The Cosby Show: Season 1
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The Cosby Show appeared on NBC from 1984 to 1992, becoming one of the most popular programs in the history of television. The Cosby Show depicted a close-knit and prosperous African-American family that dwelled in New York City. Dr. Heathcliff and Clair Huxtable were a happily married, dual-profession couple with aspirations of raising their 5 children in an uplifting, positive environment. The Cosby Show held TV's #1 slot for a record 5 consecutive years (1985 to 1990) and stayed in the Top 20 shows for all eight seasons it was on NBC.
Looking back at season 1 of The Cosby Show, it's easy to forget that momentous history was being made. Not only did this immensely popular sitcom hold the #1 spot among all network TV shows for five consecutive seasons (a record that still stands), but it promoted an evolutionary progression that influenced the entire TV industry from that point forward. African Americans had enjoyed sitcom success in the past (on Julia, The Jeffersons, and Good Times), but the idealized family of Cliff and Clair Huxtable (Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad) represented a new and quietly revolutionary perspective; married for 21 years with five children (one in college, a detail unmentioned in the pilot episode), the Huxtables were happy and successful (he's a doctor, she's a lawyer), and issues of race were almost entirely irrelevant to the show's universal appeal. Making their Thursday-night debut on September 20, 1984, they were conceived by Cosby (as "executive consultant Dr. William H. Cosby Jr., Ed.D."), cocreators Ed. Weinberger and Michael Leeson, and executive producers Tom Werner and Marcy Carsey, with a matter-of-fact approach to upgrading the African American image, built upon Cosby's rubber-faced popularity as a stand-up comedian and rooted in the complete and unbiased integration of the black experience into the American mainstream. More to the point, The Cosby Show was eminently respectable family entertainment, perhaps too squeaky-clean for some tastes, but immediately popular at a time when Eddie Murphy (in Beverly Hills Cop) was honing a more profane image that Cosby disapproved of.
The show was also perfectly cast for mass appeal, from the irresistible precociousness of Keshia Knight Pulliam (as the youngest and most charming Huxtable daughter, Rudy) to the stylish adolescence of Lisa Bonet (years before her controversial role in Angel Heart) as 16-year-old Denise; Malcolm-Jamal Warner as outspoken teenager Theo; Tempestt Bledsoe as sensible younger daughter Vanessa; and Sabrina LaBeauf as college student and eventual mother of twins, Sondra. Combined with the effortless chemistry of Cosby and Rashad (credited in Season 1 as Phylicia Ayers Allen), the entire cast forged an easygoing, loosely-rehearsed dynamic that was genuinely familial.
Given The Cosby Show's immense popularity, it's deeply regrettable that the exorbitant cost of original music rights resulted in this DVD release of edited episodes that were shortened, with different music cues added, for perpetual syndication. Fans eager to see the original NBC broadcasts were understandably outraged, and this shortcoming should be addressed in DVD releases of subsequent seasons. In truth, the episodes (including "Goodbye, Mr. Fish," a perfect example of the show's universal appeal) are not significantly diminished by the careful editing; for casual fans, the difference is barely worth mentioning. And while the 90-minute bonus feature "The Cosby Show: A Look Back" (a clip show originally broadcast May 19, 2002) suffers from the conspicuous absence of Bonet (who by then had mostly retreated from show business), it duly conveys the long-term value (and moral values) of the series, which singlehandedly restored the fortunes of NBC while embracing familial togetherness that would inform many of the popular sitcoms that followed its noble example. --Jeff Shannon
- All 24 episodes from 1984-85 season
- The 90-minute 2002 TV special "A Look Back" including deleted scenes, bloopers, audition footage and more
- DVD Booklet with air date infomation
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Urban Works released all twenty-four episodes BUT, (there always is a but isn't there) each episode has about one to two minutes cut off of it. Now most fans will be outraged as I about this DVD release and some might not even buy this set, but I would like to remind you there is some bonus material that's hard to find. There's a pretty interesting ninety minute special that aired on May 19, 2002 called "The Cosby Show: A Look Back which has interviews with the cast, bloopers, and auditions which makes this set worth the buy. And a nice addition to this set is a pamphlet which includes a word from Bill Cosby, season one's episode descriptions, the Nielsen Ratings for seasons one through seven and highlights from season one. So you have to decide, is it worth buying season one for the bonus material, or not. I really wanted the bonus material and it is nice to be able to watch episodes whenever you feel like so I decided to purchase it. There are many great episodes from season one and one of my favorites is "Back to the Track, Jack" when Cliff "Combustible" Huxtable runs a race against his rival Sanford B. "Tailwind" Turner. (Played by Josh Culbreath) But there are so many great ones, and if you would like to know some of the other episodes from season one here is an episode description.
Pilot - Airdate: 9/20/1984 - Cliff and Clair deal with the daily pressures of having children, Theo receives a bad report card, Denise goes out on a date and
Rudy is afraid to go back asleep because she thinks the wolf man is in her closet.
