Cosby in NBC Series on a New York Family [ - ]
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Author: John J. O'Connor
Source: New York Times
Date | Issue: 09/20/1984 | NA
Topic: Who's the Boss?
Submitted by: mich_l81
Cosby in NBC Series on a New York Family
By John J. O'Connor
ABOUT 10 years ago, John Chancellor, then anchoring the ''NBC Nightly News,'' maintained in an interview that the nation's most effective communicator was Bill Cosby. Since then, Mr. Cosby has been displaying some of his communicating skills in television commercials, those vignettes in which he is usually surrounded by delighted children. But he has had a problem, since completing the series ''I, Spy,'' finding a vehicle for his broader performing talents. That may now be solved with ''The Cosby Show,'' which makes its debut on NBC tonight at 8.
In unadorned outline, this is just another family sitcom with lovable Mom and Pop struggling to raise their frisky but lovable children. Cliff is an obstetrician living above his office in a New York City brownstone. Clair (Phylicia Ayers-Allen) is a bilingual Legal Aid lawyer in addition to being a nifty housewife. The kids, three girls and one boy, range in age from 5 to 16. This particular family happens to be black but its lifestyle and problems are universal middle- class.
The difference is simply that Mr. Cosby, here at his very best, can take the ordinary and make it seem delightfully fresh. He is not just another harassed father. He is the ultimate father dealing with problems that are terribly and hilariously real. Walking into his 13-year-old son's mess of a bedroom, he casually observes that ''it's hard to get good help, isn't it.'' Noticing that his oldest daughter is going out with elaborate makeup on only one cheek, he wonders if ''you're planning on walking sideways all night.''
Mr. Cosby does comic routines, ranging from electronic boogie to using Monopoly game money to teach his son a lesson in economics. He does slow takes and delivers fast joke lines. He is on a roll and making the delightful most of it. And the supporting cast is just about perfect. Everyone seems to be having a good time and, more important, they make us believe. ''I was a beautiful woman once, before the children came,'' an exhausted Clair moans as she gets ready to go to sleep. Cliff tries to cheer her up by responding, ''I just hope they get out of the house before we die.''
With only the premiere to go on, ''The Cosby Show'' is by far the classiest and most entertaining new situation comedy of the season. Let's hope the production staff can keep it that way. Earl Pomerantz is the head writer and one of the executive producers, along with Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner. Jay Sandrich directed the first episode.
The situation, not to mention the comedy, is considerably more contrived in ''Who's the Boss?'' beginning a weekly run on ABC this evening at 8:30. Tony Danza, formerly of ''Taxi,'' plays a former baseball player who was injured, married and left a widower with a young child. Wanting to leave New York in order to raise his daughter in ''safe'' Connecticut country, he takes a job as live-in housekeeper. His boss is Angela Bower (Judith Light), a corporate executive with a young son and a swinging mother (Katherine Helmond). Mom is the one who convinces a reluctant Angela to hire the street-smart jock.
Mr. Danza, a former boxer, spends a good deal of time with his shirt off and his thick weight-lifted physique makes him look as if he should be someone's bodyguard. His ''dese'' and ''dose'' cuteness falls somewhere between Leo Gorcey of the Dead End Kids and Scott Baio on ''Happy Days.'' Miss Light manages to put an interesting hard edge on her sense of humor. And Miss Helmond gets all the sure-fire jokes. She's the one who warns her daughter not to be sexist about hunky Tony. After all, Mom say, ''a man can do meaningless, unproductive work just as well as a woman.'' Will Mr. Danza's pectorals be enough to keep this sitcom in ratings shape? It probably doesn't matter one way or the other.
Blake Hunter and Martin Cohan are the co-executive producers and the writers. The show was directed by Bill Persky.