I was blessed to buy a cable cord the other day and now I’m privied to watch basic cable in my dorm room, for which I’m quite appreciative. In the recent weeks, I’ve awakened every morning to pull my various books for my morning classes and my eyes usually scan all of my books until I find the books that I need. Usually my eyes fall upon my Michael Eric Dyson Is Bill Cosby Right? and because I watch “The Cosby Show” in reruns, my mind often ponders the recent events that have surrounded Bill Cosby.
However, the other day, I was watchin “Fresh Prince” reruns and I got to wondering, why is it that The Cosby Show was a much more sucessful show even in the eyes of most black people than “Fresh Prince?” I pose this question because every black person who watched “The Cosby Show” while it was airing were happy to see for the first time a show that encouraged middle class black people in a way that “The Jeffersons” never could. Despite Michael Eric Dyson’s claims against “The Cosby Show” this was clearly the black family, but they were black through their subtleties. From the artwork and posters, to the HBCU shirts and sweatshirts that Bill Cosby wore on the show, and through who was invited on the show–this was clearly a black family.
“The Cosby Show” only once dealt with race directly head-on. There was an episode, about 1988 or so, where Claire was invited to be on a Sunday morning news show and she was the only female and the only black person in a round table of old white men. When she wanted to know why her views were not being acknowledged and she was told that she was only around to deal with “the black issues.” Naturally Claire told them where to go in only a way that Claire Huxtable could.
However, “Fresh Prince” was a show that openly dealt with so-called black issues without mincing words. For example the pilot show Uncle Phil and Will have a go at it concerning Malcolm X, and we see that this is not your typical Bel-Air family that has “made it” and forgotten their roots. In fact the early shows were heavily played on race and socio-economics as plot themes. So why is it that on the same network, NBC, one show was gained more respect for being “black” while the other show was just seen as another funny show that 80’s babies, such as myself, grew to love?
This is one of the few ideas that I have answer for. I think its interesting to see that we’ve never had another show quite like “The Cosby Show” that portrayed a non-white family in such a manner that is totally believeable quite like the Cosby family. Even though some of the early shows would be considered a bit boring, they were in fact believable. I think “Fresh Prince” opened the door for black sit-com buffoonery. I say this because the black shows of the late-nineties and early 2000’s that appeared on WB and UPN made me quite squeamish, and I think the over the top antics of Will Smith acted as a spring board for the white station owners to capitalize on the black sit-coms yet again.
Because don’t get me started on “The Wayans Brothers,” “The PJs,” “The Parkers,” “My Wife and Kids,” even the short lived “Tracy Morgan Show,” and ultimately even the time classic “Martin.”
But I digress.
In all seriousness, why is it that the sit-coms in the post-Cosby era have not danced around the race issue, but yet seemed to have gone further and further into the field of buffoonery?
I’d like to hear those comments for those that get a chance to read this.
Keep it uppity, JLL