Goodbye Mr. Fish - Airdate: 9/27/1984 - Rudy's pet fish dies, and Cliff decides to have a funeral for Rudy's fish.
Bad Dreams - Airdate: 10/4/1984 - Vanessa has nightmares after watching a scary movie and Cliff and Clair try to help Vanessa overcome her fear.
Is That My Boy? - Airdate: 10/11/1984 - Theo joins the football team.
The Shirt Story - Airdate: 10/19/1964 - Theo wants to impress a girl by wearing an expensive shirt but since Cliff and Clair will not pay for it, Denise offers to make a copy of the shirt for him.
Breaking with Tradition - Airdate: 10/25/1984 - Cliff's father, Russell Huxtable, pays a visit and begins questioning Cliff about the kid's college choices.
One More Time - Airdate: 11/1/1984 - While Clair cares for a friend's baby, she begins to consider having another.
Play it Again, Vanessa - Airdate: 11/8/1984 - Vanessa is having a hard time practicing the Clarinet for her school concert.
How Ugly is He - Airdate: 11/15/1984 - Denise has a new boyfriend, but is reluctant to tell Cliff.
Bon Jour, Sondra - Airdate: 11/22/1984 - Sondra plans on going to Paris for the summer with her friends, and while Clair agrees to let her go, Sondra still needs Cliff's permission.
You're not a Mother Tonight - Airdate: 12/6/1984 - Clair is exhausted from constantly caring for the children so Cliff decides to take her out for a romantic evening and a stay at a fancy hotel.
Rudy's Sick - Airdate: 12/13/1984 - Rudy is sick, so Cliff takes care of her.
Father's Day - Airdate: Airdate: 12/20/1984 - Cliff complains about the poor quality of his annual Father's Day gifts and he challenges the children to find some better presents for father's day.
Independence Day - Airdate: 1/10/1985 - Theo gets his ear pierced and he doesn't want Cliff and Clair to find out.
Physician of the Year - Airdate: 1/17/1985 - Cliff is set to receive an important award, but a woman goes into labor right before the ceremony, and Theo is asked to give the speech.
Jitterbug Break - Airdate: 1/31/1985 - Cliff tries to impress Denise's friends by teaching them how to jitterbug.
Theo and the Joint - Airdate: 2/7/1985 - Cliff discovers a cigarette in Theo's school book.
Vanessa's New Class - Airdate: 2/14/1985 - Vanessa creates a model of the solar system for her science class, but is disappointed when she finds out how much better the other kids ones are.
Clair's Case - Airdate: 2/21/1984 - A sneaky mechanic tries to swindle Sondra, so Clair takes on the case.
Back to the Track, Jack - Airdate: 2/29/1985 - Cliff's college track coach contacts him and asks to run in a charity event between Hillman and its rival, Norton College.
The Younger Women - Airdate: 3/14/1985 - Cliff and Clair receive a visit from an old friend and when he arrives he is accompanied with a new girlfriend that is half his age.
Slumber Party - Airdate: 3/29/1985 - Rudy invites all of her friends over for a slumber party.
Mr. Quiet - Airdate: 5/2/1985 - Cliff, Clair and Theo volunteer at a local community center, while they're there, Theo notices a battered boy and tries to find help, and the owner does his best to lend assistance.
Cliff's Birthday - Airdate: 5/9/1985 - Cliff is turning 48, and as usual, he is trying to find out what his birthday present is ahead of time.
So you have to decide for yourself if this collection is worth buying, yes the edited episodes that are being included on this set is frustrating, but they're still being edited for syndication on television and they're only shown at a specific time. And if you own season one on DVD you can watch an episode whenever you feel like it, and be able to watch interesting bonus material, so this product is only mildly recommended.
I grew up with this show; the pilot first aired when I was four, and my whole family watched the show right until the finale of Season 8. And, Dr. Cosby (yes, he's a doctor of education) proved time and again throughout the series that education is as important to everyone as entertainment.
Of most significance to me in the here-and-now (2008) is the hour-and-a-half documentary from 2005, The Cosby Show: A Look Back. (Even without Lisa Bonet, that special is just that, special.) That DVD, combined with all the memories of the regular series kept me captivated when I first happend onto it. My copy arrived March 11, 2008, and I watched it at least a little bit every day for eight days afterwards. It won't grow old anytime soon.
Also, as a musician, I have a great appreciation for the series score, including all the neat Stu Gardner tidbits with the saxophones and phase-shifted Rhodes piano. If I've got any real interest in Jazz, it largely stems from the music of this show.
[One thing I didn't realize during the series run is how much Dr. Huxtable's job seemed to be a kind of sideshow, in which all these silly characters materialized. This element appeared in episodes like the pilot, "Rudy's Sick," "Theo and the Joint," "Father's Day" and "Physician of the Year," along with multiple episodes from following seasons.]
Someday, I'll get the coveted Columbia House set. For now, I'm sticking with these. (It would be nice to know if the full-length cut of the pilot includes an example of Dr. Cosby's macho breathing taken (like much of the pilot material) from the HBO special, Bill Cosby Himself.)