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20 Fun Facts About The Cosby Show

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Bill Cosby was not pleased with the so-called “family” sitcoms he saw on TV in the early 1980s. The kids seemed to be in charge of the household and tiny 6-year-olds were smart-mouthing their parents without suffering any repercussions. Cosby sketched out a show where the kids were certainly intelligent, but their parents were always smarter and—most importantly—in charge. The Cosby Show debuted on September 20, 1984, and America went on to spend eight memorable seasons with the Huxtables.

1. Huxtable: Limousine Driver?

In Bill Cosby’s original pitch, he played a limousine driver, and Clair was a union plumber. Camille Cosby told her husband that she thought the TV couple should be more representative of their own family—two white-collar professional parents. When executive producer Marcy Carsey sided with Camille, Cosby capitulated and made the patriarch a doctor and Clair an attorney.

2. “Mira que tiene cosa la mujer esta…”

Another one of Cosby’s early visions of the show was for Clair to be Dominican, and to have her revert to her native Spanish whenever she was frustrated. He pictured it as a reverse I Love Lucy scenario, where the audience always knew when Ricky Ricardo had reached his limit because he’d burst into a Spanish-language tirade.

3. Phylicia Rashad's Stare Helped Get Her the Role

Of all the actresses who auditioned for the role of Clair, Phylicia Rashad caught Cosby’s eye because of the way she argued with Theo during the screen test. Unlike the previous candidates, she didn’t wag her head and she didn’t place her hand on her hip. Instead, she simply stopped speaking and gave Theo a look—and her eyes said enough to frighten any child into submission. Cosby knew immediately that Phylicia was Clair.

4. Cosby Worried About The Studio Audience's Reaction To The Pilot

The Cosby Show's pilot was filmed in front of a live audience, and even though there were plenty of laughs where expected, Cosby was worried that the audience wasn’t embracing his overall vision of the series. In the scene where Theo is defending the “D” on his report card, he earnestly tells his dad, “If you weren't a doctor, I wouldn't love you less, because you're my dad. So rather than feeling disappointed because I'm not like you, maybe you should accept who I am and love me anyway, because I'm your son.”

What concerned Cosby about this scene was the spontaneous applause from the audience after Theo’s speech. Luckily the audience reacted even more enthusiastically when he replied with complete conviction, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life!”

5. The Story Behind Those Sweaters

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Cliff Huxtable’s iconic sweaters were the work of Dutch fashion designer Koos Van Den Akker. Van Den Akker was asked by an customer of his in the early 1980s to make a unique sweater as a present for her friend, Bill Cosby. Cosby wore that sweater on camera while filming an episode of his show. Mail poured in as viewers wanted to know where they could buy a similar garment.

Cosby asked Van Den Akker to make more, and a legacy was born. The sweaters' designer described the process of creating each pullover as a “painting,” throwing various colors and patterns of fabric pieces together on a jersey/wool blend canvas. According to Van Den Akker, each design tread a “very thin line between absolutely awful and something of genius.”

6. There Were Originally Only Four Huxtable Children

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At one point in the pilot, Clair asks, "Why did we have four children?" He responds, "Because we didn't want five." Originally, Denise was the oldest of the offspring, followed by Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy. But once the series was poised to become a hit, Bill Cosby decided to add an additional older child—one who was away at college and was an example of successful parenting. Enter Princeton student Sondra, the eldest Huxtable child.

7. In Real Life, Sondra Couldn't Have Been Clair's Daughter

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Sabrina LeBeauf, the actress who played Sondra, is only 10 years younger than her TV mom. Sabrina won the role over such staunch competitors as Whitney Houston and future Miss America Suzette Charles. LeBeauf impressed Cosby partly because she had recently graduated from a prestigious university (Yale), just like the character he had in mind.

8. Italians Couldn't Pronounce "Huxtable"

The Cosby Show not only topped the ratings charts at home, it was also a hit internationally—albeit with some minor tweaks made for non-U.S. audiences. For example, in Italy, the surname “Huxtable” proved to be impossible to pronounce, so the family’s name was changed and the show was titled I Robinson ("The Robinsons") in Italy. Why “Robinson” instead of, say, Smith or Jones? The name was chosen in honor of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball.

9. Rudy Was Almost Played By Urkel

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In Bill Cosby’s original vision, the Huxtables had two boys and two girls (this was before Sondra was added to the mix). The youngest child, Rudy, was originally supposed to be a younger brother who looked up to Theo. Eight-year-old Jaleel White (Family Matters’ future Urkel) had auditioned so strongly that his agent told his parents that they should start looking for apartments in New York, where The Cosby Show was filmed.

The producers still had a few more kids to consider, and one of those last-minute interviews was with four-year-old charmer Keshia Knight-Pulliam. Director Jay Sandrich recalled trying to talk to Keshia, asking her if she could remember lines, but she kept looking away from him. He finally asked her what was wrong. The story goes that she pointed to a monitor and said, “That’s me! How can you make me on the TV?” Immediately enchanted, Sandrich moved Keshia’s name to the top of the short list, and Theo became an only son surrounded by four sisters.

10. Theo Was Supposed to be Taller

The casting call for the role of Theo specified that he was 6'2" and 15 years old. Malcolm-Jamal Warner, however, was 13 and 5'5". Nevertheless, he landed an interview on the last day auditions were held. According to Warner, he read the Monopoly money scene with Cosby like a traditional TV brat—hand on hip, eyes rolled, a real smart-aleck. Everyone in the room was laughing ... except for Cosby. He asked the young actor if he'd act like that with his real father. With that advice in mind, Warner read for the part a second time and nailed it.

