The revolutionary thing about The Cosby Show was always how ordinary it was… with one little twist. Here, after all, was the same family sitcom we’d been watching for 30 years, since Father Knows Best, The fact that the Huxtables were black was of no importance, and of supreme importance. We were supposed to notice, and not to notice. What helped on the latter end was that the jokes were impeccably constructed, having come largely from Cosby’s road-tested, time-honored stand-up comedy act. Or drawn from Cosby’s own life; the pilot’s centerpiece, in which Cliff (Cosby) demonstrates to teenage son Theo (Malcolm Jamal Warner) how much it would cost him to live on his own, using Monopoly money, is something Bill Cosby did with his own son, Ennis. As for Cliff’s warning to Theo, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out,” that was from his act (and not, let’s hope, from his life).
Everything fired on all cylinders, and that, after all, is why America would make the series a top hit for eight seasons – not for the subtle social messages, but because it was just plain funny, and because it hit home for everyone.
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