Bill Cosby, one of the great comedic constants of the small screen to a generation gone by, is hoping to make a comeback in an attempt to rescue NBC from its sitcom doldrums. At 76, Cosby can still leave an audience crying with laughter, but whether he can perform a daring rescue act is something that only time, and Cosby himself, can tell. NBC has made a fine showing in recent years in the reality show segment with The Voice, the musical drama segment with Smash and even a strong showing with prime time crime drama, The Blacklist. However, the network’s sitcom list has looked rather lean, though Prime time Emmy Award-winning Parks and Recreation and critically acclaimed show Community have ensured that NBC do have something of a foothold in the segment.
For a while now, Bill Cosby has expressed the desire to “deliver a wonderful show to a network because there is a viewership out there that wants to see comedy,” and has insisted that he does not want a remake of The Cosby Show, but to create a family-oriented show that helps people “to talk to each other.” The Cosby Show remains one of NBC’s most successful sitcoms with consistently high ratings for seven of its eight seasons, including five seasons at #1 on the Nielsen ratings and top 5 positions for two seasons.
Whether Bill Cosby’s hope of a comeback to rescue NBC from its sitcom doldrums with another family-friendly show in the 2014-2016 period will materialize, remains to be seen. If Cosby’s comedic prowess is any indicator of potential success, his 2013 comedy show Bill Cosby: Far From Finished garnered excellent ratings among critics and fans alike and bodes well for a comeback show. Still, a sitcom cannot ride on one man’s talent. However, some of the world’s finest sitcoms have indeed done just that. Moreover, Bill Cosby’s image as “America’s favorite father” hasn’t suffered at all, considering his blunt and often sharply critical rant about the African-American community’s apparent failure to “do a better job and hold each other to a higher standard.”
Staging this rescue would place a new sitcom in the company of two other shows that need a shot in the arm—The Michael J. Fox show being chief among them. Despite Fox’s popularity as a performer, competing against comedy powerhouse CBS network is proving to be harder than expected for NBC. The network’s chairman Bob Greenblatt has admitted that some comedy shows were not doing as well as he would have liked, but remains optimistic about the existing lineup. With Bill Cosby hoping to make a comeback to rescue the NBC sitcom segment from the doldrums it has been in for the last few months, Greenblatt should be able to bank on a good show, but whether the winner of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor can make the slot profitable for NBC is different question for another day. Until plans regarding Cosby’s comeback are made final, reviving the NBC sitcom hours remains an uphill task.
By Grace Stephen