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The Cosby Show is an Americanmarker 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 Brooklynmarker, New Yorkmarker.

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 programs such as Roseanne, Home Improvement, The Drew Carey Show, Seinfeld, and Everybody Loves Raymond. The Cosby Show is one of only three American programs that have been #1 in the Nielsen Ratings for five consecutive seasons, along with All in the Family and American Idol. The show spawned the successful spin-off A Different World.

Having aired for 197 episodes (201 in syndication), The Cosby Show is the third-longest running U.S. comedy with a predominantly African American cast, surpassed only by The Jeffersons and Family Matters.


The genesis of the show was in the early 1980s. Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner, two former executives at ABC, left the network to start their own production company. They turned ABC in the late 1970s into the top network in television with their great eye for sitcoms like Mork & Mindy, Three's Company and Welcome Back, Kotter.

The two decided in order to get a sitcom to sell for their fledgling company, they needed a big name behind it. Bill Cosby, who during the 1970s starred in two failed sitcoms, produced award-winning stand-up comedy albums, and had roles in several different films, was relatively quiet during the early 1980s. Outside of his work on his cartoon series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, he was doing little in the fields of film and television. The two watched his stand-up comedy film, Bill Cosby: Himself. They loved the routine and decided they wanted to build a television series around a comedian's subject material which, with Cosby, was observations of life and family.

After meeting with them, Cosby returned to Carsey and Werner with his own ideas: the family would be blue-collared, with a stay at home mother and a limousine driving father with two sons and two daughters. Carsey and Werner convinced Cosby to make the family well-off financially, with both parents in lucrative and challenging fields. That way, the focus of the show would be Cosby's comedic material from his stand-up routines.


The show focused on the Huxtable family, an upper-middle class African-American family living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heightsmarker, New Yorkmarker, at 10 Stigwood Avenue. The patriarch was Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, an obstetrician. The matriarch was his wife, attorney Clair Huxtable née Hanks. Despite its comedic tone, the show sometimes involved serious subjects, such as son Theo's experiences dealing with dyslexia, inspired by Cosby's child Ennis, who was also 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 Citymarker rather than Los Angelesmarker, 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 Studiosmarker in Queensmarker.

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, Dizzy Gillespie 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). The character 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.

Bill Cosby's character is called "Clifford" in the early episodes of the first season (as 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.

Opening credits

The cast of The Cosby Show in 1989
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.

Due to legal complications regarding the background mural, the Season 7 opening was replaced with the one from the previous season. The original Season 7 opening, with slight modifications, was used in the eighth and final season.

To open the series' final episode (which was 60 minutes in length), an entirely new version of Kiss Me was used, while the credits featured clips from the openings from the previous seasons (excluding Season 1).


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

These were the ratings for each season, according to 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 #24 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."


Two albums were produced that included various theme and background music from the show. The albums were presented by longtime Cosby collaborator Stu Gardner. They were:

  • A House Full of Love: Music from The Cosby Show (1986)
  • Total Happiness (Music from the Bill Cosby Show, Vol. II) (1987)

DVD releases

All eight seasons of The Cosby Show have been released on DVD in Region 1. Seasons 1 and 2 were released by UrbanWorks which was subsequently acquired by First Look Studios, who then released the remaining 6 seasons. Seasons 1 and 2 contain special features including a 90-minute retrospective documentary entitled "The Cosby Show- A Look Back". It contains interviews with cast members, bloopers, deleted scenes and audition footage.

In Region 4, Magna Pacific has released seasons 1-6 of The Cosby Show on DVD in Australia and New Zealandmarker. The first two seasons have 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".

Universal Pictures UK has released Seasons 1-4 in Region 2 (UK). Season 4 was released on February 9, 2009. [25788]

DVD Title Ep # Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Season 1 24 August 2, 2005 May 19, 2008 October 4, 2006
Season 2 25 March 7, 2006 Aug 25, 2008 February 7, 2007
Season 3 25 June 5, 2007 Oct 13, 2008 April 4, 2007
Season 4 24 June 5, 2007 Feb 9, 2009 November 7, 2007
Season 5 25 November 6, 2007 March 5, 2008
Season 6 25 November 6, 2007 July 9, 2008
Season 7 26 April 8, 2008
Season 8 24 April 8, 2008
25th Anniversary
Commemorative Edition
201 November 11, 2008

Note: The Region 1 release of Season 1 contains the edited versions of the episodes aired in syndication. However, all subsequent DVD releases (including the complete series set) contain the original, uncut broadcast versions. It is not known if First Look Studios plans to re-release Season 1 with the original uncut episodes.


The Cosby Show's producers created a spin-off series called A Different World that was built 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.


  1. "TV: Breaking Down the List," Entertainment Weekly," #999/1000 June 27 & July 4, 2008, 56.

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