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Cosby was Bill Cosby's 3rd hit sitcom. It ran from September 1996 until April 2000 on CBS.
Four years after the long-running Cosby Show left the air, Bill Cosby returned to sitcom tv ( with Phylicaia Rashad again playing his wife), as a considerably less afluent New Yorker. Hilton Lucas ( Bill Cosby), was a cranky but lovable curmudgeon who at age 60, was adjusting to a major life change: being unemployed. After 30 years of working for an airline, he had just been pink-slipped as part of a corporate downsizing. In addition to the frustrations attendant with having too much free time, Hilton was put out by all the little things he found wrong with the world-everything from misleading advertising, to having to take a number and stand in line at his doctor's office, to the way people parked in front of his home. Ruthie ( Phylicia Rashad), his loving wife, worked part-time with her eccentric best friend Pauline ( Madeline Kahn), at a flowershop in their Queens, New York neighborhood. Hilton's daughter Erica ( T'Keyah Crystal Keymah), a young attorney with a Manhattan law firm, was unsure about her career, which annoyed him no end. Griffin ( Doug E. Doug), Erica's jittery High School classmate and current platonic roommate was intent on wooing her, but she wasn't interested.
At the start of Cosby's second season, the living arrangements at the Lucas household got considerably more crowded. Erica left the lawfirm to become a chef. She moved back into her old room, and Griffin, licking his wounds after a failed business deal, moved into their attic. That way he could rent the house next door to Hilton's, which he had just purchased, to a pre-school. Angelo ( Angelo Massagli), was one of the children at the pre-school. The struggling flower shop started serving Erica's cookies and coffee and it became so popular it was converted into a coffee shop and rechristened The Flower Cafe.
In the fall of 1998, Hilton took on the responsibility of watching young Jurnee ( Jurnee Smollett), after school until her dad, Del ( Sinbad), got home from work. Griffin and Erica were about to move into his house when it burned to the ground, leaving the living arrangements as they had been for the previous year. Griffin, still trying to find himself, decided he wanted to become a teacher. He took courses so he could get a teaching license and did a little substitute teaching. In the spring of 1999 Erica and her new boyfriend Darien ( Darien Sills-Evans), an airline flight attendant got engaged. Their marriage took place in the second episode of the 1999-2000 season;Erica was working as a substitute teacher, which eventually led to a full-time position. In October Ruth and Pauline took over the neighborhood bookstore and annexed it to The Flower Cafe. Madeline Kahn who played Pauline died of cancer soon after and the cast payed tribute to her in a December 1999 episode which featured the cast as themselves reminiscing about Kahn. Clips, bloopers and outtakes from Kahn's four years on the show were highlighted. Cosby was never a major success, but the series garnered respectable ratings and was a solid entry in CBS's schedule. But during the last season, frequent time slot changes, and the death of Madeline Kahn undermined the show and it was canceled in the spring of 2000.
This series was based on the British series, One Foot In The Grave.
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published May 3, 1996
Cosby's Last 'Show'
The Huxtables said goodbye after eight hot years on April 30, 1992
By Kate Meyers
Before the days of Jennifer Aniston's 'do and George Clooney's scrubs, Mr. Jell-O Pudding owned Thursdays, with a long-shot hit no one could have predicted would succeed so well and for so long.
In fact, when producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner persuaded a desperate, last-place NBC to give Bill Cosby a time slot back in 1984, he had not been seen regularly on TV for eight years, except as a high-profile pitchman for Coke, Jell-O, and Kodak. But Cosby's Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, an OB-GYN with a lawyer wife and a brood of five, would administer a miracle cure. The Cosby Show shot to the top of the Nielsens in 1985 and stayed there for five years. It rescued an entire network (the NBC shows that followed Cosby Family Ties, Cheers, and Night Court climbed a total of 19 ratings spots) and resuscitated the sitcom: The number of comedies in the top 10 nearly doubled after Cosby began.
Before the demographically divvied, zillion-channel cable universe arrived, Cosby was the last show everyone watched. At its peak, 63 million viewers welcomed the funny travails of these hardworking parents who ruled the roost, stressed family and education, and just happened to be African-American. ''The Huxtables were set up to counter some of the minstrel shows Hollywood had set up,'' Cosby told Jane Pauley in 1992. There were no gimmicks, no gags, no ghetto, no loud George Jefferson types, no one screaming ''Dyn-O-Mite!''
Instead, for eight years the Huxtables served up a steady diet of family values, until Cosby admitted he had told all the stories he wanted to tell. So, with a one-hour finale on April 30, 1992, the door to the brownstone at 10 Stigwood Avenue in Brooklyn Heights closed for good and Cliff and Clair danced into the sunset. Every paper ran stories. The Today show ran a four-part Cosbyfest. Even in L.A., where post-Rodney King rioting had broken out, Mayor Tom Bradley urged citizens to ''observe the curfew and watch The Cosby Show.''
As the man with total creative control over this cultural phenomenon, Cosby succeeded in making the show he wanted and became staggeringly rich doing it. (The series snagged over $800 million in syndication.) But he couldn't parlay his prime-time popularity into a career on celluloid Leonard, Part 6, anyone? and his recent TV attempts (a remake of You Bet Your Life and The Cosby Mysteries) tanked. This fall on CBS he'll star in a Stateside take on the British sitcom One Foot in the Grave, about a crusty guy who has lost his job. Can he pull it off again? That's another Cosby mystery.
