If you look at the network schedules of today, you won’t find nearly as many sitcoms as you could several years ago. The CW network doesn’t even have any and has actually declared that they’re out of the half-hour comedy business. Some critics will tell you that the sitcom genre is dying though history shows us that TV trends run in cycles.
Exactly 25 years ago, many people were also declaring the sitcom dead. That all changed when a little show called The Cosby Show debuted on September 20, 1984. The series, starring Phylicia Rashasd, Lisa Bonet, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Tempestt Beldsoe, and Keshia Knight-Pulliam, became an immediate smash hit for NBC. It helped to save the network and began their ratings dominance of Thursday nights that lasted for many, many years.
Cable station WGN America is celebrating the legacy of The Cosby Show this Sunday night with a day of special programming. At 1pm, they’re airing an original special called The Cosby Show 25th Anniversary Special.
Then, at 1:30pm, WGN America is running a top-10 viewer’s choice marathon of favorite episodes. Those will be followed by a repeat of the anniversary special. And then, the cable channel is doing something really interesting.
At 7pm, they’re airing a replica of the original NBC Thursday night lineup, just as it aired on Thursday, September 20, 1984. Tune in to see The Cosby Show pilot episode, “The Gambler” episode of Family Ties, a one-hour installment of Cheers called “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and Hill Street Blues’ “Eva’s Braun” episode.
WGN America has interviewed philanthropist Lilly Tartikoff who shares her thoughts on the iconic programs of 1984 and memories of her husband, NBC programming visionary Brandon Tartikoff. They’ll air as interstitials during the night along with promotional elements from NBC’s popular marketing theme of that era, “Let’s All Be There.”
“As we have seen with the success of WGN America’s current Sunday lineup “Outta Site Retro Night,” our viewers love nostalgia and to recreate the programming of 1984 allows us to offer viewers a chance to re-live a history-making lineup,” said Sean Compton, SVP of Programming and Entertainment, Tribune Broadcasting. “The strength of this 1984 night brought comedy back to primetime and forever changed the way families watched television.”
He continued, “Brandon Tartikoff was a visionary without professional peer, and his greatest achievements occurred during his fight with a disease which ultimately defeated him. This event is as much a tribute to the Cosby Show as it is to the man behind it.”
What do you think? Who misses the glory days of The Cosby Show more? Today’s viewers or ratings-challenged NBC?