A guarantee: One day, at some TV seminar somewhere, a session will be devoted to what viewers coveted as they watched Cosby. A prediction: Some will say they pined for the living-room couch from Season One. Others will admit they fancied Denise’s hairdo in Season Two, or Theo’s T-shirt in Season Five, or any one of the closet full of brightly colored sweaters Cliff favored through the years. Because on Cosby, style has always been as much a message as content: Look, the show has always said, look how one family lives, look at their grace and good taste!
There will also, we hope, be a discussion of how the series has been true to How Children Grow: their fads and their tempers, their rebellions and their Important Crises. As Malcolm-Jamal Warner tells it, ”When I was 15, we had a mustache problem. Not that I have much now. But I’ve never shaved this, so imagine what I looked like then. [Director] Jay [Sandrich] wanted me to shave, and I wasn’t ready. Well, Bill went to Jay and said, ‘Every 15-year-old boy doesn’t want to shave when he grows hair. So let Malcolm keep it, because it’s real.”’
But keeping things real didn’t necessarily preclude shows devoted to fantasy. And there will always be room for debate on which episode was one’s favorite. While many viewers celebrate the very real Funeral for Rudy’s Goldfish, others remember wilder moments — such as Cliff-the-obstetrician’s dream about giving birth. Of course, sometimes reality mixed with fantasy when a famous guest star appeared — Stevie Wonder, Sammy Davis Jr., Lena Horne. The Cosby Show message? Maybe it was Living Well Is the Best Revenge.