Thirty years ago Saturday, audiences were introduced to “The Cosby Show,” a sitcom about the Huxtable family in Brooklyn, New York, that would remain on the air for eight seasons.
The series was a huge hit, winning six Emmys, two Golden Globes and a slew of other awards — not to mention ranking number one in the Nielsen ratings for five years in a row.
While most people know a little bit about its creator, Bill Cosby, here are 30 things you may not know about the show:
“The Cosby Show” wasn’t the first show named after Bill Cosby. There were three others that came before, “The Bill Cosby Show,” “The New Bill Cosby Show” and “Cos.” After “The Cosby Show” ended, Cosby and Phylicia Rashad moved to CBS to star in “Cosby.”
2. Cosby’s real-life family was the basis of the Huxtables. Both families consisted of four daughters and one son in the middle.
3. The character Theo was patterned after Cosby’s own son, Ennis, who like the character had dyslexia. Ennis was murdered in 1997.
4. Bill Cosby never received an Emmy nod for his acting on the series — apparently at his own request, because he was opposed to such competition between performers. He did receive, however, two Golden Globe awards for playing Cliff Huxtable.
5. Whitney Houston was up for the role as the Huxtables’ oldest daughter, but the part instead went to 26-year-old Sabrina Le Beauf because she had more acting experience and Houston was intent on becoming a recording artist.
6. On the show, the Huxtable brownstone was supposedly in Brooklyn, but the facade was actually shot in the West Village at 10 St. Luke’s Place in Manhattan.
7. Much of the artwork that hung on the walls of the Huxtable home was by renowned African-American artists Synthia Saint James and by the painter Varnette Honeywood.
8. Phylicia Rashad won the part of Clair, in part, because she spoke fluent Spanish. The show originally planned to have Clair’s character be a Dominican who would go on tirades in Spanish — ala “I Love Lucy” — but dropped the idea before the pilot was taped.
9. The show, according to TV Guide, was the biggest hit in the 1980s and almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre and NBC’s fortunes.
10. Cosby used material about family life from his stand-up routines for episodes of the show.
11. The show frequently promoted African-American and African culture by working into story lines artists and musicians, such as Jacob Lawrence, Miles Davis, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Miriam Makeba.
12. Bill Cosby, along with his longtime collaborator collaborator Stu Gardner, composed the show’s theme music and during season four, it was performed by Bobby McFerrin.
13. The show helped usher in other successful sitcoms featuring African-American casts, including “227,” “Amen” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
14. “A Different World” was a spin-off from “The Cosby Show” created after the character Denise, played by Lisa Bonet, left home to attend Hillman College, a fictional historically black college.
15. Raven-Symoné originally auditioned for Cosby’s “Ghost Dad,” but she was too young for the part. Cosby liked her so much that he gave her a role on his TV show as his step-granddaughter Olivia.
16. Four-year-old Alicia Keys appeared in an early episode as one of Rudy’s friends.
17. Adam Sandler also got his start on the TV show playing Theo’s friend, Smitty.
18. Cliff Huxtable was ranked No. 1 on TV Guide’s List of 50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.
19. Story was always intended to have the parents in charge … and not the kids. Cosby thought too many shows were being done from the kids perspective and wanted the show to always be done from that perspective.
20. Many celebrities made guest appearances — Blair Underwood, Elaine Stritch, Stevie Wonder, Naomi Campbell, Lena Horne, Tony Orlando, Iman, Danny Kaye, Rita Moreno, Debbie Allen, Christopher Plummer, BB King, and Robin Givens … to name a few.
21. There weren’t five kids in the pilot. The character of Sondra was added in the second episode.
22. “The Cosby Show” was known for its fashion — Dr. Huxtable’s sweaters were a trademark of the show, but so were Denise’s high-fashion looks.
23. The designer behind Cosby’s sweaters in the show was Dutch designer Koos van der Akker.
24. The show was also famous for its new openings each year.
25. Some of the characters are named after people in Bill Cosby’s life. His mom’s name is Anna — like the TV mom. And his real brother’s name was Russell, which became his father. His wife’s maiden name in real life is also Claire’s maiden name.
26. Speaking of names, Cosby’s character’s name was “Heathcliff,” though in the first few episodes, he was called “Clifford.”
27. A mural featured in the opening of “The Cosby Show” was taken out because of a dispute with the school responsible for it.
28. The finale of “The Cosby Show” was the seventh most-watched of all time, with 44.4 million viewers.
29. Rudy was originally supposed to be a boy, but it wasn’t until Keshia Knight Pulliam was permitted to audition for the role that producers felt they found the right person to star.
30. It’s rumored that Carl Anthony Payne II, who played Cockroach on the show, was fired after he refused to comply with Cosby’s request that he cut his hair.
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