A Review from The New York Times
Dad's So Grumpy Now: The Cosby Persona Goes Into a New Phase of Life
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: September 16, 1996
Listen, if the grumpy-old-man concept works so well for Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, why not for Bill Cosby? CBS, at least, is banking on a positive answer as the network brings back one of the country's cleverest entertainers in ''Cosby,'' an American riff on a British sitcom called ''One Foot in the Grave.''
This is a big gamble for CBS, the centerpiece in a complicated strategy to restore the ''Tiffany network'' to its former ratings luster. When most of prime time might seem obsessed with the ''Friends''-like clones desperately wooing the kinds of young viewers advertisers covet, ''Cosby'' offers a 60-year-old Queens man who has just been downsized out of a job and seems determined to make everybody in his life as miserable as he is.
Hilton Lucas, the Cosby character, does not go quietly into that unemployable night. Lose his job? Nonsense, he knows where it is. ''My job was taken away from me,'' he'll whine to anyone willing to listen.
Mr. Cosby is a unique American show-business phenomenon. Back in 1965, in ''I Spy,'' he became the first black performer to have a regular starring role in a weekly dramatic series. He went to college and earned a doctorate. He flopped in a couple of prime-time variety shows. He developed an enormously successful stand-up comedy routine, creating from firsthand experience a persona that eventually developed into Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable on ''The Cosby Show,'' a series that single-handedly revived what was supposedly the dead situation-comedy format and nudged NBC into a ratings dominance that has lasted to this day.
Throughout this career, Mr. Cosby has remained remarkably true to himself. In ''I Spy,'' he was already the skeptic ready to cast a baleful eye on the show's more dubious plots. In ''The Cosby Show,'' he was the no-nonsense dad willing to risk the disapproval of his sometimes troublesome but always adorable children. And now in ''Cosby,'' his Hilton merely brings the very familiar persona into a perfectly logical state of being crotchety as old age encroaches. He's an old friend. We've grown up with him.
Shrewdly, Mr. Cosby has brought back Phylicia Rashad, who played his wife, Clair, on ''The Cosby Show,'' to be Hilton's wife, Ruth, in the new series. The chemistry still works, her charm smoothing out the edges of his cantankerousness. For diplomatic Ruth, having Hilton home all day is like having a piano in the kitchen: ''It's beautiful, but it's in the way.''
Meanwhile, he goes about making life difficult for inept dry cleaners and even for his daughter, Erica (T'Keyah Crystal Keymah), who has her own house and is fending off the advances of an ardent tenant named Griffin (Doug E. Doug).
And then there's Pauline, the character that gives ''Cosby'' just the extra bit of edge it needs. Pauline is white. More important, she's played by Madeline Kahn, a wonderful comic actress who has refined deadpan sarcasm into an art form.
Pauline is Ruth's co-worker and best friend and is obviously determined not to feed Hilton's demanding ego. That, in turn, makes him all the more eager to elicit her praise. ''Do you love me, Pauline?'' he asks, anticipating rejection. Without hesitation, she answers, ''When two people have what we have, there are no words.''
Politicians long have paid lip service to the ideal of a nation that could be colorblind. As an entertainer, Mr. Cosby has come tantalizingly close to that mark. He doesn't preach. He simply ignores the obvious. In the process, he plugs into universals. Cliff Huxtable and his family were role models for all Americans. Color simply didn't fit into the equation. Hilton Lucas of ''Cosby'' is on the same track. It's a promising one.
CBS, tonight at 8
(Channel 2 in New York)
Written by Dennis Klein and directed by John Whitesell. Produced by Carsey-Werner Productions in association with Bill Cosby. Mr. Cosby, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, Caryn Mandabach, Peter Tortorici, Dennis Klein and Norman Steinberg, executive producers.
WITH: Mr. Cosby (Hilton Lucas), Phylicia Rashad (Ruth Lucas), Madeline Kahn (Pauline), T'Keyah Crystal Keymah (Erica), Doug E. Doug (Griffin), Sean Whalen (Cleaner) and Foster Brooks (Dom).
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
COS AND DEFECTS
TRYING TO RECAPTURE HIS AUDIENCE, BILL COSBY REUNITES WITH PHYLICIA RASHAD FOR ANOTHER SITCOM. BUT TURNING HIMSELF INTO A CHRONIC CRANK CREATES A COMEDY OF ERRORS.
By Ken Tucker
Few beloved entertainers have as slippery a grasp on why the public likes them as Bill Cosby, to judge from his new sitcom, COSBY (CBS, Mondays, 8-8:30 p.m.). This time he plays Hilton Lucas, a 60-year-old airline worker recently laid off after 30 years on the job. Hilton is upset and angry about getting the heave-ho, and he takes it out on everyone around him, especially his wife, Ruthie, played by former Cosby Show costar Phylicia Rashad.
As Cliff and Claire Huxtable in the immensely popular Cosby Show (1984-92), Cosby and Rashad teamed up as a husband and wife presiding over a boisterous brood. We appreciated the funny ways they found to be long-suffering, patient parents, always loving but often amusingly exasperated.
By contrast, Hilton and Ruthie live alone in a little house in Queens, New York. (Their grown, law-school-graduate daughter, Erica, played by In Living Color's lively T'Keyah Crystal Keymah, has her own place.) Losing his job has turned Hilton against the world, and as the series begins, Ruthie is already wishing that her husband would stop hanging around the house, moping and griping. When Hilton goes on an errand, such as to pick up the cleaning, he gets into an argument with the clerk over a stain on his pants, then stalks home to fume at Ruthie over the ''stupid'' kid he just dressed down.
