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YMMV / The Cosby Show

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  • 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.
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    • 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.
    • "Day Of The Locusts" - While Clair was overbearing and out of line to decide that she knew what was best for Sondra's children, some would say Sondra was pretty out of line herself. She agreed to let Clair and Francine take the babies so that she could rest. For her to let Elvin get her riled up to the point of acting as though they had kidnapped them—including yelling at her father and brother, who had nothing to do with it—was ridiculous and overdone.
    • Cliff and Clair unfairly set Rudy up to fail when she complains about all of the rules she has to follow. There's no reason they couldn't have said something like, "Okay, we'll extend your bedtime for half an hour for one week, and if you can't handle it, it's back to what it was.", etc. It's especially bad when you consider that she actually presents her arguments very calmly and maturely. The overall message is a rather patronizing, "Your parents are always right and you should never disagree with them."
  • Award Snub:
    • Bill Cosby himself stated that Phylicia Rashad deserved an Emmy for her performance on the show numerous times, but she was only nominated twice, and never won.
    • 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."
    • Cosby has never been nominated for an award, but that is because he purposefully never submitted a reel to be nominated. He disliked encouraging competition among actors — which eventually saved the Academy the would-be task of trying to revoke awards that were never pursued in the first place.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Cousin Pam. Is she a boring Scrappy, or a refreshing Breakout Character for bringing in an alternative point of view? Despite how the show always was set in New York, it wasn't until 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 Clair's own kids, and she could be seen as much more down to Earth than her cousins.
  • 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.
    • Honestly the show is kind of full of these because of its unconventional format. Some episodes follow a standard sitcom A-plot B-plot thing, but some episodes don't have a B-plot, and sometimes the focus isn't on plot at all so much as it is an excuse for stand-up routines to play out in front of the audience. There's plenty of moments that have nothing to do with anything and are more just like seeing the life of a real family play out on screen, completely sans climax.
  • Bizarro Episode: "The Day The Spores Landed" and "Cliff's Nightmare", crossing over with Dream Episode.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • The episode "If the Dress Fits, Wear It" has Clair use a rather dangerous crash diet in order to fit into a dress she's grown out of. Throughout the episode the fact she is torturing herself with fitness, starving herself, and having terrible cramps at night is all played for laughs, until the end of the episode where it not only is shown the diet has worked perfectly, but with absolutely no negative side-effects. It basically tells the viewers that harmful crash diets are safe and work great. Not only that, but Clair did not ask for any kind of familial assistance or support during it. While Cliff did overhear her plans to lose weight (but didn't know about the crash diet right away), he pretended to be ignorant until finally calling her out about her attitude at the end, which only applies the trope further because of Clair being Easily Forgiven due to succeeding.
    • Clair reacts to Sondra and Elvin's plans to open their own business with shock and horror, and then proceeds to become livid that they aren't following their original plans of continuing to law school and medical school, respectively. So basically anybody who isn't a doctor or a lawyer is a total piece of shit in Clair's eyes, even successful small business owners.
    • Rudy presenting a legitimately mature and well thought out argument about why she didn't like some of her parents rules gets completely eclipsed by them letting her stay up as late as she wanted, resulting in her being exhausted the next day. The message essentially becomes that your parents are always right and you should never question them.
  • Broken Base:
    • The angriest we ever see Clair is "Off to see the Wretched" where Vanessa lies to Clair and Cliff and goes off to have misadventures in Baltimore. The parents bring her home and Clair promptly reads her the riot act. Some consider this scene Clair's Moment of Awesome for putting her daughter in her place. Others see Vanessa running upstairs in tears and think Clair was way too harsh. Still others think Vanessa got off easy for the stunt she pulled.
    • The show's very reputation itself ever since the rape allegations against Cosby have surfaced. Is it still a timeless classic show despite the misdeeds of its main star, or has it become unwatchable because of those? Some critics have proposed a middle ground on the issue, stating that the show should not be in syndication now but can be brought back after Cosby dies.
  • Creator's Pet: 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.
