The Cosby Show

The Cosby Show Information

The Cosby Show is an American television situation comedy starring Bill Cosby, which aired for eight seasons on NBC from September 20, 1984 until April 30, 1992. The show focuses on the Huxtable family, an upper middle-class African-American family living in Brooklyn, New York.

According to TV Guide, the show "was TV's biggest hit in the 1980s, and almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre and NBC's ratings fortunes". Originally, the show had been pitched to ABC, which rejected it. Entertainment Weekly stated that The Cosby Show helped to make possible a larger variety of shows based on people of African descent, from In Living Color to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The Cosby Show was based on comedy routines in Cosby's standup act, which were based on his family life. Other sitcoms, such as Home Improvement and Everybody Loves Raymond, would later follow that pattern. The show spawned the spin-off A Different World, which ran for six seasons from 1987 to 1993.


The show focuses on the Huxtable family, an upper upper middle-class African-American family living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, New York, at 10 Stigwood Avenue. The patriarch is Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, an obstetrician, son of a prominent jazz trombonist. The matriarch is his wife, attorney Clair Huxtable née Hanks. The two characters are then followed by their five children, four daughters and one son; Sondra, Denise, Theodore (Theo for short), Vanessa and Rudy. Despite its comedic tone, the show sometimes involves serious subjects, such as son Theo's experiences dealing with dyslexia, inspired by Cosby's son Ennis, who was also dyslexic. Teenage pregnancy is also a topic when Denise's friend, Veronica, played by Lela Rochon, becomes pregnant.


Main article: List of The Cosby Show episodes


Main article: Pilot (The Cosby Show)
The Cosby Show pilot episode uses the same title sequence as the rest of the first season, and is widely regarded as the 'first episode'. However, it is notable for a number of differences from the remainder of the series.

In the pilot, the Huxtables have only four children. Following the pilot, the Huxtables have five children, with the addition of their eldest daughter, Sondra (Sabrina Le Beauf), who is mentioned in episode four and appears first in episode ten. The character was created when Bill Cosby wanted the show to express the accomplishment of successfully raising a child (i.e., a college graduate). Whitney Houston was considered for the role of Sondra Huxtable. Sabrina LeBeauf almost missed out on the role because she is only ten years younger (b. 1958) than Phylicia Rash?d (b. 1948), who played her mother.

Bill Cosby's character is called "Clifford" in the early episodes of the first season (as evidenced by his name plate on the exterior of the Huxtable home). His name was later switched to "Heathcliff". Additionally, Vanessa refers to Theo as "Teddy" twice in the dining room scene.

The interior of the Huxtables' home features an entirely different living room from subsequent episodes, and different color schemes in the dining room and the master bedroom. Throughout the remainder of the series, the dining room is reserved for more formal occasions.


Conception and development

In the early 1980s, Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner, two former executives at ABC, left the network to start their own production company. At ABC, they had overseen sitcoms such as Mork & Mindy, Three's Company and Welcome Back, Kotter. The two decided in order to get a sitcom to sell for their fledgling company, they needed a big name behind it. Bill Cosby, who during the 1970s starred in two failed sitcoms, produced award-winning stand-up comedy albums, and had roles in several different films, was relatively quiet during the early 1980s.

Outside of his work on his cartoon series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, he was doing little in the fields of film and television. The two watched his stand-up comedy film, Bill Cosby: Himself. They loved the routine and decided they wanted to build a television series around a comedian's subject material which, with Cosby, was observations of life and family.

After meeting with them, Cosby returned to Carsey and Werner with his own ideas: the family would be blue-collared, with a stay-at-home mother and a limousine driving father with two sons and two daughters.

Carsey and Werner were convinced by Cosby later on, as a change of heart to make the family well-off financially, by making the mother a lawyer and the father a doctor.

Cosby wanted the program to be educational, reflecting his own background in education. He also insisted that the program be taped in New York City instead of Los Angeles, where most television programs were taped. The Huxtable home exterior was filmed at 10 St. Luke's Place near 7th Avenue in Manhattan's Greenwich Village.

