In 1984 when the Cosby Show came on the air on NBC, I was eight years old in September, 1984. Actually I have more to say about this, but in the mid 1980s African-American families were stereotyped as poor, low-class, un-educated, single-parent with the mother trying to raise multiple kids on her own in some run down ghetto inner-city area. Dad completely out of the picture, perhaps in prison, or mom unaware of who the father of her kids are. The Cosby Show certainly not by itself, but they changed the way Americans looks at African-Americans and African-American families.
That alone makes the Cosby Show a success. Because even thirty-years ago not all African-American families were in that poor situation. Sure a lot of them and more than the national average as still is the case today. But the Cosby Show did what few other shows and perhaps only the Jefferson’s did in the 1970s. Which was to show successful African-Americans and their kids. And that they have made it in America and that the entire community is not poor, un-educated, low-class, not knowing who their father was or dad leaving them when they were young.
The Cosby Show was sort of a stereotypical American dream. Dad is a successful doctor, mom is a successful lawyer. They live in a beautiful upper class neighborhood and house in New York City. They have great intelligent beautiful kids who are all doing well and are all successful. They were living the upper middle class dream and showing Americans another side of African-American life that probably far too many Americans perhaps of all races were not aware of.
And as funny as this show was and I don’t know if there has ever been a funnier and better comedian on TV with their own sitcom than Bill Cosby, but as funny and as popular that show was, it had a very serious message. That African-Americans can make it in America and that Americans of all races can live, work, socialize with each other and not be bogged down by the fact that someone in the group or multiple people in the group has a different complexion or from a different race.
The Cosby Show was about a successful New York African-American family, but the show wasn’t about race. It was about the lives of these people in this family and the show hardly focused on race at all and rarely if ever cracked racial or ethnic jokes on the show. Because that is not what the show was about, but it was about another side of the African-American story that hadn’t been told up to that point. That not all African-Americans are poor and un-educated with criminal records etc. But that they are also successful and educated and doing very well in America.
TV Legends: The Cosby Show- The Making of a Sitcom Classic