Doesn't sound like a laugh riot, does it? In attempting an American retooling of the British sitcom One Foot in the Grave, Cosby has lost his bearings. Where's the beguilingly goofy guy from The Cosby Show, the smiling father figure from all those Jell-O commercials, the dignified cool cat from I Spy? Gone, gone. Instead, we get the poker-faced grump who presided over the disastrous 1992-93 game-show revival of You Bet Your Life.
Cosby is certainly interesting looking: It has what must be the most elaborate set of any current sitcom. The action flows from the Lucases' living room out the front door onto a meticulously detailed street, with cars and stores and numerous passersby; in the first three episodes, we also see their backyard and attic. There are a lot of interesting places for comedy to occur, but it seldom does.
There's also a slackness to the writing that's remarkable for a performer of Cosby's caliber. Here's a typical too-long, too-lame joke: ''The day they let me go,'' says Hilton, ''10,000 other people were let go. The last time a crowd that size was going anywhere, Moses was in front of 'em.'' Add to this a disconcerting tendency to have Hilton make fun of people because they're ''stupid,'' elderly (it's weird to have a 60-year-old belittling people older than himself for being enfeebled), or foreign (in one episode, a Spanish-speaking man and a Scottish fellow meet with Hilton's scorn: ''This is English?'' he sneers at their accents).
Cosby does have a couple of costars in its favor. One is the endlessly charming Doug E. Doug, who starred in the underrated 1992-93 sitcom Where I Live and here plays Hilton's daughter's neighbor. The other is Madeline Kahn as Ruthie's best friend, Pauline. Kahn gives her dull lines bright, off-kilter readings. Oddly enough, Hilton and Pauline's relationship -- wary, but a little flirty -- is more interesting than Hilton and Ruthie's; Rashad comes off merely tired and fed up.
Cosby may have been going for his own version of All in the Family with this show, and an African-American Archie Bunker would indeed be something to watch -- to feel, perhaps, the sting of inverted bigotry. But Family's scripts were good old-fashioned gut busters. Bill Cosby clearly wants us to laugh at Hilton's sourness, and he pulls off an impressive amount of physical comedy each week. Yet he's refusing to give us the primary pleasure of a good sitcom: a vivid character endlessly revealing different sides of himself. Instead, his Hilton Lucas is a one-note whiner. C-
A Review from the Washington Post
COSBY': A COMEDY THAT FILLS THE BILL
By Tom Shales September 16, 1996
Bill Cosby has to run against his own record. "The Cosby Show" was not only one of the best but also one of the truly defining TV comedies of the '80s. No one is likely to find "Cosby," his latest attempt, to be the equal of the old show. But it does share one obvious major advantage: its star.
And it gets off to at least a fitfully amusing start tonight on CBS, leading off the network's two-hour comedy block at 8 on Channel 9. You'll dislike (if not hate) yourself in the morning if you don't drop by for a look.
Cosby's Cliff Huxtable was an affluent doctor living in Manhattan and married to a lawyer. His Hilton Lucas is a 60-year-old factory worker laid off in a recent massive cutback and living in Queens, Archie Bunker's old stomping ground. Both Cliff and Hilton see the world through Cosbyesque eyes, and that's what counts.
It's hard to get a handle on what makes Hilton tick or what might make the show click from the uneven opener, however. Clearly, he's getting on the nerves of wife Ruth, played by stalwart Phylicia Rashad, who of course was Mrs. Huxtable, too. He putters around the house or recounts in agonizing detail a spat he had with the dry cleaner or fails rather miserably in his assignment to watch a little girl's pet turtle.
But we don't get a very good feel for his philosophy or outlook or even his disposition. He's not really crotchety, as was the hero of the British comedy on which this series was based, but not devil-may-care, either. Apparently the family can survive just fine without Hilton's income because there's little if any discussion of financial problems.
Just when the show seems adrift in terminal if amiable aimlessness, in twirls Madeline Kahn as Pauline, friend and co-worker to Ruth, consummate busybody and dispenser of dubious wisdom, and the show takes on bright new life. Kahn and Cosby share slapstick moments involving, of all things, a suicide note, and reach dizzying heights of hilarity.
Based on the pilot, it looks as though executive producers Tom Werner and Marcy Carsey (who also did "The Cosby Show") will want to play up the Cosby-Kahn relationship, which puts Rashad in an awkwardly expendable position.
It also remains to be seen whether the audience will accept Cosby as out of work and blue-collar, since we all know he is worth millions. One reason "The Cosby Show" succeeded so hugely might have been that it reassured white America about the status of blacks and, symbolically, of other minorities; the Huxtables experienced no economic hardship, prejudice or racial stereotyping. "The Cosby Show" was tremendously if deceptively reassuring. "Cosby" is much less so, yet there's no particular anger to it, either.
No one watches a sitcom for the scenery, but it ought to be mentioned that the modest Lucas home is particularly well realized by the art department and, in addition, there's a street set that is warm and handsome and evocative of the early days of live TV. The production is strictly first-class.
The star himself looks great -- mountainous and iconic and huggable. When all else fails, there's always the pleasure of his company to fall back on. But that can go only so far. The writing will have to improve and the characters become more clearly defined for the show to succeed in any sense of that term.
Cosby's return to situation comedy should be an occasion for cheers. "Cosby" is good merely for smiles and laughs, but those are always welcome. Maybe it's like the difference between a catchy tune and a deeply haunting melody. At the moment, "Cosby" is the former -- fun while it lasts but hard to remember a few minutes later. Pearl'
It takes awhile to send Pearl Caraldo off to school, but once she gets there, whoopee! That's when "Pearl" turns into a surprise, a hoot, a delight, one of the best-written and most engagingly performed new sitcoms around.
