Bill Cosby is far from finished, as evidenced by his recent tour and Comedy Central stand-up special Bill Cosby …Far From Finished. But he's not done with TV yet either. The comedian and actor who served as one of America's favorite TV dads with his starring role in The Cosby Show is said to be reteaming with The Cosby Show's producer Tom Werner for an NBC comedy slated for the off-season development track.
Deadline says Cosby and Werner are meeting with writers for the project, which will center around Cosby as the patriarch of a multi-generational family and "will channel his take on marriage and parenting." That sounds right in Cosby's wheelhouse, both with his stand-up and the beloved sitcom that made the Huxtable family one of the most beloved TV families in the 80s. As Deadline points out, The Cosby Show revived the sitcom genre when it debuted in 1984, and NBC may be hoping this new comedy does the same.
Of course, neither the sitcom genre nor family sitcoms in general need reviving these days. CBS is dominating the comedy genre with The Big Bang Theory, and their comedies 2 Broke Girls, How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men also bring in relatively strong numbers. ABC, meanwhile, has the family sitcom market virtually cornered with Modern Family, The Middle, Last Man Standing and newcomers The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife. Fox has Animation Domination on Sunday night, not to mention a Tuesday-night comedy line-up that's only getting stronger each year, Brooklyn Nine-Nine Golden Globe win included.
People are watching and enjoying comedies, they're just doing that a lot more at other networks. It seems like nothing NBC throws at their once powerful Thursday night slate really sticks. That includes one of their new shows, The Michael J. Fox Show, which brings us to a bigger point. The draw of a beloved TV star that prompts warm feelings of nostalgia isn't enough to ensure strong ratings.
The Michael J. Fox Show premiered to an audience of 7.5 million, which is a strong showing for an NBC comedy these days. But its last episode delivered a cringe-inducing 1.99 million viewers, coming in behind Sean Saves the World's 2.67 million, Community's 3.07 million and Parks and Recreations' 3.05 million. Just for comparison's sake, CBS' The Millers brought in almost 8 million viewers that night. So, yeah. People love Michael J. Fox — who also starred in a beloved 80s sitcom — but that's not coming through in the ratings for his comedy.
The above said, stars and casting are only one part of what factors into a successful comedy. The writing is also important, and as a comedian, Cosby has the experience and an appreciation for the humor that can be found in the challenges of married and family living. That's something that doesn't expire and could certainly translate nicely to comedy suitable for a modern TV series. So the optimist in me wants to curl up in an elaborately designed colorful sweater and believe that this venture could be a comedy that helps lift NBC out of its sitcom ratings slump. Time will tell. In the meantime, here's a snippet of Cosby's recent Comedy Central comedy special: