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.


Five Replies to And If You're Not Careful, You Might Learn Something

Jackie Mason | August 21, 2011
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Tony Peters | August 21, 2011
my wife and I have thought about re-watching Buffy from the beginning.....

Steve West | August 21, 2011
Brenda is suffering through I, Claudius at my insistence. She says, "This isn't about gladiators like you promised."

Jackie Mason | August 22, 2011
[hidden by author request]

Lori Lancaster | August 22, 2011
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