The premiere, at 8:30 tonight on Channel 9, starts out hesitantly. We meet Pearl, as played by the ever-spunky Rhea Perlman, and spend time at her very uninteresting workplace, replete with stock characters like a big fat dumb guy. There's also a brief appearance by quirky Carol Kane, who then vanishes into the mist.
Pearl's a widow who is not satisfied with her life and decides to return to college, over the protests of her spoiled male-chauvinist son. The minute she shows her flinty face on campus, things start looking up. First she meets Frankie (Kevin Corrigan), a winsome kid who's off the wall in his own endearing way.
"I'm looking for a beautiful woman with severely impaired judgment," he says.
But the comic and emotional center of the show is Pearl's relationship with the school's toughest professor, played by Malcolm McDowell. The conflict here is between the street-smart common sense of Pearl and the hoity-toity intellectualism of the teacher, but Don Reo's script does not take the easy route of giving Pearl all the victories. Not by a long shot.
McDowell gets plenty of good lines and makes them crackle, as when he defines an intellectual as "someone who can listen to the William Tell' Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger." He and Perlman are joyful combatants; some of their scenes run on to daring but never taxing lengths. The chemistry is ecstatically explosive.
Though less caustic than she was on "Cheers," Perlman is again playing a formidable force not to be trifled with, and that makes her occasional moments of vulnerability and self-doubt all the more touching. McDowell, who at this point in his life looks something like a lab experiment gone awry, gives his character dignity and integrity. He's no pushover and no easy target.
"Pearl," to state the obvious, is a gem -- one of the saving graces of a sallow and shallow new season. Arts Beat will return next week. CAPTION: No longer Huxtable, but still huggable: Cosby as Hilton Lucas. CAPTION: Rhea Perlman turns in a dazzling performance as "Pearl" on CBS.
An Article from The Virginia Pilot
TV: THE NEW FALL SEASON THE NETWORKS' BIG GAMBLE: WILL BIG BUCKS FOR BIG STARS PAY OFF WITH BIG HITS?<
BILL COSBY HATES IT when he's described as the man who will save CBS.
He does not like to be reminded that CBS is paying him in the neighborhood of $20 million to stop the slide - NBC, ABC and Fox had better ratings among 18- to 49-year-olds last season - and restore the shine to what was once the Tiffany network.
When addressing TV writers not long ago, Cosby said he feels the pressure of a batter who has come to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and his team trailing by three runs.
``All I'm asking is that they let me swing the bat. I'm not predicting that my show will be a hit - be No. 1 - and save the network.''
But, if not Cosby, who will save CBS? Ted Danson, another old hand brought into the CBS family this season? Scott Bakula? Rhea Perlman? Gerald McRaney? They're also on the CBS payroll this season.
Make no mistake about it, couch commandoes, CBS expects ``Cosby'' on Monday night at 8 to win its time period. And deliver a large audience to the 8:30 sitcom (``Ink,'' co-starring Danson and Mary Steenburgen), breathe new life into the Monday night comedy lineup that includes ``Murphy Brown'' and ``Cybill,'' and help make the night into part of the foundation on which the network will build a bright new future.
CBS guaranteed Cosby 44 weeks of work, an unprecedented commitment in network television.
``Bill Cosby did not come cheap,'' said CBS Entertainment president Leslie Moonves. ``We're looking for his show to explode, to help make it a blockbuster night for CBS.''
Take your best swing, Bill.
It was back to the drawing board for Moonves after last season when 10 of 11 new CBS shows crashed and burned. Only ``Almost Perfect'' survived, and that's undergoing a makeover.
This season, CBS is saying ``welcome home'' to mature viewers with series in which old reliables Cosby, Danson, Perlman, Bakula, McRaney, Peter Strauss and Phylicia Rashad star.
Rashad again plays Cosby's TV spouse.
That's an obvious trend this season - giving marquee TV names another go around. CBS is doing it big time.
So is ABC.
After losing much of its 18-to 49- and 25- to 54-year-old audience to No. 1 NBC, ABC moved to bring back the baby boomers and some of the Generation X crowd.
Michael J. Fox stars in ``Spin City.'' Molly Ringwald returns from self-imposed exile in France to head the cast of ``Townies.'' Melissa Joan Hart, a household name among teens since she was Clarissa on Nickelodeon, stars for ABC in ``Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.''
``I hope to continue doing other things - movies and stuff - but I realize that doing television is what I love,'' said Fox. ``And the idea of a regular job sounds good.'' His movie career is lost in the Hollywood backwash.
Of the 26 new comedies and 14 dramas among the new shows, the best timeslot - at 9:30 p.m. Thursday between ``Seinfeld'' and ``ER'' on NBC - goes to Brooke Shields' sitcom, ``Suddenly Susan.'' Lucky girl.
NBC is bringing back Justine Bateman - she played Fox's sister on ``Family Ties'' - in the sitcom, ``Men Behaving Badly.'' Mel Harris of ``thirtysomething'' also is working for NBC in ``Something So Right.'' UPN revived the careers of Sherman Hemsley in ``Goode Behavior'' and Malcolm-Jamal Warner in ``Malcolm & Eddie.''
Bateman says she's had plenty of opportunities to work in TV after ``Family Ties'' but resisted until now.
``This show feels right,'' she said.