  • 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 and it meant to be a tense situation, 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. It got better, though, and Elvin married Sondra and had twins with her.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • The Cosby allegations cast a new light on "Last Barbecue" from Season 7, in which a "secret barbecue sauce" Cliff makes that gets partygoers sedated and aroused plays a key role in that episode's plot.
    • "The Day the Spores Landed" has Cliff dreaming he, Theo, Elvin, Martin, and 11,000,000 other men are pregnant. Among those men is basketball player Magic Johnson. Shortly before the series ended, Johnson announced he was HIV positive. Unsurprisingly, this reference was deleted in syndication. note 
    • In a 1987 episode, Robert Culp (Cosby's old co-star in I Spy) guest-starred as Scott Kelly, an old college chum of Cliff's who was visiting the Huxtables, along with his wife, played by Ann Reinking. Scott and Cliff reminisce about old times, and Scott gets the bright idea to put potato chips on pizza like they did in college. His wife puts the kibosh on that idea, as Scott has a heart condition and she doesn't want him to have a heart attack. It's all Played for Laughs, but 23 years later, Culp died of a heart attack in real life.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The pilot episode, where Cliff calls Theo out for continued poor academic performance at school:
    • When college dropout 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. Brown, who died in 2012, said he felt like a failure for years after this.
    • Ennis Cosby, who was the basis of Theo, eventually discovered that he was dyslexic, which contributed to his poor academic performance. It's a little awkward to see Cosby accusing his learning-disabled son of slacking off by proxy. Ennis's dyslexia was eventually written into Theo's character, so this even works in-universe.
  • 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!'"
  • Memetic Mutation: "Biiiig fun with the Wretched!"
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: Even Malcolm Jamal-Warner has admitted that the legacy of the show has been "tainted" now that its leading man has been convicted of sexual assault.
  • 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 Clair's.
    • In addition to co-creating The Cosby Show, Ed. Weinberger also served as creator and executive producer of Amen, co-creator of The Bill Cosby Show, and co-creator and co-exeuctive producer of Taxi.
    • Carmen Finestra wrote 56 episodes. Finestra is best known as co-creator and co-executive producer of Home Improvement.
    • Matt Williams wrote 17 episodes. Williams is best known as creator and executive producer of Roseanne and also served as co-creator and co-executive producer of Home Improvement.
    • Matt Robinson wrote ten episodes. Robinson is best known for playing Gordon on Sesame Street from 1969 to 1972.
    • Bernie Kukoff wrote eight episodes. Kukoff is best known for co-creating Diff'rent Strokes.
    • Ehrich Van Lowe also wrote eight episodes. Van Lowe is best known as creator and executive producer of Homeboys in Outer Space.
    • Earl Pomerantz wrote three episodes. Pomerantz is best known as developer and executive producer of Major Dad.
    • Winifred Hervey wrote an episode. Hervey is best known as creator and executive producer of The Steve Harvey Show.
    • Bill Prady co-wrote an episode. Prady is best known for co-creating The Big Bang Theory.
    • 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.
    • Amanda Waller appears as one of Clair's friends from high school in Clair's Reunion.
    • Yes, that is Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo as one of Theo's college roommates/classmates.note 
    • A pre-Home Improvement Patricia Richardson plays one of Cliff's patients in "Calling Dr. Huxtable."
  • 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 many haters, as she too came in from nowhere to be a regular.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: The many, many imitators that have come since make even the best of Cosby episodes seem stale and dated.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Cliff calling out Theo for telling him he should accept him as his son even if he's unsuccessful in school.
    • Clair chewing out Vanessa for lying and sneaking out with her friends to an out-of-state concert (and a string of other stupid decisions that night).
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • During Theo's brief Took a Level in Jerkass in "Dance Mania," he trips on one of Rudy's toys that she left on the stairs, then rightfully points out that doing so is a leading cause of household injuries. His bad mood leading him to throw said toy out into the street doesn't negate that point.
    • While she handled it in a very overbearing manner, Clair was right in that the ill Sondra shouldn't be around the babies and risk getting them sick.


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