11. Vanessa's Early College Enrollment Was Written In So Tempestt Bledsoe Could Go To Actual College

Season 7 begins with a “back to school” episode where Cliff and Clair happily usher their brood out the door the morning after summer vacation ended. But why was Vanessa carrying a suitcase instead of a Trapper Keeper? It's revealed that Vanessa attended summer school so she could graduate a year early, and was now bound for Lincoln College in Pennsylvania. The sudden change in Vanessa’s story arc was due to Tempestt Bledsoe’s desire to get her degree, and Cosby’s determination to help her however possible.

After graduating from high school, Bledsoe told her boss that she’d enrolled at New York University but would be attending classes in the evenings and on weekends so it wouldn’t affect her work schedule. Cosby instead arranged the show’s shooting schedule so that Bledsoe could go to school full-time, which is why we only saw Vanessa sporadically throughout the season. Tempestt recalls that Cosby used to post her grades on his dressing room door.

12. Dr. Huxtable's Inaccurate Nameplate

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It is common for some elements of a series to differ from the pilot once it's picked up by a network. So it is understandable that in the Cosby pilot, the layout of the house is nothing like the 10 Stigwood Avenue we later see, and Theo is referred to as “Teddy.” But surely someone in the editing room should have noticed that the establishing exterior shot of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable’s office that was used several times throughout Season One still bore the pilot-engraved nameplate that read “Clifford Huxtable, M.D.”

13. Grandpa Huxtable Was A Very Accomplished Thespian

Russell Huxtable could always be relied upon to recite Shakespeare at length when sage advice was required. These scenes were tailored specifically for Earle Hyman, who played Cliff’s dad. From the age of 13, Hyman devoured classic literature and stage plays.He developed a particular fondness for the work of Henrik Ibsen, and Hyman eventually spent enough time in Norway (Ibsen’s home) to become fluent in Norwegian and was awarded the prestigious Medal of St. Olav for his stage work there.

14. He was also the voice of Panthro

There's your ThunderCats connection.

15. Some of Bill's TV Family Were Named After Real-Life Family Members

Bill Cosby incorporated many names from his own real-life family into his sitcom relatives. He married Camille Olivia Hanks in 1964. In the show, Clair Huxtable’s maiden name was “Hanks,” and Denise’s precocious stepdaughter was named Olivia. His mother’s name was Anna, just like his TV mom. His younger brother Russell lent his name to the Huxtable granddad.

16. Who Was the Real Gordon Gartrelle?

Even today, whenever Malcolm-Jamal Warner attends a formal event, there’s always one wise guy who will ask him if he’s wearing Gordon Gartrelle. Theo’s lopsided yellow satin shirt with the two-tone pockets has become indelibly entwined with garish, ill-fitting couture. The original garment recently got a nod in an episode of Suburgatory, when George and Noah were sifting through boxes of old clothes in the attic. (“Are you kidding me?! It’s a Gordon Gartrelle. Keep!”) The real Gordon G. Gartrelle, by the way, was a writer and producer on the Cosby series.

17. The Uncola Man Choreographed A Season Opener

The Cosby Show was famous for changing its opening credits sequence every season. Season Five’s opening is unique because it is the only time throughout the series’ run that the entire cast is shown dancing together. The music was performed by the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, and the choreography was courtesy of Trinidadian-born actor, dancer, director and singer Geoffrey Holder. Many Baby Boomers remember Holder as the “Uncola Man” spokesman for 7-Up.

18. Nude Photos Helped Send Denise to Hillman College

Denise was the Wild Child among the Huxtables–she always wore the craziest fashions and dated boys her father couldn’t stand. Lisa Bonet sometimes tried Cosby’s patience even more than her character did, and she was often late for tapings or sometimes didn’t bother to show up at all.

The turning point for both actress and character came in 1986, when 19-year-old Bonet spent her hiatus co-starring in Angel Heart, a movie that had to edit many scenes in order to avoid an X rating. Topless photos of Bonet were being leaked to the media to promote the film, and Cosby had her much younger TV siblings to consider. Denise was the most popular Huxtable (according to the fan mail), so Cosby solved the problem by spinning her off into A Different World, a series set at Hillman College.

19. (Baby) Bumps in the Road

Bill Cosby didn't want to add infants to the series, so when Phylicia Rashad was pregnant during Season Three, extreme measures were used to conceal her burgeoning midsection. Clair was either conveniently away at a conference in Washington D.C. or confined to bed. This bed had a specially constructed mattress that was scooped out so her tummy wouldn’t make the covers protrude, and the contraption resulted in a pinched nerve in her back. The masquerade became downright bizarre, like in “Vanessa’s Rich,” when Clair is seated on the living room sofa with a giant teddy bear in front of her for no explained reason whatsoever.

And then Lisa Bonet, who had eloped with musician Lenny Kravitz on November 16, 1987, announced that she was with child early in 1988. A pregnant college freshman was not what the producers of A Different World had in mind, so Bonet was canned from that show and was rehired back on The Cosby Show for Season Five. Of course, she was outfitted in oversized jackets and loose-fitting wild-patterned shirts until Episode Five, where she conveniently was given permission by Cliff and Clair to accompany a photographer to Zaire for an extended assignment.

20. Peter's Horrible Stage Fright Caused His Awkwardness

As a rule, stage fright would put a kibosh on any child actor’s career, but Cosby decided to capitalize on it in the case of Peter Costa. Costa had trouble reciting his lines due to “red light fever” once the cameras started rolling. But Cosby cast him as Rudy’s playmate Peter who lived across the street. Peter rarely spoke to anyone, especially adults, but Rudy always “understood” him, much like regular kids do with the friends that confound their parents.

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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