Mark Evanier wrote a post simply titled Cosby. He was touting the fact that he will record the new four-part documentary on Showtime by W. Kamau Bell, We Need To Talk About Cosby. You should watch the 150-second trailer on his page.
Interesting, though, that he just never found his records — or him on TV — uproariously funny.” Mark’s “qualified admiration for him as a comedian all flows from seeing him perform live at Harrah’s in Reno in the early eighties.” Whereas I loved the comedy records, and still have a half dozen in the attic somewhere.
MY POV is captured better in the review of We Need To Talk About Cosby in The Hollywood Reporter. The “docuseries explores Bill Cosby’s legacy as a TV icon and a convicted predator, showing how his fame, influence, and criminality were all connected.”
Writer Daniel Fienberg says it is, “for the most part, exactly the right documentary for the moment and Bell is clearly the right filmmaker to have crafted it. It’s a complicated and pragmatic project” which doesn’t gloss over his awful behavior.
“The documentary is designed to instigate a conversation and not to build a case, which gives Bell a very different responsibility… That means not ignoring the significance of Cosby the comic and Cosby the entertainment mogul and Cosby the reshaper of public perceptions of Black family and Cosby the champion of education and Cosby the self-appointed hectorer of troubled Black masculinity… Some people won’t want to see how complimentary the series is at times, much less for how long.”
Yes, Cosby was a popular comic but also the guy, the BLACK guy, who won three Emmys in a row for I Spy, when there just weren’t many black folks on the TV screen. Not to mention his several other series from The Electric Company to the Cosby Show, most of which I watched regularly.
“The point that Bell and his experts… want to make is that without establishing how beloved and, more than that, trusted Bill Cosby was, you can’t fully understand how he was able to do what he allegedly did for so long. And if you can’t make clear his position of righteousness and rectitude, you can’t understand both why it was so hard for some people to believe those stories and why Hannibal Buress felt the need to famously put Cosby on blast in a 2014 comedy routine.”
It WAS difficult to accept. And oddly, part of it was his moralizing hectoring, which I found merely annoying at the time. In retrospect, it was ironically pathological.
“And if you can’t understand the power that Cosby wielded in Hollywood, and how basically unprecedented it was for that power to be wielded by a Black man, you can’t properly put Cosby in the context of Hollywood’s upheaval of the past five years — nor can you understand how, with many of these accusations as public as they were, a network like NBC still was trying to develop new projects for Cosby as recently as 2014. What he meant can’t be separated from what he did.”
W. Kamau Bell said both on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and in Vanity Fair that he is “terrified for people to see his Bill Cosby docuseries.” Even before people have seen it, he’s already getting pushback.
Evanier mentions in passing that separation of art and artist is always tricky. My buddy Greg Burgas mentions Orson Card, the science fiction writer, who is merely racist and homophobe. My real problem with William H. Cosby is that a) I find his behavior, especially after his moralizing blather, unforgivable, b) his damn comedy routines are STILL stuck inside my brain, and c) I don’t have SHOWTIME but really want to see this series.