It’s 1984. The Cosby Show is a brand new series. Bill Cosby already established himself as a funny man, touring the country doing stand-up comedy and having mild success in his own acting ventures. But in this new series, he was Cliff Huxtable, a witty doctor with an affluent family, he quickly rose to the top of America’s ratings and became America’s dad.
It was through this show that many of us learned important lessons and got a daily dose of G-rated laughter. For the black community, there was no other show that portrayed a well-to-do family where one parent was a doctor and one was a lawyer. This was an entirely different show and it remained the number one show in the country for most of the eight years it was on-air. We became part of the Huxtable family, just as if Claire and Cliff were our own parents and Theo was our knucklehead brother.
After the show went off the air, Cosby was still at the peak of fame, producing more successful shows (A Different World, Little Bill) and continuing on his comedy tours. In fact, all of this kept him busy up until it all came to a screeching halt.
The rumors. For years, there were rumors swirling about who Cosby was off the stage and off camera. In the last decades, dozens of women have come forward to expose a totally different man than the one the American public has gotten to know. This wasn’t Cliff Huxtable, who offered the fatherly advice we all needed at one time or another. This wasn’t even the Bill Cosby who made us laugh until we cried. This was a man who nobody knew, and no one wanted to believe existed.
The timing of it all couldn’t have happened at a worst time. Cosby was on the verge of groundbreaking deals with NBC and Netflix involving new shows. A proposed agreement with NBC, in 2014 fell through once comedian Hannibal Burress brought up Cosby’s sexual assault accusations during a now-viral stand-up show. Settlements were made, more and more women came forward with horrifying details of how they were drugged and taken advantage of. The next four years were flooded with these overwhelming accusations, and the man who was once America’s dad now had a legacy that would be marred forever.
So, as a broad audience of people of all ages, how are we supposed to feel about Bill Cosby? The problem is we found Bill Cosby to be synonymous with his character Cliff Huxtable because that was arguably the most prominent thing we know about his career. Yes, the two were very similar in the sense that both were successful in their careers and were fathers to five children, but there’s no doubt that Cosby had one of the most jaw-dropping falls from grace that we will possibly ever see. Bill Cosby is not Cliff Huxtable. Cliff Huxtable is not Bill Cosby.
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