Production notes

The earliest episodes of the series were videotaped at NBC's Brooklyn studios (now owned by JC Studios). The network later sold that building, and production moved to the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens.

During its original run at NBC, it was one of five successful sitcoms on the network that featured predominately African-American casts. The other sitcoms were 227 (1985"1990), Amen (1986"1991), Cosby Show spin-off A Different World (1987"1993), and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990"1996).

Although the cast and characters were predominately African American, the program was unusual in that issues of race were rarely mentioned when compared to other situation comedies of the time, such as The Jeffersons. However, The Cosby Show had African-American themes, such as the Civil Rights Movement, and it frequently promoted African-American and African culture represented by artists and musicians such as Jacob Lawrence, Miles Davis, James Brown, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miriam Makeba. The show's spin-off, A Different World dealt with issues of race more often.

The series finale aired during the race-related 1992 Los Angeles riots, with Cosby quoted in media at the time pleading for peace.

Theme song and opening sequence

The show's theme music, "Kiss Me", was composed by Stu Gardner and Bill Cosby. Seven versions of this theme were used during the run of the series, making it one of the few television series to use multiple versions of the same theme song over the course of a series.

Due to legal complications regarding the background mural, the season seven opening was replaced with the one from the previous season. The original season seven opening, with slight modifications, was used in the eighth and final season.


Main article: List of The Cosby Show characters
  • Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, OB-GYN (202 episodes)
  • Phylicia Rash?d (credited as Phylicia Ayers-Allen before marriage in 1985) as Clair Olivia Huxtable, Esq. (198 episodes)
  • Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theodore Aloysius "Theo" Huxtable (185 episodes)
  • Keshia Knight Pulliam as Rudith Lillian "Rudy" Huxtable (179 episodes)
  • Tempestt Bledsoe as Vanessa Huxtable (162 episodes)
  • Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable Kendall (seasons 1"3 and seasons 6"7; recurring in seasons 4 and 5) (106 episodes)
  • Sabrina Le Beauf as Sondra Huxtable-Tibideaux, Esq. (seasons 2"8; recurring in season 1) (55 episodes)
  • Geoffrey Owens as Dr. Elvin Tibideaux, M.D. (seasons 4"8; recurring in seasons 2 and 3) (45 episodes)
  • Raven-Symoné as Olivia Kendall (seasons 6"8) (68 episodes)
  • Joseph C. Phillips as LT Martin Kendall, USN (seasons 6 and 7, recurring in season 8) (21 episodes)
  • Erika Alexander as Pamela "Pam" Tucker (seasons 7 and 8) (20 episodes)


The show was noted for portraying only a certain portion of the African-American population. Conversely, it was praised for breaking traditional racial stereotypes, portraying African Americans who were educated and successful.

Broadcast history and ratings

The Cosby Show aired on Thursdays at 8:00pm for all eight seasons.

The Cosby Show is one of three television programs (All in the Family and American Idol being the others) that was #1 in the Nielsen ratings for 5 consecutive seasons.

Season Season Premiere Season Finale TV Season Ranking Households
(in millions)
1st September 20, 1984 May 9, 1985 1984"1985 #3 20.546 (24.2 rating)
2nd September 26, 1985 May 15, 1986 1985"1986 #1 28.948 (33.7 rating)
3rd September 25, 1986 May 7, 1987 1986"1987 #1 30.503 (34.9 rating)
4th September 24, 1987 April 28, 1988 1987"1988 #1 30.503 (34.4 rating)
5th October 6, 1988 May 11, 1989 1988"1989 #1 23.14 (25.6 rating)
6th September 24, 1989 May 3, 1990 1989"1990 #1 (tie with Roseanne) 21.27 (23.1 rating)
7th September 20, 1990 May 2, 1991 1990"1991 #5 15.92 (17.1 rating)
8th September 19, 1991 April 30, 1992 1991"1992 #18 13.81 (16.13 rating)


Carsey-Werner Distribution handles domestic and international distribution of the series, and has done so since 1997. In the United States, The Cosby Show began its television syndication run in September 1988 in broadcast syndication, shortly before the show's fifth season premiere, and was at the time distributed by Viacom; many stations that carried the series were Big Three network affiliates, though since the mid-1990s, the show has largely begun airing on independent stations and minor network affiliates.

