ISSUE DATE: Sept. 28, 1987
ALSO APPEARED: Jan. 27, 1997
Perhaps no performer in history has chronicled his life cycle so thoroughly, or so publicly, as Bill Cosby. Certainly no one has been so successful at it. Even Cosby, a man fond of outsize cigars and outlandish hyperbole, would have trouble overstating the scope of his popularity. As main attraction and chief architect of The Cosby Show, television’s No. 1-rated program for three straight seasons, he dominates the medium as no star has since the days of Lucille Ball and Milton Berle. And he has parlayed his TV success into a multimedia empire that seems to grow like the tall tales the young stand-up comic once spun out of his Philadelphia childhood.
The Cosby Show, whose fourth season begins on NBC this week, has already earned a chapter in the TV history books. Its overall rating last season — 34.9, representing 63 million viewers — was not just its best in three seasons but the best for any TV series since Bonanza in 1964-65. The show’s success has created its own bonanza on the syndication market: Cosby Show reruns, currently being sold to local stations, have earned a record-smashing $600 million, and the total could eventually top $1 billion; a third of that will go to Cosby himself. Meanwhile a Cosby Show spinoff, A Different World (starring Lisa Bonet as Cosby’s TV daughter Denise, now off at college), debuts this week on NBC. With the coveted time slot following Cosby on Thursday nights, it could easily be another huge hit.
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