Confession: I’ve seen about four episodes of “The Cosby Show” in their entirety, and that might be a stretch.
But while the lives of a close-knit, upper-middle-class family didn’t much appeal to me, I get that it was an important show and “an encouraging sign of maturity in matters of race,” as Time magazine once blurbed. It was a cultural touchstone, and Cosby was warm and gentle and groundbreaking as prime-time TV’s Everydad, who just happened to be black.
But Cosby has been so many other characters that continue to resonate in my head with enduring affection.
He was the dashing Alexander Scott on “I Spy,” the sidekick who turned Robert Culp’s main character into cardboard. Then he was cool phys-ed teacher Chet Kincaid on “The Bill Cosby Show,” an earnest and intelligent comedy that marked the first time an African-American had an eponymous prime-time show (clip below). It also had the best theme song of its time, maybe of any time.
Then he turned to the kids, creating and voicing Fat Albert (spreading “Hey, hey, hey” across pop culture like pre-Twitter wildfire) and was a familiar face on the educational romp “The Electric Company.”
In the ‘70s he found a big-screen niche somewhere between the suaveness of Sidney Poitier and the sinister sideburns of Richard Roundtree to do crime capers such as “Uptown Saturday Night,” “Let’s Do it Again” and “A Piece of the Action.”
Later “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” went on to win Emmys, as did the PBS kids’ series “Little Bill,” so engaging in its quiet simplicity and one of the few of my 6-year-old’s shows that I can actually enjoy with her.
So, yes, there was Cliff Huxtable and his sweaters, but there were many other Cosbys that felt like a better fit.
Cosby will bring elements of all his personas to the Hard Rock Live stage on May 12, and tickets for the show ($84, $74, $64 and $54) go on sale 10 a.m. Friday at MyHRL.com, Ticketmaster.com and at 800-745-3000.
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