Dallas-based KTVT (now a CBS owned-and-operated station), carried the series during the early 1990s, until that station dropped its status as an independent station and regional cable superstation in 1995. TBS, then a national cable superstation at the time it debuted on the channel, began carrying the series in 1999 and ran it for almost a decade. Fellow superstation WGN America began carrying the series shortly after, and continued to until September 2010. Nick at Nite began airing reruns of the series in March 2002. Sister network TV Land began airing reruns in 2004, however, unlike most series that have aired on sister channel Nick at Nite before moving to TV Land in the past and since then, up until September 2010, The Cosby Show was carried on both Nick at Nite and TV Land.

As of September 27, 2010, Centric airs the series. Malaysia's national TV broadcast channel RTM TV2 also airs the series, as does Canada's Crossroads Television System. In 2011, Netflix added the entire series to instant stream, and in 2012 the series was removed. In September 2012, TV Land once again began to air The Cosby Show.


The Cosby Show's producers created a spin-off series called A Different World that was built around the "Denise" character (portrayed by actress Lisa Bonet), the second of the Huxtables' four daughters. Initially, the new program dealt with Denise's life at Hillman College, the fictional historically black college from which her father, mother, and paternal grandfather had graduated. Denise was written out of A Different World after its inaugural season, due to Bonet's pregnancy, and the following season was revamped, with the addition of director Debbie Allen and new characters. Denise later became a recurring character on The Cosby Show for seasons four and five, and a regular again in seasons six and seven.

Awards and honors

Awards won

Emmy Awards

  • Outstanding Comedy Series (1985)
  • Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series (1985) " Michael Leeson and Ed. Weinberger for the pilot episode
  • Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series (1985) " Jay Sandrich for "The Younger Woman"
  • Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series (1986) " Jay Sandrich for "Denise's Friend"
  • Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series (1986) " Roscoe Lee Browne for "The Card Game"
  • Outstanding Editing for a Series - Multi-Camera Production (1986) " Henry Chan for "Full House"
Golden Globe Awards

  • Best TV Series " Comedy (1985)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series " Comedy " Bill Cosby (1985, 1986) 2 wins
NAACP Image Awards

  • Outstanding Comedy Series (1988)
  • Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series " Phylicia Rash?d (1988, 1989) 2 wins
  • Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series " Bill Cosby (1989, 1993) 2 wins
Peabody Award (1986)

People's Choice Awards

  • Favorite New TV Comedy Program (1985)
  • Favorite Male Performer in a New TV Program " Bill Cosby (1985)
  • Favorite Female Performer in a New TV Program " Phylicia Rash?d (1985)
  • Favorite TV Comedy Program (1985"89) 5 wins
  • Favorite Male TV Performer " Bill Cosby (1986"92) 7 wins
  • Favorite All-Around Male Entertainer " Bill Cosby (1986"88, 1990"91) 5 wins
  • Favorite Young TV Performer " Keshia Knight Pulliam (1988)
  • All-Time Favorite TV Program (1989)
  • Favorite Female TV Performer " Phylicia Rash?d (1989)
  • Favorite All-Around Male Star " Bill Cosby (1989)
  • Favorite TV Comedy Series (1990, 1992) 2 wins


Emmy Awards

  • Outstanding Comedy Series (1986"87) 2 nominations
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series " Phylicia Rash?d (1985"86) 2 nominations
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series " Lisa Bonet (1986)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series " Keshia Knight Pulliam (1986)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series " Malcolm-Jamal Warner (1986)
Golden Globe Awards

