I grew up on Bill Cosby. He was everywhere when I was a kid. Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids were on my television every Saturday morning. My parents had all of his records, and I can remember borrowing them when I finally got a player of my own. I played Chicken Heart so often I think I wore away the grooves on the track. Of course, you youngsters out there have no idea what I’m talking about when I mention grooves and wearing them out. That also means that you remember a very different Bill Cosby show. Most of us think about that huge hit in the 80’s. Cosby played a doctor, and he was married to a lawyer and this wealthy family had a ton of kids. The show was an instant hit. But it wasn’t the first attempt at situation comedy from Bill Cosby. Back in 1968 he was the star of a very different comedy series on television. It was The Bill Cosby Show.
In this series Cos played Chet Kincaid, a high school gym teacher and athletic coach. It wasn’t really a stretch, you see, because The Cos actually studied PE at Temple University with his eye toward just such a possible career. Of course, stardom interfered with those plans, and I don’t think anyone has been complaining too much. The series is too eclectic for its own good. While Chet’s career should be the focus, many of the episode take him out of the school and place him in oddball situations. Episodes deal with his aunt’s will and a missing Abe Lincoln letter, a flood while Chet deals with a neighbor in labor, and Chet leading a group of inner-city kids on a failed attempt to get out and camp in nature. From the start, you can see that Cos is trying to bring a more intimate approach to his comedy, but it usually misses the mark completely. His natural charm and demeanor carry the day, but there’s a reason why the series only lasted three seasons. He would hone those skills later to deliver one of the biggest shows in television history.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. This was a sitcom from the 70’s, and the years show on these prints. The transfer is admirable in that new life is brought to the color saturation found in cable reruns of the show. These prints have more stable and brighter color and contrast. There are still tint fades in and out throughout the set. This is likely as good as it can get.
The Bill Cosby Show has a pretty minimal Dolby Digital 2.0 track that, like most sitcoms from this era, is really a 2-channel mono. You can hear everything being said. There’s little or no distortion. The audio does suffer in the applause and laughter track. You’ll find plenty of high-end splatter. Pulling down your highs will help to minimize the effect.
Bill Cosby Interview:
You can see a lot of Cosby’s trademark elements in this show. As in his Fat Albert cartoons, he is trying hard to bring some of the problems of inner-city kids to light. Cosby grew up in Philadelphia, not far from where I grew up. I recognize a lot of the things he talks about that had regional value like the game of Buck/Buck. He looks remarkably young here, and the beginnings of a long respected and brilliant career can be found in what is otherwise a very dated and average comedy. It’s worth it just to watch the man start to get his toes wet in the television comedy business. Is this the same Cosby that played Dr. Huxtable? “Oh Lord.”