YMMV: The Cosby Show

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: There are times when Clair can really be something between a control freak or outright tyrant. While it's most often Played for Laughs in her not allowing Cliff to do some things he wants and in other cases, but it really isn't appropriate for her to call ahead to a store where Cliff is a regular customer and telling the owner not to sell him anything; it hurts the guy's business and she has no right to make that kind of demand as it's not her property. The punchline of this every time it comes up is the fact that Clair is a lawyer and she'd find some way to get back at them.
    • One episode in season 3 supports this as we learn just who Rudy got her incredibly bossy attitude from.
    • Theo also brings this up in one episode when he flat out tells Cliff, "Your wife won't let you do anything." That degree of control may also be why Theo himself views marriage as the place where the romance goes to die.
  • Award Snub: Bill Cosby himself stated that Phylicia Rashad deserved an Emmy for her performance on the show numerous times, but was only nominated twice, and never won. Cosby himself never even got a nomination.
    • In the "Lookback Special," Cosby again mentioned this, but then said (paraphrasing), "When you look at the kinds of things she'd be up against today, she doesn't need it."
    • It should be noted, though, that not being nominated was Cosby's choice; he specifically requested not to be considered for Emmys, as he disliked encouraging competition among actors.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: Clair, what are you doing behind a giant teddy bear in the living room? Yes, it was used for Season 3's Hide Your Pregnancy but it had absolutely no connection with anything in the episode nor is it ever brought up again.
    • One episode in Season 6 has Clair going away for a weekend retreat due to stress. As she leaves, the girls chant "Go, Mom!" repeatedly. It's a moment that doesn't match up with parting scenes from previous episodes, contributes nothing to the greater plot, nor is anything like it done again for the rest of the series.
  • Creator's Pet: Arguably both Olivia and Pam qualify. Olivia was blatantly added because Rudy had grown up so much that the earlier "Cosby with Cute Kids" antics were missing, meaning scene after scene of he and Olivia being cute together, and Pam was an attempt to address complaints that the series showed an idealized version of life as a black family in urban America. Suddenly packing the cast with Pam and her streetwise friends almost made it feel like a different show.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: So a taxi carrying a pregnant lady crashes into Dr. Huxtable's car and he has to deliver her baby right there. Despite the adrenaline rush of an emergency situation for the characters, it's made hilarious for the audience.
  • Designated Villain: Elvin was this when he was first introduced as a Straw Misogynist. Sure, he did and said a few stupid things (like forgetting he had a date with Sondra, or claiming that baking and cooking was a "women's job"). But really, the guy was a harmless doofus, who never would have hurt Sondra on purpose. And yet, her parents treated him as if he was the biggest scum on Earth. But it later got better, and Elvin got married to Sondra.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: While many people see Pam Tucker as an example of The Scrappy, you can also see her as a welcome bit of fresh air in a show, that would last only two more seasons anyway. So she's more of a Base Breaker. Despite how the show always was set in New York, it wasn't until when Pam showed up in the 7th season, that we got a regular view of what it was like to live in a ghetto neighborhood. She had obviously had a rougher life than Cliff's and Claire's own kids, and she could be seen as much more down to Earth than her cousins.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: The scene where Clair and Cliff discuss role-playing Macbeth, and Cliff says "I'll be the Big Bad Wolf." Give the overtones of sexual violence in the fairy tale and later allegations leveled against Bill Cosby...
    • The Cosby allegations also dragged a later episode ("Last Barbecue" from Season 7) into this, as a "secret barbecue sauce" Cliff made that got the couples sedated and aroused plays a key role in that episode's plot.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The fact that Theo was based on Cosby's Real Life only son Ennis who was tragically murdered by a carjacker in 1997.
    • In some ways, the pilot episode, where Cliff calls Theo out for continued poor academic performance at school, becomes this after Cosby was invited in 1989 to the University of Notre Dame to speak to a group of black athletes who were graduating. During the course of the speech, he addressed Dean Brown, an all-American tackle for the Irish, what his GPA was, to which Brown replied 2.5; Cosby, according to news reports, then proceeded to humiliate him in front of the other students and parents ("2.5 is OK if you have a mental disorder"), suggesting that Brown did not put forth any effort and berating his effort to tears, and cutting him off every time Brown or someone else tried to defend him. The incident was reported but widely ignored until several women came forward in 2014, claiming Cosby had drugged and raped them.[1]. Conversely, on The Cosby Show, Theo vows to — and does — work harder, earning a college degree with a 4.0 GPA by the end of the series; in real life, while Brown became a successful school administrator, was shaken by the incident for the rest of his life.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In season 6, Martin says he's excited about the prospect of seeing B.B. King perform live (but ends up not getting to). Later in the season, in-universe character Riley Jackson, played by B.B. King, performs for the family.
    • Several years after the show ended, Joseph C. Phillips, Martin's portrayer, was cast on General Hospital. Shortly into his tenure, BB King made a guest appearance on the show.
  • Humor Dissonance:
    • "Theo's Gift," the episode where Theo finds out that he's dyslexic. While the episode finally did explain why Theo struggled so much in school, his diagnosis is mostly played for laughs.
    • Bill Cosby himself said this happened as early as the third season when, after Phylicia Rashad had her Hide Your Pregnancy time, Cliff and Clair's onscreen romance moments become much less frequent.
  • Idiot Plot: A couple a season, and usually involving Vanessa. One memorable one involved her and her friends defying her and their parents to go to a concert out of the state, and in the ensuing idiocy, they lose their car, their money AND their tickets due to trusting a con artist who pretended to be a security guard who said he could get them backstage. Clair sums it up perfectly:
    Clair: "Anyone with half a gnat's brain would say, 'I'm going home now!'"
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: The first season episode "Mr. Quiet" introduces the local youth center, run by a nice guy named Tony (played by Tony Orlando!) and staffed by some interesting, quirky characters, each of whom gets honest-to-god title cards in the closing credits, something that had never happened before on the series. The episode spends almost as much time with Tony and his pals as it does on the Huxtables, and their plots only sort of relate to each other. The Huxtables are clearly starring in the B-plot of the episode. No series was born from Tony and the youth center, however.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Adam Sandler plays Smitty, one of Theo's high school buddies. Iman and Angela Bassett can be spotted as patients of Cliff. Raven-Symoné plays Olivia.
    • Apparently in one of Jadzia Dax's former lives she was blonde and dating a friend of Cliff and Claire's.
    • An unrecognizable Alicia Keys played one of Rudy's friends at a sleepover party. All of five years old, she has no individual lines, has short hair and is never addressed by name, unlike all the other children. She is credited by her real name, Alicia Cook.
  • The Scrappy: Olivia was introduced in the 6th season, just so they could have a new "cute child". But she was very close to becoming a Creator's Pet, and she often acted as if she was much older than she was.
    • Cousin Pam, who was introduced in the 7th season, has a hatedom as well, as she too came in from nowhere to be a regular. But a few fans see her an Ensemble Darkhorse instead, which would make her a Base Breaker.
  • Seinfeld Is Unfunny: The many, many imitators that have come since make even the best of Cosby episodes seem stale and dated.