Fat Albert. Dr. Cliff Huxtable. I Spy. Jello Pudding Pops. Coca-Cola. The Electric Company. These are shows and titles I associated with a man who changed the landscape of what being Black and in entertainment looked like. This waa a man who insisted Black people be hired to stunt double him after discovering white men in brown makeup were being utilized instead. This was a man able to get shows green lit like no other Black talent and at one point had three show in one year on network television AND won awards for his acting on television three years in a row.
During his nearly 50 years in show business, Bill Cosby became one of the most recognizable Black celebrities in America. With a career that included an astronomical rise on television in the mid-1960s, children’s programming and education; legendary stand-up performances and albums and groundbreaking hit sitcom, Cosby was Black excellence for millions. Now, thanks to the brave and painful testimonies of dozens of women, we now know there was a sinister reality to the man once recognized as “America’s Dad.”
So what the hell happened? Many will say his ‘deeds’ were ignored due to the ‘boys will be boys’ ideology of the 60’s or that he had built an image so trustworthy it had become teflon like. Did he snap after the murder of his only son? There are one million reasons we don’t want any of the rumors to be true, especially when you run across the anniversary sketch where the entire family lips syncs to Ray Charles’ Night and Day reminding us of all the joy, pride and familial bonding we have all experienced in real life. So if anyone was blow the lid off of all of this, who better to do than director/CNN Host W. Kamau Bell.
Over the course of four mind-blowing episodes featuring voices of people ranging from comedic to educators to journalists, those connected to Cosby’s life on screen and off, including several survivors, Bell, digs into what Bill Cosby’s work and actions say about America, then and now. Introducing those in a generation not familiar, Bell respectfully lays out all of his accomplishments on and off screen before hitting us with the scandal through the words of the survivors themselves.
What you don’t know is that at some point, he writes a children’s book in which ‘spanish fly’ is mentioned more than 25 times. His album, ‘Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs’ repeatedly speaks of downers and that when the sealed deposition from his court proceeding were released, he basically admits guilt. These facts are just the tip of the iceberg and will continue to beg the question of what happens when the artist you idolize isn’t the human being you are gazing upon.
We Need To Talk About Cosby is a powerful and timely reckoning destined to be widely discussed for how it urges audiences to reconsider not only what they know about the culture that produced and celebrated this complicated and disturbed man’s pratfall from grace, but why and how it happened in thee first paace. Judge for yourself as it hits Showtime on January 30th.