The Disappearance of Bill Cosby
The 3 hour Special- The Paley Center Salutes NBC’s 90th Anniversary was a retrospective of the network.
They saluted a lot of firsts including the first Female African- American leading lady- Diahann Carrol in Julia ( produced and written by Hal Kanter), Will and Grace, Nat King Cole- but there was one large omission
What’s really missing here is Bill Cosby. His name is not mentioned once. “I Spy” (’65-’68) isn’t even noted in passing. That was the first program in U.S. television history to have an African-American in a lead role. “The Cosby Show” finally arrives in the last part of the show, covered in just under a minute. (Phylicia Rashad is briefly interviewed.) After Carson, Cosby was arguably the single most important individual in the history of the network. In “Salutes,” he’s been virtually edited out of that history. It’s a lamentable omission but especially a reminder that an entire legacy has been effaced.
Sheldon Leonard and The Racism Faced From I Spy & More
I was lucky to get to know the brilliant Sheldon Leonard who produced the groundbreaking I Spy. He told me of the horrid racism and hatred faced by Cosby when the series started. NBC supported them at that time. There were southern stations who refused to air I Spy. Letters of hate were sent to Cosby. To not include I Spy also negates the work of Leonard and Bob Culp
ALSO: Cosby held a Phd in education. His groundbreaking work for education with FAT Albert and his work as an advocate in education, cannot be erased.
To eliminate the body of work of Cosby is not fair to history. For NBC not to mention I Spy and compare how it was much like what Jackie Robinson did for baseball or Jim Brown did for the NFL is wrong. Jim Brown had many personal problems- that he was convicted for- however, he is in the NFL Hall of Fame and it was deserved.
I think the furor of the accusations against Cosby does not allow us to erase history.
Despite the many charges brought against Cosby that we don’t need to repeat here- he has yet to be convicted. Our system is that you are innocent until you are proven guilty.
We have reprehensible people in many areas that are still honored- Ty Cobb is in The Baseball Hall of Fame, Robert Blake has a star on the Walk of Fame, Richard Nixon has a Presidential Museum, racist William Shockley won a Nobel Prize , allegations against Woody Allen Who is still nominated for Academy Awards and the charges against Mickey Rooney that is in my book that includes statutory rape charges with a 14 year old Elizabeth Taylor
Although I completely detest Bill Cosby’s alleged actions, NBC was gutless in erasing Bill Cosby from their history. He was their leading star for years and was a pioneer of television with I Spy. He did face racism to become one of the first African American stars of television.
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