Why We Still Love 'The Cosby Show'

Twenty years later, the show is still relevant. Why? No one's been able to re-create the magic.

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On a black network, no less.

So what will the future of black television bring?

Last month, TV One unveiled its plans for its 2012-2013 programming lineup. Three new sitcoms were announced: Belles will focus on the life of a widowed patriarch with three daughters who's running an upscale soul food restaurant (produced by Ed Weinberger, a co-creator of The Cosby Show). Church Folk follows a Los Angeles family who leaves their mega-church and moves down South. The Rickey Smiley Show will be based on the radio personality's life. And he's already making comparisons: "If you liked The Cosby Show and you liked Martin, it's a mix between the two.

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BET is picking up a scripted series featuring the second generation of the Wayans clan and a semi-scripted show starring Kevin Hart based on his wildly popular BET Awards sketch, "Real Husbands of Hollywood." TBS said goodbye to Tyler Perry's House of Payne in 2011 but welcomed For Better or Worse, starring Tasha Smith and Michael Jai White. Fox will begin production on its In Living Color remake this month. Reportedly, a major network is interested in picking up First Family, starring Christopher P. Duncan (The Jamie Foxx Show) and Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), about, of course, a black first family in the White House. And CBS is working on a Martin Lawrence comedy pilot in which he'll play a widowed father of two in the middle of a career switch.

Are the '90s back? Don't hold your breath. It's unlikely that a sitcom centered on a black family will ever have the same prominence on American television as The Cosby Show.

There may never be a Cosby Show reincarnate for the new millennium, and that's just fine by me. Hopefully, Nick at Nite and Centric TV will keep the reruns and marathons on tap for decades to come. And the 25th anniversary DVD box set will aid our nostalgia, too. My kids, and yours, will watch on YouTube, Hulu, Netflix or whatever new-fangled video site the future will give us.

I was only six when the show went off the air, so I can't account for exactly how the show helped change the game for the black family in America. But like many Gen Y folk out there, I still have many connections to the show. One of Cosby's real daughter's name is Erinn. If we were the same age, Rudy and I could've been twins as young girls. I played the clarinet just like Vanessa. (If only Dizzy Gillespie had been my clarinet teacher!) And eventually, it was Cliff, Clair and Denise who led me to my own real-life "Hiiilllllmannn." And it was, as they say, "a different world," indeed.

Today, The Cosby Show has taken on a life of its own on the Internet. If you were paying attention, all of the episodes were streaming on Netflix at the end of 2011 but were back to DVD-only by the beginning of 2012. There's also YouTube, where most, if not all, of the episodes are uploaded. There's F*** Yeah The Cosby Show's Tumblr page, which is full of .gifs from the most memorable moments on the show -- from Theo and Cockroach's Julius Caesar rap to an intimate moment between Cliff and Clair to the split second before Clair reads Elvin from head to toe about his male-chauvinistic ways. There's a Denise Huxtable shrine, dedicated to her "incredible style."

So if all else fails with the next black TV show, nostalgia and the Internet will keep The Cosby Show alive, even 20 years after Theo graduated from college. When the series finale of The Cosby Show aired on April 1992, L.A. residents were in the throes of some of the worst civil unrest in American history, after four officers were acquitted of charges for beating Rodney King. KNBC in Los Angeles took a break from its coverage of the riots to air the show's finale, at the urging of then-Mayor Tom Bradley, because, as said in the broadcast, "we need this time, a bit of a cooling-off period, giving us some breathing space -- maybe a time to remember what Thursday nights were like before all this madness began in Los Angeles."

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