Television in the 1980’s, for the most part, was very, well, white. Then Bill Cosby came along.
The Cosby Show (1984-1992), revolutionized television. Whereas previous African-American shows had their characters in settings that many lived in at the time, The Cosby Show was different. The Huxtables were an upper middle class family in Brooklyn. Cliff (Bill Cosby) was a doctor, his wife Clair (Phylicia Rashad) was a lawyer. They had five children ranging in age from college to early elementary school.
While the show contained the usual emotional schmaltz and “special episodes”, this show was also funny and spoke to the audience, regardless of the labels they used. Unfortunately, the show’s legacy has been altered by the scandal revolving around it’s star.
In 1987, Lisa Bonet’s character, Denise, was spun off into a series of her own, A Different World. Airing until 1993, the show followed Denise as she attended a historically all black college. Due to what was understood at the time differences with the show’s producers, Lisa Bonet left, but the show lived on.
While there are certain elements in terms of fashion, music and lingo that are dated, the show lives on because of the human stories and human lives of the characters. And, to it’s credit, it encouraged and still encourages some kids to attend college who had not considered going.
Do I recommend them? Well yes, but I can’t watch The Cosby Show reruns without thinking of Bill Cosby in a different light.