Another trend: Stand-up comics continue to impress network programmers. Joining Jerry Seinfeld, Brett Butler, Paul Reiser, Drew Carey and others too numerous to mention are the following comics in new sitcoms:
Ray Romano, ``Everybody Loves Raymond,'' CBS; Jeff Foxworthy, ``The Jeff Foxworthy Show,'' NBC; Steve Harvey, ``The Steve Harvey Show,'' Warner Brothers; Jamie Foxx, ``The Jamie Foxx Show,'' Warner Brothers; Lisa Ann Walter, ``Life's Work,'' ABC; Greg Giraldo, ``Common Law,'' ABC; Tom Rhodes, ``Mr. Rhodes,'' NBC; Eddie Griffin, ``Malcolm and Eddie,'' UPN, and Flex, ``Homeboys in Outer Space,'' UPN.
Romano, a protege of David Letterman, said it's a kick just to see his name on a network sitcom. ``The scariest thing for me now is learning how to act in a sitcom. It's a lot scarier than doing stand-up comedy.''
Last season, the network schedules were overloaded with clones of ``Friends.'' This year, the tendency is to do shows in classrooms.
There's the drama, ``Dangerous Minds,'' with Annie Potts on ABC. And the sitcoms ``Mr. Rhodes'' on NBC, ``Something So Right'' on NBC, ``Nick Freno, Licensed Teacher'' on Warner Brothers and ``The Steve Harvey Show'' on Warner Brothers.
Being imitated widely is Fox's ``The X-Files.''
The new dramas picking up the theme of shadowy and spooky stories are ``Dark Skies,'' ``The Pretender'' and ``Profiler'' on NBC's Saturday night lineup, ``Early Edition'' on CBS, ``Millennium'' on Fox and ``The Burning Zone'' on UPN.
Minor trend: New TV shows inspired by movies. There's ``Clueless'' and ``Dangerous Minds'' on ABC; ``Pearl'' from the script of ``Educating Rita,'' on CBS; and ``Party Girl'' on Fox.
Put ``Clueless'' and ``Party Girl'' in the category of shows about impossibly shallow but cute babes. Toss ``Lush Life'' from Fox in that pot, too.
One more trend for the 1996-97 season: A new life for shows that were tossed overboard by another network.
Foxworthy's sitcom now has a home on NBC. ``In the House'' was rescued from the NBC ``on hiatus'' file by UPN. ``Jag'' will be moving from NBC to CBS at midseason and another show eased off the NBC schedule, ``Brotherly Love,'' lives on with Warner Brothers.
Foxworthy thought his career in network TV was as dead as road kill when ABC dropped his show. Then NBC called.
``I learned from the ABC show what worked and didn't work for me,'' he said. ``I learned that I appeal to the blue-collar guy and not the guy sitting next to his pool in Palm Springs.''
What are the best new shows of the 1996-97 season? The worst? Read on.
BEST NEW SITCOM - ``Men Behaving Badly.'' Rob Schneider of ``Saturday Night Live'' plays a likable slob sharing bachelor digs with Ron Eldard of ``ER.'' From hitmakers Carsey-Werner. Wednesdays on NBC at 9:30 p.m.
WORST NEW SITCOM - ``Home-boys in Outer Space'' on UPN Tuesday nights at 8:30. In the 23rd century, will they be using such phrases as, ``Do you dig it?''? Beam this show to Venus, Scotty.
BEST NEW DRAMA - ``Millennium'' on Fox Fridays at 9 p.m. It's from the creator of ``The X-Files.'' Lance Henriksen plays an ex-FBI agent who gets into the minds of evildoers. It's dark, well-crafted, compelling.
WORST NEW DRAMA - ``EZ Streets,'' Wednesday night at 10 on CBS. This is a confusing, dreary piece of work about cops in league with the underworld. There's nobody to root for in the large cast lost in a hard-to-follow story.
An Article from The New York Times
A Young Comic On Cosby's Turf
By LAWRIE MIFFLIN
Published: November 17, 1996
LAST SUMMER, WHEN the producers of Bill Cosby's new sitcom, ''Cosby,'' offered Doug E. Doug a major role in the CBS series, the young man accepted without qualms. A stand-up comedian who starred in the popular Disney movie ''Cool Runnings'' in 1993 and briefly had a sitcom himself that year, he felt more than ready to hold his own in prime time.
Then he was invited to Mr. Cosby's Manhattan home for a chat.
''It was a get-to-know-you meeting,'' the 26-year-old comedian recalled recently, ''but for me, it became a babble-and-slobber meeting. Why? Because Bill Cosby is my primary creative influence.''
Doug E. Doug, whose real name is Douglas C. Bourne Jr., grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and still lives there. He was only 17 years old, still a student at Bishop Loughlin High School, when he began appearing as a stand-up. His stage name comes from those days.
''I was a kid, sort of like everyone's little brother in the clubs,'' he said. ''An emcee, a guy called Mel Stanley the Comedy Cop, used to call me Dougie Dougie, and I just liked it and decided to use it.''
Doug E. Doug can be hyperkinetic on screen, but he was languid and reflective during a conversation the other day on the set of ''Cosby,'' at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens. He lounged on the floor, leaning against a cushion, absentmindedly twisting the coils of his African-locked hair around one finger.
As a child, he loved the animated television show ''Fat Albert,'' which was based on a character from a Cosby routine. He also listened to Mr. Cosby's comedy albums. ''What I understood I laughed at, and what I didn't understand I still laughed at,'' he said. ''I wanted to be just like him, and be able to make people laugh even at stuff they didn't quite understand.''
That is still a goal, but one among several. Doug E. Doug sees himself with three professional identities: comedian, actor and director. Once or twice a month, he is flying to Los Angeles to edit ''Citizen James,'' his first film as a director. It's a low-budget production, without a distributor so far.
