The Bill Cosby Show: Season One, Cosby's Emmy-nominated first situation comedy (featuring 26 fully restored uncut episodes from the 1969-70 season), is a fresh mix of intelligent character studies and real-life situations, seamlessly infused with his trademark sense of humor and positive outlook.
Chet Kincaid (Cosby) is a gym teacher at an urban high school in Los Angeles, an all-around good guy and an inspiration to his friends, family and students. Chet's good heart gets him into tons of predicaments, such as losing a one-on-one basketball game to a student he considered too short to make the team, his accidental involvement in a domestic dispute when he answers a pay phone and going on a date in a borrowed garbage truck.
Includes music by Quincy Jones and guest appearances by:
Academy Award-winner Lou Gossett Jr. (An Officer And A Gentleman)
Henry Fonda (On Golden Pond)
Cicely Tyson ("Roots")
Elsa Lanchester (Bride Of Frankenstein)
Wally Cox ("Mr. Peepers")
And many others
Fresh off a successful three-season run on I Spy
, in which he was the first black performer to land a leading role in a TV drama, actor-comedian Bill Cosby had the clout and popularity to do pretty much whatever he wanted for his next project. He made a wise choice with The Bill Cosby Show
, released here with the first season's 26 episodes contained on four discs. Not to be confused with The Cosby Show
, the immensely popular '80s series that focused on the home life of a middle-class New York family and earned Cosby the top spot on TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time," The Bill Cosby Show
, which aired from 1969-71, features Cosby as Chet Kincaid, a high school basketball coach and teacher. Kincaid is single, which provides fodder for several storylines. He's also considerably hipper than Dr. Cliff Huxtable, and the show has an overall tone that's, well, funkier than its juggernaut of a successor. Still, Cosby is Cosby, and the same values he espouses in life (fairness, the importance of education) and the techniques he brings to his standup comedy routines (especially an emphasis on storytelling over one-liners) are apparent here as well. Indeed, his imprimatur is all over the series, which is entirely a good thing. Although the show is often very funny (he's at his best in "Let X Equal a Lousy Weekend," which finds him completely out of his depth when substituting for the algebra teacher), Cosby was adamant that it not include a canned laugh track; in an interview conducted for the DVD release (it's the only bonus feature), he recalls his battles with NBC over the issue, and suggests it contributed to the network's decision not to renew the show despite high ratings. Even more striking is its refusal to play the race card, even for laughs. Although Kincaid's high school is thoroughly multi-culti, racism is a non-factor; an episode that deals with prejudice involves Kincaid's reluctance to give a proper tryout to an African-American basketball player simply because the boy is too short. And while the show is kid-friendly, addressing issues like shoplifting, learning to drive, and profanity, the focus is primarily on the proud, principled Chet and his dealings with family, friends, students, prospective dates, and such. What emerges is a portrait of a gentle, decent, funny guy, and a program that deserved more than two seasons on the air. --Sam Graham