The Cosby Show Turns 30! Surprising Facts About the Hit Series

In November 1984, just two months after a brand new TV show called The Cosby Show first debuted on NBC, John Markus, a writer on the series, visited his family in London, Ohio for Thanksgiving. He took a walk at 8 p.m., looked inside living room windows from the sidewalk and saw The Cosby Show playing on every television set. "It hit me that we were reaching a lot of people and it was quite moving," recalls Markus, who became the show's head writer and went on to win Emmy and Peabody awards for his work on the series. "In the context of the viewing public, it showed me what our show meant and also drove home the idea that I had the privilege of working on something so much bigger than any of us."

When The Cosby Show premiered on September 20, 1984, it dominated the ratings, reaching 21.6 million viewers (even surpassing the heavyweight 60 Minutes). For years, the show was on top. Audiences clamored to to see how Clair and Cliff Huxtable dealt with the joys and challenges of raising their kids. "He is not just another harassed father. He is the ultimate father dealing with problems that are terribly and hilariously real," said TV critic John J. O'Connor in his New York Times review of the debut episode. "Everyone seems to be having a good time and, more important, they make us believe." As Bill Cosby told the Today show, "We were giving information to parents so they would have choices how to react to their children." The Cosby Show even reached the most unexpected places. Phylicia Rashad once shared, "Nelson Mandela said to me, 'Thank you. Thank you.' He said, 'We watched your show on Robben Island. I watched it with my guard and it softened him.'"

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Cosby Show, Markus, who wrote or co-wrote 67 episodes, revealed some intriguing details about the series and the story behind its success. Read the entire story in Parade.

John Markus (Photo credit: Scott Stackpole)
(Photo used with permission.)