For now, his primary work is as an apprentice to a master of the sitcom trade. ''Cosby,'' seen Monday nights at 8, revolves around Mr. Cosby's character, the curmudgeonly Hilton Lucas, who has lost his job as an airline worker and makes life difficult for his wife, Ruth (Phylicia Rashad), their daughter, Erica (T'Keyah Crystal Keymah), and assorted shopkeepers and neighbors. Doug E. Doug plays Griffin, a small-time entrepreneur in cockeyed pursuit of schemes that will make him rich. He lives in the same apartment building as Erica, whom he adores. The crush is not mutual, and the sweetly loopy Griffin tries to win her affection by cozying up to her dad.
In the episode tomorrow night, Griffin takes Hilton to a basketball game, where the older man wins the chance to come back a week later and try a shot from midcourt that could win him a million dollars.
''We're gonna be millionaires!'' Griffin exults, back at the Lucas home.
''We? When did I become a we?'' Hilton demands.
''We became a we when I bought the tickets,'' Griffin retorts, with a bug-eyed look that conveys not surprise but defiance.
The subtlety Doug E. Doug brings to a role that could easily be played as caricature has impressed another master comedian on the show: Madeline Kahn, who plays Ruth Lucas's best friend, Pauline.
''He is obviously an excellent comic actor,'' Ms. Kahn said of Doug E. Doug. ''But what sets him apart is that he has a certain refinement and elegance. This innate sense of dignity, or elegance, brings another dimension to his character and suggests that if Griffin had other opportunities in life, there's no telling how far he might go.''
That is something Mr. Cosby has worked on, pushing the young comedian to find the right personality for his character. ''Griffin represents the young person in society who knows what he wants to say and has an idea what he wants to be but can't quite grasp it; society slides away from him,'' Mr. Cosby said. ''Doug E. makes people laugh, but it's more than that. He blows life into Griffin; he is an actor.''
Doug E. Doug says he has been learning from Ms. Kahn as well as Mr. Cosby. ''I think I'm more spontaneous, more like Mr. C., but I've learned from Madeline that there are some things you can formulate,'' he said. ''Meaning it in a very positive sense, she's very staged. I wish I'd met her before 'That Darn Cat!' because I could have used some of what she's taught me.''
''That Darn Cat!,'' due in February, is a remake of the 1965 Disney movie. In the new film, Doug E. Doug plays a rookie F.B.I. agent. His first movie role was in Spike Lee's ''Mo' Better Blues'' (1990). That led to several other parts, but he was most memorable in ''Cool Runnings,'' the comedy about a Jamaican bobsled team that makes it to the Olympics. As Sanka Coffie, a happy-go-lucky pushcart racer who is dragooned into the bobsled adventure, Doug E. Doug created a character both goofy and smart, and Sanka's hunched shoulders, wide eyes and jutting chin have fit into the ''Cosby'' role.
Doug E. Doug's first television role was on the ABC sitcom ''Where I Live,'' playing the central character, a 17-year-old Harlem resident. That show had a brief life, and he said the experience taught him that prime-time television hates to take risks. ''Young artists should get six-show commitments and have the opportunity to do what it is they do,'' he said.
Film, he said, offers ''an environment that's more open to innovation.'' ''Citizen James'' is about three young men in Bedford-Stuyvesant who set out to make a movie, with no money and no real understanding of what it takes.
DOUG E. DOUG STILL performs occasionally in New York comedy clubs, to stay in touch with that world. And he insists he is serious about eventually taking on yet another profession: teaching elementary school.
''Elementary and high school kids, they're my fan base, my friends,'' he said. ''I talk to them about the importance of education, but also about other things. Like how I remember being rambunctious in school, and a teacher telling me 'You are funny, but this is not the place.' That's become a favorite slogan of mine: 'This is not the place.' And I tell kids, if someone gets in the way of your education, you have every right to say, 'This is not the place.' '
An Article from The Desert News
The first season of CBS's `Cosby' leaves the man himself wanting more
By Frazier Moore, AP Television Writer
Published: May 26, 1997 12:00 am
Bill Cosby is talking whipped cream.
" . . . A vat of whipped cream," he proposes, "with a paintbrush in it where you just slap it on him." By "him" Cosby means Hilton Lucas, the character he plays on his CBS sitcom.He is standing in cavernous Stage E at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, consulting with executive producer Norman Steinberg.
It's the end of a long rehearsal, the day before taping the season's 25th and final episode (and the day before the Los Angeles police announce the capture of the man they say killed Cosby's son in January, a tragedy that has hung over the show and haunted its star the two months since).
But at the moment, Cosby is consumed with just one thing: fixing the script's slapstick finale. How to stage it remains uncertain.
"Uncertain" could describe "Cosby" overall. Extremely high-profile (as if any TV show Cosby did could be otherwise), his new sitcom knocked nobody's socks off in its freshman season.
Even some of those present on Stage E this March afternoon concede the vexing truth: A series built around television's most identifiable star continues to suffer an identity crisis.
" . . . The tag is, he has been kind enough," riffs Cosby, still sketching out the episode's finale in his free-form, almost be-bop style, "the tag for this is, y'know, he's been kind enough to let the kid - you know what I mean? And I'm sitting there and I have to take it, y'understand? OK?"
"OK," says Steinberg, who really does understand. Then he's off to get another rewrite going.
Historic Kaufman Astoria is home to "Imus in the Morning," "Sesame Street" and lots of movies. And it was right here, too, that, from 1984 through 1992, Cosby soared in "The Cosby Show," a spectacularly successful NBC sitcom about an attractive professional couple (she a lawyer, he an obstetrician) who seemed to have it all, including the last word in every exchange with their townhouse-full of kids.
