The family of the 1980s was created on NBC with the Huxtables – another series that showed off the comedic talents of Bill Cosby in The Cosby Show.
Producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner formed their own production company and wanted a series to launch their company.
After watching Cosby’s comedy film Bill Cosby:Himself, the two contacted the actor-comedian to put together a sitcom with them, as they felt it was time for him to return to television.
Cosby’s idea was to feature a blue collar family with a stay-at home Mom and a limousine-driving Dad.
But the producers saw different and created Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, an obstretician living with his wife Claire, a lawyer and children in Brooklyn Heights, New York.
Each half hour showed the comedic talents of the cast, which included five children: Sabrina La Beauf as eldest daughter Sondra, Lisa Bonet as second eldest Denise, Malcolm Jamal Warner as only son Theodore, Tempestt Bledsoe as second youngest Vanessa and Keshia Knight Pulliam as Rudith aka Rudy, the youngest Huxtable.
Cosby and Stu Gardner composed the title soundtrack Kiss Me, which was recorded by singer Bobby McFerrin for the fourth season and then consequently by Craig Handy and Lester Bowie for subsequent seasons.
Dr. Huxtable had his office in the basement of the Brooklyn Heights house, while his wife Claire went to her office as the children headed to school; parents were supportive of their children’s wants and desires, but also ready to show them that they needed to work hard for what they wanted, and although they had privilege, it wasn’t living in the lap of luxury at every moment.
This successful NBC sitcom was a ratings champ, spending its time at number one in the Nielson ratings for five consecutive years. Viewers loved the antics of the family and how they dealt with the issues of growing up, teen life, racism and family dynamics. I watched the show, especially for Lisa Bonet, who was the perfect combination of teen girl – a bit of a diva and self-centered, but ready to defend her siblings and friends at any moment.
By the end of the series, the characters had expanded to include friends, boyfriends and husbands, and the show had a successful run of eight seasons. Although there had been successful series showcasing African American characters, this show showed that not every African American family was struggling, but many were succeeding and living a similar life to its viewers.