Olivia Kendall

The Cosby Show

The Cosby Show is an American television situation comedy starring Bill Cosby, first airing on September 20, 1984 and running for eight seasons on the NBC television network, until April 30, 1992. The show focused 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 African Americans, from In Living Color to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The Cosby Show was also one of the first successful sitcoms based on the subject matter of a standup comedian’s act, blazing a trail for other such successful programs as Roseanne, Home Improvement, The Drew Carey Show, Seinfeld, and Everybody Loves Raymond. The Cosby Show along with All in the Family are the only two American programs that have been #1 in the Nielsen Ratings for five consecutive seasons. The show spawned the successful spin-off A Different World.


The show focused on the Huxtable family, an upper-middle class African-American family living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, New York, at 10 Stigwood Avenue. The patriarch was Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, an obstetrician. The matriarch was his wife, attorney Clair (Hanks) Huxtable. The show involved comfortably usual difficulties of children growing up, such as son Theo's experiences of dealing with dyslexia, which was based on Cosby's real-life child Ennis, who was dyslexic.

Cosby had an unusually high level of creative control over the show. He wanted the program to be educational, reflecting his own background in education. He also insisted that the program be taped in New York City rather than Los Angeles, where most television programs were taped.

The earliest episodes of the series were videotaped at NBC's Studio One facility in Brooklyn. The network later sold that building, and production moved to the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens.

Although the cast and characters were predominantly 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 civil rights marches, and it frequently promoted African-American and African culture represented by artists and musicians such as Jacob Lawrence, Miles Davis, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Lena Horne, Duke Ellington and Miriam Makeba.




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). Sondra was created when Bill Cosby wanted the show to express the accomplishment of successfully raising a child (e.g.- 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 10 years younger (b. 1958) than Phylicia Rashād (b. 1948), who played her mother, Clair Huxtable, on the show.

Bill Cosby's character is called "Clifford" in the pilot (as also 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.

Furthermore, it is implied that Cosby's screen wife Clair is more of a housewife in the pilot, rather than the lawyer she came to be known as.

Opening credits

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.

Season seven's opening credits were originally those that were ultimately used in season eight. Due to legal complications regarding the background mural, season seven's opening was changed to the previous season's opening. The original season seven opening, with modifications, was used in the eighth and final season.

To open the first part of the series' final episode (which was a two parter), an entirely new song was used as background music, while the credits were a combination of the openings from previous seasons (excluding season one's opening).


The Cosby Show is one of two television shows (All in the Family being the other) that has been #1 in the Nielsen Ratings for 5 consecutive seasons.

These were the ratings for each season, according to ClassicTVHits.com at the end of the season, were:

Season Ratings Rank
1984-1985 #3
1985-1986 #1
1986-1987 #1
1987-1988 #1
1988-1989 #1
1989-1990 #1 (tied with Roseanne)
1990-1991 #5
1991-1992 #18

Awards, nominations and honors

Awards won

Emmy Awards

  • Outstanding Comedy Series (1985)
  • Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series (1984) Michael J. Leeson and Ed. Weinberger

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best TV Series-Comedy (1985)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series-Comedy Bill Cosby (1985-86) 2 wins

NAACP Image Awards

  • Outstanding Comedy Series (1988)
  • Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series Bill Cosby (1989, 1993) 2 wins
  • Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series Phylicia Rashād (1988, 1989) 2 wins

People's Choice Awards

  • Favorite New TV Comedy Program (1985)
  • Favorite TV Comedy Program (1985-1989) 5 wins
  • Favorite TV Comedy Series (1990, 1992) 2 wins
  • All-Time Favorite TV Program (1989)
  • Favorite Male Program in a New TV Program Bill Cosby (1985)
  • Favorite Female Program in a New TV Program Phylicia Rashād (1985)
  • Favorite Male TV Performer Bill Cosby (1986-1992) 7 wins
  • Favorite Female TV Performer Phylicia Rashād (1989)
  • Favorite All-Around Male Entertainer Bill Cosby (1986-1988, 1990-1991) 5 wins
  • Favorite All-Around Male Star Bill Cosby (1989)
  • Favorite Young TV Performer Keshia Knight Pulliam (1988)

Awards nominated

Emmy Awards

  • Outstanding Comedy Series (1986-87) 2 nominations
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Phylicia Rashād (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)


  • In 1999, Entertainment Weekly placed the The Cosby Show's debut at #28 in its list of the "100 Greatest Moments in Television".
  • In 2002, TV Guide placed The Cosby Show at #28 in its list of the 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.
  • In 2007, Time magazine placed the show on its unranked list of "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME".
  • In 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".
  • In 2008, in the 1000th issue of Entertainment Weekly, Cliff Huxtable was selected as the Dad for "The Perfect TV Family.


In a 1992 book, authors Sut Jhally and Justin Lewis use the results of an audience study to argue that The Cosby Show obscured the issues of class and race and reinforced the belief that African-Americans have only themselves to blame if they don't succeed in society and ignoring that racism still exists and can be a factor in society.

DVD releases

All eight seasons were released on DVD in Region 1 by UrbanWorks which was subsequently acquired by First Look Studios starting in early 2006.

Magna Pacific has released seasons one through four of The Cosby Show on DVD in Australia and New Zealand, with similar artwork to the North American copies, although season two is red rather than blue. Each Australasian cover also features the tagline "In a house full of love, there is always room for more".

The Season 1 only contains the edited versions of the episodes aired in syndication. However, all subsequent DVD releases contain the original, uncut broadcast versions.

DVD Title Ep # Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Season 1 24 August 22005 May 192008 October 42006
Season 2 25 March 72006 February 72007
Season 3 25 June 52007 April 42007
Season 4 24 June 52007 November 72007
Season 5 25 November 62007 March 52008
Season 6 25 November 62007
Season 7 26 April 82008
Season 8 24 April 82008
The Complete Series 201 November 112008


The Cosby Show's producers created a spin-off series called A Different World that was centered 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 4-5, and a regular again in Seasons 6-7.


External links

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