After that came a pair of misfires: "You Bet Your Life," a syndicated game show, and a bland whodunit on NBC called "The Cosby Mysteries."
Then, 18 months ago, CBS' newly named entertainment president, Leslie Moonves, unveiled Cosby as the key player to pull his anemic network from the brink.
Cosby's new sitcom would be based on "One Foot in the Grave," a popular British comedy about a downsized worker and his wife in their autumn years, acrimoniously coping with his joblessness.
At the CBS announcement on Dec. 1, 1995, Cosby told the press he would be portraying a "curmudgeon, a correctable fool" who is "Archie Bunker without the racism and sexism."
He brought back his "Cosby Show" co-star Phylicia Rashad to once again play his wife, and added Madeline Kahn as his wife's best friend, Doug E. Doug as the lovable but ne'er-do-well next-door neighbor, and T'Keyah Crystal Keymah as the Lucas' grown daughter.
Their world would be a modest Queens neighborhood not unlike the one surrounding Kaufman Astoria.
On Sept. 16, 1996, "Cosby" - the seventh TV series to bear some version of Bill Cosby's name - took the lead-off spot on CBS' Monday schedule. The premiere outing won a hefty 27 percent share of the viewers.
Five weeks later, its share had plunged to 17 percent.
"Losing 10 share points with the fear of going even lower," sighs Cosby in the plush refuge of his office/dressing room. "I think it was solely because I wasn't doing the things the 27-share people had tuned in to see."
A safe bet. For more than three decades, he had reaped incalculable goodwill from audiences who, in turn, relied on him to stick to variations on a single irresistible theme: a hip, empathetic patriarch.
By now, at age 58, Cosby has long since come to be seen as the latter-day Father of Our Country, a family man of towering credibility, influence and means.
Even when struck powerless by the murder of his only son, 27-year-old Ennis Cosby - well, rather than retreat into private mourning, the father was brave for his extended family. He saw that his fans, grieving for him, needed him to make them laugh again. Adopting his son's chipper greeting ("Hello, friend"), he got back to work.
So why wouldn't viewers be perplexed by Cosby recasting himself as Hilton Lucas, a grouchy, none-too-levelheaded baggage handler laid off by the airline he had worked for all his life? For the first time in his career, Cosby was playing someone operating not from a position of strength but from weakness. And it just didn't compute.
"Cosby," in short, got in the way of Cosby being Cosby.
"There were times Hilton did things a Bill Cosby would not get away with," acknowledges Cosby, speaking slowly, deliberately, a sort of godfather of comedy as he declares, "The character had to be changed."
All through the season (which ended with this past Monday's episode), "Cosby" was going through changes, too. Writers for the show charted its migration further and further from the bitterly funny British original - and did so, at times, with serious misgivings.
And what remained after all this tinkering? Well, for one thing, a hit.
David Poltrack, CBS' research guru, notes that the most recent Nielsen survey ranks the series 21st for the season (out of more than 100 shows), and that, all season, "Cosby" has dominated its daunting Monday-at-7-p.m. half-hour - a slot with no network lead-in and competition on five other networks.
Poltrack brands the show "an unqualified success."
"I feel great about it, I really do," echoes the network's entertainment chief, Leslie Moonves. "I would do `Cosby' again in a second."
Of course, whatever success "Cosby" has achieved dims with comparisons, as inevitable as they are unfair, to "The Cosby Show."
That was the sitcom that not only saved NBC's bacon but the sitcom genre, to boot. It filled the air with an excited buzz even before its premiere, boasted a perfect vision with perfect execution from its first week, finished its freshman season in the No. 3 slot, and then owned the top spot for the next four seasons.
"It was probably more thought-out," allows Rashad, who was wife Clair to Cosby's Cliff Huxtable. "It didn't feel as touch-and-go as some of the weeks have with the current show.
"I don't think we've hit our stride yet," she says. "But we will. We will."
In his sparely appointed office just off the soundstage, Steinberg, who became the show's third "runner" during a year he describes as "quite a roller-coaster ride," peers through his tortoise-shell frames and says, "I think it took a season to get Cliff and Clair Huxtable out of viewers' minds.
"I think there was a haze, and in that haze I think there was some groping going on internally: `Where are we headed?' I can't tell you that we're there yet. But I think we're getting there."
The larger problem may not be where the show is headed, but the baggage it's carrying en route - the baggage of the original concept.
For instance, in softening the Hilton Lucas character, Cosby has had to soft-pedal the jobless state Hilton finds himself in.
In the premiere episode, the pain of being unemployed was at least given lip service. Hilton spoke of being a man "cut down in his prime" (to which his wife Ruth implausibly replied, "It's been three weeks! Get over it!").
But as the season wore on, there seemed less and less mention of that plight - as if it had simply gone away, as if Hilton, bowing to his wife, really did get over it.
Apparently, Cosby wants to get over it, too. "He doesn't even want to HEAR the word `downsized' anymore," says Dennis Klein, the creator of the show and its runner until his departure in February.
Taping for the 1997-98 season begins in August. Then the task resumes to retrofit "Cosby," a show that can claim a great star and a healthy following, with the one thing it still hasn't settled on: a clear vision.
As he looks ahead, Cosby is asked if he found this uncertain year a good experience.
"Yes," he says, his voice dipping into a cool, assured whisper, "and I want more." A man used to having his way, he says it again. "Yes. And I want more."
An Article from The Desert News
CBS cancels 'Cosby'
Published: Tuesday, March 28, 2000 12:00 a.m. MST
By Scott D. Pierce Deseret News television editor
"Cosby," the show that was supposed to be the linchpin around which CBS built its schedule, has been canceled by the network after four rather disappointing seasons on the air.
