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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > The Cosby Show – 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition (First Look Studios DVD)

The Cosby Show – 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition (First Look Studios DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Episodes: C



The TV situation comedy was dying after the greatest run of them ever had been made.  The three major networks were reeling from the arrival of cable, satellite and VHS videotapes, though there were still some hit shows here and there.  The Fox Network had not arrived and changes were happening all over the TV map.  Bill Cosby was no stranger to the medium, participating in some of its most innovate and groundbreaking series (Electric Company, I Spy, Fat Albert) as well as his own underrated hit comedy simply titled The Bill Cosby Show.  He had a new idea for a comedy series, taking it first to ABC since they needed a hit the most.


The network had been #1 for a while, but started to loose their footing and when purchased by the ultra-conservative Capital Cities, would be in trouble for a long time.  Im their original hey day and climb to success, they had made the mistake of turning down All In The Family.  Cosby’s idea seemed plainer except that showing an African American family in a positive light with two working parents that were financially successful would be something new.  ABC passed for whatever reason and Cosby moved on to other networks.  Eventually, NBC picked the show up and hoped for a moderate hit; one that might appeal to a progressive African American audience, but The Cosby Show surprised the entire industry by reviving the sitcom, having huge cross-appeal, making NBC #1 for the first time ever and becoming a phenomenal ratings success like nothing that had been seen in a long time.


A quarter-century later, The Cosby Show – 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition collects the entire series on DVD, one Cosby intended to run only five seasons, but NBC convinced him to go for seven.  The tales of the Huxtables and their lives for better and sometimes worse were more about comedy than anything political, though this does not make the show non-political.  Ignoring the previous cycle of sitcoms, there would be little social commentary and despite his past work and the kind that made him an international star, Cosby would take a surprisingly conservative turn (some were outraged) as the show was in lock step with the Neo-Conservatism of the time.  At first, that might not be obvious, but here it is and more noticed now than then.


There is the early father/son talk where Cosby’s father/doctor tells off his son Theo (Malcolm Jamal Warner) when he is trying to honestly talk to his father about his feelings, epitomizing the surprisingly and politically incorrect thread through the show of child-bashing as comedy.  This was a sick, dysfunctional baby boomer trend that the show celebrated as much as anything, tainting the idea of how progressive the show was.  It also was the crossover point that allowed white audiences (out of white guilt and colorless dysfunction) to enjoy the show.  A quarter-century later, it is amazingly dysfunctional, shrill, practically angry and it is amazing how few have called the show on it, though many just passed it off as all being “innocent” ignoring the implication.  Yes, it is very 1980s by doing wrong and hoping you will not have to take responsibility later.


However, this approach had its issues and would show cracks early as Cosby went into shock that Lisa Bonet would do a film as racy and shocking as Angel Heart, for which she was banished form the show and its spin-off A Different World.  She was one of the best things the show had going for it, but by that time, the show was a money machine and the show survived without her, while the spinoff was a hit with a new lead and shift in college set-up.  By the time Bonet returned when the show was running on empty, it was artistically pointless.


The show should have stopped when Cosby wanted it to, but the two added seasons really thin out the show in ways that were even by the estimation of most fans, a mistake that has watered-down its legacy.  With a President Obama in the White House, many will see the show as a cultural stepping stone, yet the show is hardly liberal and cemented the detrimental myth that hard work and progress are owned by conservatism.  Now, many know better the hard way and this new set is like a time capsule and relic.  Cosby tried a new sitcom over at CBS when it was all over, which was smarter, more mature and entertaining, but it only lasted a few seasons.  That is the show that deserves rediscovery.  Still, this show has its fans as nostalgia and this set is set up perfectly for that.



The 1.33 X 1 image has some minor aliasing issues, but is more color vibrant and clean than you’d find on a TV broadcast, making this look more “live” than anyone has seen it before and that is consistent throughout the seasons.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is serviceable for TV audio of the time, but noting much more impressive.  Extras include a commemorative mini-hardcover booklet that features a teleplay reproduction with illustrations and new notes at the end, a mini-thank you note from Cosby on the show, and among the DVDs a new Cosby inter view, Jay Sandrich interview, stills and special A Look Back.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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