Worst kept secret ever, right? After running for eight seasons on NBC and receiving accolades as one of the best TV shows of the 1980s, The Cosby Show is the best black sitcom ever produced. Building on the strengths of its trailblazing predecessors, The Cosby Show has been credited by TV Guide with "almost single-handedly reviving the sitcom genre" and NBC after ABC chose not to pick it up—big mistake. It's been over 28 years since the show premiered on NBC, and ABC still has to be salty about their decision to pass. Shows like The Cosby Show—which served as the model for so many modern sitcoms—only come around once. Mistakes happen though; the Portland Trailblazers did pass on Michael Jordan in 1984, coincidentally the same year that The Cosby Show began.
For eight magical seasons, The Cosby Show revolved around the Huxtables, a well-to-do African-American family living in a Brooklyn brownstone. Not only were both parents present, they were extremely successful. Cliff was a doctor and Claire was a lawyer. They had five children: four girls and one boy. It went Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy. All five of the Huxtable children were based on Bill Cosby's actual children, including his late son Ennis who suffered from dyslexia, providing further inspiration for Theo's character.
Each of the Huxtable children attended college during the show's run, with the exception of Rudy, and only because she was too young. Denise followed in her parents and grandfather's footsteps at Hillman College, though she would eventually drop out to find herself through an alternative path, traveling to Africa and eventually marrying a Navy man. The Huxtables represented a nuclear family with successful parents who passed their values along to their children and pushed them to succeed, even when they fought their hardest against it.
By the end of the series, The Cosby Show had built a lineage of success from grandparents to children that hadn't been seen before on television, regardless of race. The Cosby Show played a huge role in the lives of all races, so when Jim Carey's character from The Cable Guy referred to himself as "the bastard son of Claire Huxtable," you understood and believed him.
In spite of its success—Emmy awards, Golden Globes, NAACP Image Awards and People's Choice Awards—people still managed to criticize the show. It was called unrealistic; people chided it for avoiding the subject of racism and neglecting the struggles of the underclass. If the only complaints were that the show portrayed African-Americans too positively, then there was nothing to complain about at all.
Did the Huxtables represent every black family? No, but neither did the families on previous shows. Not only did The Cosby Show offer a look into the life of an affluent African-American family, it also offered TV's first look at the HBCU through Hillman College. This paved the way for A Different World, and set up great crossover episodes between the two shows.
The Cosby Show's guest appearances were almost unmatched: Stevie Wonder, Senator Bill Bradley, Dick Vitale, Jim Valvano, Adam Sandler, and a very young Alicia Keys, just to name a few. Everyone wanted some of the good-natured success.
And you can't talk about the show without talking about style, as Cliff's collection of Coogi sweaters will forever be known as "Cosby Sweaters." The "Gordon Gartrelle" shirt episode will never be forgotten.
The Cosby Show ended during the L.A. Riots, and holds the crown as not only the best black television show, but one of the best televisions shows ever made. There will never be another like it. There can't be.