Certainly the show never came anywhere near the success of the 1984-92 NBC sitcom "The Cosby Show," which rocketed to the top of the ratings and was the No. 1 show on TV for five seasons.When new CBS president Leslie Moonves signed Cosby in 1996, it was considered somewhat of a coup. The network was in deep ratings trouble and it signaled a turnaround in the Big Eye's fortunes. And that remained something Moonves remained grateful for even after three years of declining ratings and a decision a year ago to move the show from Monday to Wednesday.
"Bill Cosby absolutely was the centerpiece of our rebuild," Moonves said.
The show was a moderate success on Mondays, but ratings fell after leaving Mondays for Wednesdays and then Fridays, down from about 16 million viewers per week in 1996-97 to about 9 million per week in the current season.
The show is scheduled to air its last original episode on Friday, April 28.
Cosby will develop other projects for CBS. The fate of his show "Kids Say the Darndest Things" remains to be determined.
Here's Madeline Kahn's Obituary from The New York Times
Madeline Kahn, Comedian Of Film Fame, Dies at 57
By WILLIAM H. HONAN DEC. 4, 1999
Madeline Kahn, the Oscar-nominated comedian best known for her work in the films ''Paper Moon'' and ''Blazing Saddles'' and in the Broadway revival of ''Born Yesterday,'' died yesterday in a Manhattan hospital. She was 57 and lived in Manhattan.
The cause was ovarian cancer, said Jeff Schneider, a spokesman for the William Morris agency, which represented her.
Ms. Kahn acknowledged the illness publicly last month, saying she was undergoing ''aggressive treatment.'' She had been fighting the disease for the last year, Mr. Schneider said.
Once described as a Botticelli angel cracking a malicious grin, Ms. Kahn was one of the nation's queens of comedy on a par with Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin.
Ms. Kahn was nominated for Academy Awards for best supporting actress two years in a row, for her portrayal of a floozy named Trixie Delight in ''Paper Moon'' in 1973 and her role as a saloon singer in ''Blazing Saddles'' in 1974.
She was also nominated for Tony Awards for ''In the Boom Boom Room'' in 1973; ''On the 20th Century'' in 1978, and the revival of ''Born Yesterday'' in 1989.
Ms. Kahn made her debut in the chorus line of the 1965 City Center revival of ''Kiss Me Kate,'' the show that is now on Broadway. Her Broadway break was in Leonard Stillman's ''New Faces of 1968,'' for which she received glowing reviews.
She won a Tony Award for best actress in 1993 with her role as a ditsy matron in the Broadway production of ''The Sisters Rosensweig.''
Ms. Kahn was also known for her roles in the Mel Brooks movies ''Young Frankenstein'' and ''High Anxiety.'' She had most recently taken on the part of Pauline, a neighbor on the CBS sitcom ''Cosby.''
Discussing comic technique and audience reaction in an interview in 1989 just before she opened on Broadway in the Judy Holliday role in ''Born Yesterday,'' Ms. Kahn remarked: ''Laughter is a strange response. I mean, what is it? It's a spasm of some kind! Is that always joy? It's very often discomfort. It's some sort of explosive reaction.''
Flashing a devilish smile, she added musically, ''It's very complex.''
Critics and fellow actors said her intuitive comic technique derived partly from the daffy, cartoonish way she spoke, savoring some words and flinging out others as if to pop soap bubbles.
One interviewer called her ''a kind of toy person: diminutive, delightful, sexy, impish, cute and capable of squirting vinegar in your eye.''
In ''Blazing Saddles,'' Ms. Kahn used her classically trained voice in an amusing portrayal of a saloon singer who helps Gene Wilder foil Mel Brooks's evil plan to do in the new sheriff in town.
''She is one of the most talented people that ever lived,'' Mr. Brooks once said. ''I mean, either in stand-up comedy, or acting, or whatever you want, you can't beat Madeline Kahn.''
Madeline Gail Kahn was born in Boston and grew up there and in New York, the child of divorced middle-class parents. She is survived by her husband, John Hansbury, and a brother, Jeffrey.
Ms. Kahn took an early interest in acting. She continued to perform while a student at Hofstra University on Long Island. She was cautioned by a teacher that her baby-talk way of speaking -- which has been described as if ''filtered through a ceramic nose'' -- would be a handicap. But she turned this trait to her advantage. After flirting with a singing career, she made many movies in which she used her voice for comic effect and people remembered it.
In ''Blazing Saddles,'' for example, she played an all-fluff-and-garters loose woman of the Wild West -- a Dietrich sendup -- who makes cowpokes beg for her favors.
When she is bored she tells them to go away, and when one timorous soul presents her with a flower she exclaims memorably: ''Oh, one wed wose! How wovely!''
To watch some clips from Cosby go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=cosby+1996+tv+show&aq=f
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130406184038/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/cosby.html
To see how Cosby crossed over with The King of Queens go to http://www.poobala.com/cosbyandking.html
To go to the Official Website of Bill Cosby go to http://www.billcosby.com/
For the Bill Cosby Appreciation Page go to https://web.archive.org/web/20020203142703/http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca:80/~umpiecz0/cosby/cosbypage.html
For The Madeline Kahn Page go to http://mkahnfan.tripod.com/
For the Untold Truth of Bill Cosby go to https://www.nickiswift.com/120100/untold-truth-bill-cosby/
For some Cosby-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/cosby
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Keywords: Cosby Cast (Links Updated 7/25/18)