It appears that Bill Cosby's toxic status has led to one big career consequence. Netflix, who partnered last year with the formerly beloved potion-popping comedian for a subsequently-shelved stand-up special, has finally taken the next step in nixing the program altogether.
Speaking at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, Netflix chief content officerTed Sarandos made the announcement that the termination of their planned Cosby comedy special, Cosby 77 was official. With more appalling revelations continuing to surface about Cosby’s deceptive, maliciously ribald activities; notably his seemingly unrepentant admission earlier this month to drugging women with Quaaludes before violating them, the camel’s back that was Netflix’s benefit of the doubt for Cosby snapped like a dry twig. Making what might be the most obvious point ever about the Cosby cut, Sarandos explained why they won't release the special, as reported by The Wrap:
I don’t think it’s appropriate to release that.
While the move by Netflix to pull the Cosby special seems to be the only one that could have been made at this point, some might argue that the measure has come far too late. When Netflix announced the Cosby 77 special last August before the initial eruption of allegations against Cosby, it seemed to be part of a wider measure by the streaming service to boost its reputation as a source for original comedy, while celebrating the legendary comedian and sitcom dad’s 77th birthday. However, once the media hullabaloo erupted a few months afterwards, Netflix's initial measure of pulling the stand-up special rather than axing it completely might have been perceived as a calculated move to simply wait out the storm.
Yet, in Netflix’s defense, the initial media eruption against Cosby was over “allegations” that came to the table with no provenance other than the growing number of accusers. One could also argue that Netflix made the only objective move, given what was known at the time, to simply shelve the stand-up special while resisting the urge to grab a torch and pitchfork until substantive facts were made apparent. In fact, such a demonstration of public patience is a rare thing in this social media-driven age in which severe punishment is as commonly used as emojis. Of course, with those substantive facts about Cosby’s pastimes now apparent, the folks at Netflix made the only decision they could. They can at least hold their heads high since they neither threw a possibly innocent man under the bus, nor did they disingenuously stand behind an accused rapist, based on some misguided affection for the man who, during the 80s and early 90s, was once widely considered America’s Dad on television.
Interestingly enough, Netflix continues to offer the classic sitcom in question, The Cosby Show as part of its mail-delivered DVD rental inventory. Sarandos addressed the issue by explaining that in this particular instance, the program was produced by NBC, rather than being the kind of Netflix-branded original content that would have implied a tacit support for the embattled fallen star. It makes sense, to a degree. Despite carrying a tainted name and star, The Cosby Show featured a large cast ensemble and remains an important part of American pop-culture history, in spite of Cosby’s alleged actions.
The same, however, cannot be said for Cosby 77, which has now been stripped of its premiere. The question of whether or not the stand-up special will eventually surface might be dwarfed by the more poignant question asking WHO would want to see the thing at this point?