Will Harris posted a clip on Facebook the other day that touches on something I've been thinking a lot about lately: The Cosby Show.
I, like many people between the ages of 30 and 42, enjoyed the first handful of seasons, but were charmed away by a show called The Simpsons. I didn't run away when the Olivia character was introduced on The Cosby Show, but as I look back now and watch various episodes (something I've done quite a bit lately), the more I realize how insignificant she was to the show. Aside from being the cute kid, of course.
I enjoy how the topics (if you will, the A-stories) remained serious, like Theo dealing with his dyslexia and Elvin and Sondra having marital issues. But there were so many episodes where Olivia came on as a sideshow, like when she'd sing "Twist and Shout" -- randomly -- at the end of one. Pure time filler, just so a certain portion of the audience could say, "Awwww."
The cynic in me thinks this was network notes ("Have the kid do something!") trying to stay in competition with similar shows, like Full House. That was a show I watched almost every week when I was in middle school. Now I find the show unwatchable: unfunny, lame, and corny.
When it came to Rudy Huxtable, she was essential to the show's storylines. Yes, there was the cute kid factor, but she actually did useful things, plot-wise, and had great comedic timing. She was no sideshow.
This all ties in with a show's stamina. And no show can go on forever.
You don't see many shows go way past their prime these days. Chalk that up to learning lessons from the hit shows from the 70s and 80s. The prized syndication pot of gold isn't really there anymore. Shows don't have to reach that episode mark of 100 to get syndicated. And when you can't go much further with something, it stops. Usually.
As much as I enjoyed seeing Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy grow up (especially Theo graduating college in the final episode), the cynic in me fast-forwards through the fluffy stuff in between with Olivia. (But I'm not a total cold-hearted snake: I'm glad Raven-Symone has gone onto a successful acting career as an adult.)
Still, I'll always have the first four seasons of The Cosby Show to cherish on DVD.