24 July 2016 | ElMaruecan82
Too important a legacy to be ignored... or (sadly) banned from TV...
In the late 80's, the newborn second channel of Morocco provided some of the best programs we ever saw, yet without the decoder, we could only enjoy a few hours of non-encrypted programs, which was fine
until they aired "The Cosby Show".
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.