  • Best TV Series-Comedy (1986"87) 2 nominations
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series " Comedy " Bill Cosby (1987)

Other honors

  • 1993: TV Guide named The Cosby Show the All-Time Best Family Show in its issue celebrating 40 years of television.
  • 1997: TV Guide ranked the episode "Happy Anniversary" #54 on their list of the 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time
  • 1999: Entertainment Weekly placed show's debut at #24 in its list of the "100 Greatest Moments in Television"
  • 2002: TV Guide placed The Cosby Show at #28 in its list of the 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time
  • 2004: TV Guide ranked Cliff Huxtable number 1 on its 50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time list
  • 2004: Bravo ranked Cliff Huxtable #44 on its list of the 100 Greatest TV Characters
  • 2007: Time magazine placed the show on its unranked list of "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME"
  • 2007: USA Today's web site ranked the show as #8 in its list of the "top 25 TV moments of the past quarter century"
  • 2008: Entertainment Weekly selected Cliff Huxtable as the Dad for "The Perfect TV Family"


Two albums were produced that included various theme and background music from the show. The albums were presented by longtime Cosby collaborator Stu Gardner. They were:

  • A House Full of Love: Music from The Cosby Show (1986)
  • Total Happiness (Music from the Bill Cosby Show, Vol. II) (1987)

In popular culture

  • During the series' run, Cliff Huxtable frequently wore an array of knit sweaters that were often brightly colored and featured abstract, asymmetrical patterns or themes. The sweaters were designed and manufactured by Australian clothing company Coogi. They were dubbed "Cosby sweaters", a term that is used to describe sweaters that are generally deemed garish and unappealing. In 2008, Cosby's daughter Evin auctioned a batch of the sweaters that her father had kept on eBay. The proceeds of the sales went to the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation, a non-profit charity named for Ennis Cosby. Ennis, Cosby's only son, was murdered in 1997.
  • The character of Dr. Hibbert, who is featured on the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons, is modeled after Dr. Cliff Huxtable. The Simpsons writing staff decided to make Dr. Hibbert a parody of Cliff Huxtable after the Fox Network moved The Simpsons to Thursday nights airing opposite the top-rated The Cosby Show.

DVD releases

All eight seasons of The Cosby Show have been released on DVD in Region 1. Seasons one and two were released by UrbanWorks which was subsequently acquired by First Look Studios, who then released the remaining six seasons. Seasons one and two contain special features including the 90-minute retrospective documentary entitled "The Cosby Show: A Look Back" which aired on NBC in 2002. It contains interviews with cast members, bloopers, deleted scenes and audition footage. In 2010, First Look Studios filed bankruptcy and all its assets were subsequently acquired by Millennium Entertainment who also took over distribution of The Cosby Show DVD releases.

In Region 4, Magna Pacific has released all eight seasons on DVD in Australia and New Zealand. The first two seasons have similar artwork to the North American copies, although season two is red rather than blue. Each Australian cover also features the tagline "In a house full of love, there is always room for more".

Universal Pictures UK has released seasons 1"4 in Region 2 (UK).

DVD title Ep # Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Season 1 24 August 2, 2005/2011 (re-release) May 19, 2008 October 4, 2006
Season 2 25 March 7, 2006 Aug 25, 2008 February 7, 2007
Season 3 25 June 5, 2007 Oct 13, 2008April 4, 2007
Season 4 24 June 5, 2007 Feb 9, 2009November 7, 2007
Season 5 26November 6, 2007 March 5, 2008
Season 6 26 November 6, 2007 July 9, 2008<
Season 7 26 April 8, 2008 January 13, 2010
Season 8 25 April 8, 2008 January 13, 2010
25th Anniversary
Commemorative Edition
202 November 11, 2008
Note: The Region 1 release of season one contains the edited versions of the episodes aired in syndication. However, all subsequent DVD releases (including the complete series set) contain the original, uncut broadcast versions. In 2011, Millennium Entertainment quietly released season one uncut in Region 1 and it featured the special features from the complete series set.

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