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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > The Bill Cosby Show – Season One (1969 – 1970)

The Bill Cosby Show – Season One (1969 – 1970)


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Episodes: B



With I, Spy, the hit action comedy spy series that put Bill Cosby on the map, little did anybody know at the time that Cosby becoming the first African-American lead in a TV series ever would lead to one of the most enduring and prolific careers in TV and general entertainment history.  While he was slowly becoming involved in a project that would become The Electric Company (reviewed elsewhere on this site), continued a run of hit comedy albums (which began in 1965) and become one of the top stand-up comics in the business, he quickly launched into a situation comedy series with a difference called The Bill Cosby Show in 1969.


The series, shot on film and at his insistence, minus a laugh track, featured Cosby as Chet Kincaid.  Chet is a high school gym teacher who has much to teach and a few things to learn in this half-hour show that would be the first of many he would be a part of.  The show took advantage of no soundtrack for such a show decades before Frank’s Place or Hooperman and was part of an early and great movement in television to innovate, expand, be more intelligent and naturalistic.  Over 35 years later, it stands as Cosby’s most underrated narrative achievement.


Cast regulars included Joyce Bulifant, best known these days for her hilarious appearances on the all-time great game show Match Game from the 1970s, plays fellow teacher Marsha Peterson.  The Motown singer Kim Weston also appeared regularly as Jenny Riskin, while Marguerite Ray was Nurse O’Connell and Fran Ryan played Mrs. Beal.  The episodes for this strong, enduing first season include:


1)     The Fatal Phone Call (with guest star Vic Tayback, Mel from TV’s Alice)

2)     Lullaby & Goodnight

3)     The Best Hook Shot In The World

4)     A Girl Named Punkin

5)     Rules Is Rules

6)     Let X Equal A Lousy Weekend

7)     To Kincaid, With Love

8)     The Killer Instinct (with guest star Nehemiah Persoff)

9)     The Substitute

10)  Brotherly Love

11)  Going The Route

12)  A Word From Our Sponsor (with guest stars Mike Farrell, Kathleen Freeman and Alan Oppenheimer)

13)  A Christmas Ballad (with guest star Rex Ingram)

14)  Home Remedy

15)  Growing, Growing, Grown

16)  The Elevator Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (with guest stars Henry Fonda & Elsa Lanchester)

17)  Lover’s Quarrel (with guest star Jackie “Moms” Mabley)

18)  The Worst Crook That Ever Lived

19)  The Gumball Incident (with guest star Tom Bosley)

20)  Goodbye Cruel World (with guest stars Wally Cox and Alice Backes)

21)  Driven To Distraction (with guest star James Milhollin)

22)  The Blind Date (with guest star Cicely Tyson)

23)  How You Play The Game (with guest stars Dane Clark & Marlene Clark)

24)  The Return Of Big, Bad, Bubba Bronson (with guest stars Don Pedro Colley & Louis Gossett Jr.)

25)  This Mouth Is Rated X (with guest star Robert “Skip” Burton)

26)  Really Cool



Seymour Robbie, Ralph Senensky, Jay Sandrich and even Melvin Van Peebles are among the directors the show was lucky to have as well.  Cosby even helmed a show here.  I vaguely remember this show and its arrival on DVD could not have happened at a better time as 2006 is turning out to be a great years for classic TV from the 1960s and 1970s to finally surface.  Cosby later criticized shows like All In The Family for being to brutal in dealing with issues like racism and even making them palatable, and though this critic disagrees, you can see exactly the kind of quality television he was also going for.  Besides The Electric Company, that legacy was also continued with Fat Albert (also reviewed on this site), so his efforts were far from eclipsed despite this show only lasting two seasons.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot on full color film and though the print quality can vary slightly from print to print, the color quality is exceptional in the majority of cases and it looks like most of the original camera materials were kept in great shape.  Even when detail is sometimes limited, color takes first chair and is one of the best classic TV DVD sets on film we have seen to date.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is more typical of the age of the recording, but except for a few episodes where the audio needs some work, they play back just fine.  That includes the great theme by Quincy Jones.  The only extra is a fine sit-down interview with Cosby reflecting on the show and what worked.  He also tells us how NBC decided not to support it when the contract was finished over the laugh track issue.  Seeing them today, Cosby was right to stick to his guns.  Shout! Factory has created a nice 4-DVD package as well in the spirit of the show.  We look forward to the next set.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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