A coincidence facilitated by insomnia, Ramadan and a never-satisfied thirst for pop culture brought me to a YouTube treasure trove of full episodes of one of my favourite shows of all time: The Cosby Show. Listen. The Cosby Show is… everything. And if you don’t know – or perhaps forgot – then you better ask somebody.
Re-watching the show, I was struck anew at how absurd and disappointing it is that there hasn’t been a good family sitcom like it for so long. Years, in fact. The Cosby Show seems so effortless, so simple; and it wears its perfection very lightly indeed. It’s only in unpacking the show’s layers that you really appreciate how bloody difficult it must have been. To make a comedy is bloody hard, sure. To make The Cosby Show must have been ridiculous. And it ran for so long (admittedly dipping in the final seasons), and reached so many people, and stayed so good… I love The Cosby Show. Can you tell?
The allure of The Cosby Show was of course, The Huxtables. As a kid, I was mostly obsessed with Denise – she was my girl crush prototype, and with no fronting, I can admit she remains untouchable in my affections to this day. But now that I’m older, my attentions have shifted a lot more to the heads of the Huxtable clan, Clair and Cliff. When I watched them back in the 80s and 90s (Nigerian telly was a little behind) I paid their marriage as much attention as I did my parents’ i.e. not very much at all. They existed, and it was nice that they did, but their union was not really my area of interest, not when I could be daydreaming about being a Huxtable sibling/friend. I enjoyed their little conflicts and squabbles (hey, remember when Clair put on weight and asked the dressmaker not to tell Cliff, as she had been bugging him about his unhealthy lifestyle? FUN) but never looked at their relationship that closely. In watching the show as an adult however, my eyes have been opened to the outrageous idea that underpins the Huxtables’ marriage: Clair and Cliff are equals.
*GLASS SHATTERING SOUND EFFECT*
In every way that mattered, Clair was Cliff’s equal. She was just as educated, just as smart, just as accomplished. She was not a simpering idiot. She was not a silly woman. She was kind and fair and tough and wise. She was not ‘lesser than’ in any way. He was her friend, he respected her (and she him), he loved her. They were partners, putting equal amounts into their relationship and reaping the rewards. And that is pretty shitting radical. They loved one another, but they also liked each other. Plus, you know they fancied the pants off one another, which is just… well, it’s excellent, innit?
In the same way that I re-evaluate my parents’ marriage and spot depths that went unnoticed by my then-juvenile eyes, I now watch the Huxtables and thank the telly gods they existed. I appreciate The Cosby Show and I am so glad we had the Huxtables.
Images via Cosby Show Caps