Cliff is proud of the BBQ sauce until 6 year old Kenny eats it and eyes Rudy. The entire thing is pure comedy. It's women's typical moodiness, misunderstandings and wild overthought accusations at its finest, while simultaneously showing men's shallowness, argumentativeness and stubbornness. This episode is beyond entertaining with unmatched hilarity.

There you have it, my three favorite episodes that I still watch back albeit in terrible quality, 4 part pieces on YouTube, but it's worth it. They still make me laugh now as much as they did back in the very early '90's.

The Cosby Show with its 202 episodes and 8 year run on TV managed to unify audiences in providing a family dynamic that truly went against the norm at the time. With a cast that meshed so well together, the Cosby Show didn't take long to become a household favorite and a timeless classic.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-My favorite moments on the show come from two things: the family dynamic and the hilarity in brought and my love for the women of the show. Ah yes, young True was enamored with Denise and Sandra for some reason and I'm not ashamed of it many years later. I also found the morr secondary characters like Cockroach, Martin, and Alvin to be hilarious in spurts. As for favorite episodes? I'd have to give it to the episode where Theo gets a shirt made by Denise, and it turns out horribly. Or, the one where the family all comes together to sing one huge jazzy blues number and Rudy steals the show with her hilarious facial expressions. Or the time when they switched roles and had the men become pregnant, and though I wasn't the biggest fan of the angle, the fallout and the scenes were laugh out loud funny. With 202 episodes and 8 seasons, pinning down a solid list of favorite episodes is damn near impossible. There's so many to choose from and that might be the biggest thing about The Cosby Show. It never really gets old, that's why it was in syndication for so long. That's why we loved it so much in general. It was entertaining, even with the slightly preachy messages and lifestyle that many of us watching couldn't relate to. It provided a glimmer of hope and a positive black family image when it was most needed. That's why I'll always appreciate The Cosby Show.



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