And If You're Not Careful, You Might Learn Something
by Scott Hardie on August 20, 2011
Ten things I learned from watching the entire run of The Cosby Show over the last few months on Netflix streaming:
- Cliff wasn't the only one who wore wild sweaters.
- Seinfeld was celebrated as the "show about nothing," but this show had even less plot. Entire episodes just riffed for twenty minutes on Vanessa fretting over a test or Theo having a crush on a girl, nothing more. My favorite episode mostly just showed the main characters dancing. Who needs plot?
- Something I really appreciated about the writing was that, while the characters were usually nice people, every one of them had an ugly side that came up consistently: Cliff was dishonest and boastful, Clair was sanctimonious, Sondra was overbearing, Denise was fickle, Theo was a sexist pig, Vanessa was selfish, Rudy was bossy, et cetera. None of the characters got to be angels, even the minor recurring guests. It was a smart choice that made the family relatable and plausible, and something that the show's many imitators forgot to replicate.
- The show was blessed with the fortunate casting of little Keshia Knight Pulliam, cute as a button and pretty funny too. Later on in her adolescence, the writers didn't know what to do with her, using Rudy to set up a stupid macho rivalry between Kenny and Stanley (ugh), but that wasn't the actress's fault.
- Speaking of which, the quality of the show really dropped off in the final years, as the cast slowly disintegrated and the network demanded more ratings stunts. Seasons 1-5 were fantastic, but 6-8 slowly morphed into a pathetic attempt to keep the magic going. There's no single shark-jumping moment, but the feeling is palpable.
- A lot of the jokes were clearly improvised. You can spot when Bill Cosby makes his fellow actors crack up with a line that's not in the script. Sometimes they'd just put him on stage with kids and let him go to town.
- I remembered Lisa Bonet's reputation for being difficult to work with, and it showed in the weak episodes leading up to her (second) termination. But I had forgotten that she could actually be pretty funny when she was into the job.
- Watching 200 episodes of an eight-year sitcom, right after watching 120 episodes of the six-year Lost, was not a smart idea. Fatigue set in hard. (Sorry Denise; we tried Babylon 5 and just couldn't stick with it, but we will try again.) I need to find something short to watch before I begin another epic run.
- Child actors are rarely good at delivering lines naturally, but it doesn't matter that they sound scripted if they can still be funny anyway. Raven-Symoné is funny anyway.
- Age didn't stop Bill Cosby or his guest stars from doing lots of great physical comedy. I laughed so much watching this show.
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The creator of Funeratic, Scott Hardie, blogs about running this site, losing weight, and other passions including his wife Kelly, his friends, movies, gaming, and Florida. Read more »