Four Key Episodes – “The Cosby Show”By Guest Columnist
Posted on September 22, 2011
Four Key Episodes – “The Cosby Show”
Bob Garver here with another article for F.A.N. This week I take a look at a much-loved sitcom from the 80s.
What I know going in: I know about Bill Cosby. I know he wears sweaters, I know he looks perpetually old, and I know he likes to lecture young entertainers on the need to set a better example. Because of this, I am expecting a clean show where he tries to set a good example as a father character.
Will Cosby funny or will the show come off as preachy? Let’s find out.
First Episode – “Pilot Presentation”
Plot: We are introduced to Cliff Huxtable (Cosby), his wife Clair (Phylicia Rashad) and their four kids. Cliff deals with the bad grades of his son Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), the scary date for his daughter Denise (Lisa Bonet), and the terminally cute antics of his daughters Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe) and Rudy (Keisha Knight Pulliam).
Thoughts: Standard sitcom fare. I’ve seen every scenario in this episode done a hundred times. Of course, most of those shows aired after “The Cosby Show”, but it’s still boring. I notice that a lot of the dialogue from minor characters serves only to set up Cosby for one of his standup routines. Such obvious shortcuts are distracting. I do however like the fact that the characters will find any excuse to do some funky dancing. More of that, please.
Rating: Two Stars out of Five
Second Episode – “Goodbye Mr. Fish”
Plot: Rudy’s beloved pet goldfish dies and Cliff decides to have a funeral for it. Everybody thinks it’s a dumb idea, but Cliff is determined to come through for Rudy. It turns out Rudy thinks it’s a dumb idea too.
Thoughts: I was looking forward to seeing how Cosby would explain the concepts of life, love, and loss to his youngest daughter. The episode manages to squander almost every opportunity. Almost all of the jokes actually attempted are either about flushing the dead fish or how ridiculous Cliff’s funeral idea is. I can’t think of a single one that doesn’t fall flat.
Rating: One Star out of Five.
Middle Episode – “Shakespeare”
Plot: The Huxtables are throwing a dinner party for some intellectuals. Cliff is dead set on barbequing in November. Theo and his friend are frustrated with studying Shakespeare, and Rudy is writing her own fairy tale. The guests share inspiring readings of Shakespeare works and Rudy’s story. Theo and his friend relate to Shakespeare so much that they make a rap out of it.
Thoughts: An uneven episode at best. Cliff’s motivations for barbequing are inexplicable, there should have been a line in there somewhere where he says that he’s craving barbeque and doesn’t want to wait until spring. The Shakespeare readings are done well, but they go on forever. Rudy’s story is an adorable high point, and then the episode comes crashing down with *shudder* Shakespeare rapping.
Rating: Two Stars out of Five.
Final Episode: “And So, We Commence: Part 2”
Plot: Everyone is gathered to celebrate Theo’s graduation from NYU (my school). An off-screen Denise calls to tell everybody that she’s going to have a baby. Cliff overprepares for the ceremony, which turns out to be pretty unceremonious. Theo goes out to a graduation party while Cliff and Clair spend a romantic evening together.
Thoughts: The jokes are as unfunny as ever, but what really kills this episode is a long flashback scene right in the middle where I have to rewatch a big chunk of the first episode. Unacceptable. I will begrudge the episode a half star because I like the family’s reaction to Denise’s baby announcement. It should be grateful to even get that.
Rating: Half a Star out of Five.
Final Thoughts: “The Cosby Show” was poorly written and rarely funny. The closest thing it had to a saving grace was the cute kids, and they couldn’t stay cute forever. I can’t believe it stayed on the air for eight years.
Robert Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. Check out his movie review blog at www.bobatthemovies.com. He welcomes feedback, criticisms, and suggestions for future columns at firstname.lastname@example.org.