The Ten Best THE COSBY SHOW Episodes of Season Three

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday and the continuation of our series of posts on the best episodes from The Cosby Show (1984-1992, NBC), the early linchpin of the peacock network’s Must-See-TV lineup and a show often cited as responsible for resurrecting the situation comedy! I’m happy to report that all seasons have been released on DVD.


A doctor and a lawyer juggle their two careers with the raising of their five kids. The Cosby Show stars BILL COSBY as Cliff Huxtable, PHYLICIA RASHAD as Clair Huxtable, LISA BONET as Denise Huxtable, MALCOLM-JAMAL WARNER as Theo Huxtable, TEMPESTT BLEDSOE as Vanessa Huxtable, KESHIA KNIGHT PULLIAM as Rudy Huxtable, and SABRINA LE BEAUF as Sondra Huxtable.


After two years of fantastic writing that managed to avoid the pitfalls common to many domestic sitcoms of the era, the third season of The Cosby Show represents a major decline for the series, marking the beginning of the show’s coasting on a reputation not legitimized by the material currently being produced. But I try to be fair; I’d usually excuse the disastrously unenjoyable writing by citing the inequitable juxtaposition of this year against the two prior (or, in other words, I’d say that this isn’t as bad a season when not directly compared to the much superior first two). However, I’m in no mood to exonerate this guilty party, because the difference in Season Two and Three is so glaring. It’s not just expectations that have wounded The Cosby Show — it’s The Cosby Show that’s wounded The Cosby Show. What was once a relatable comedy populated with well-defined characters (even the kids, and you know that’s high praise coming from this author), has become a tired smile-edy (on its best days) populated with only a few amusing and story-inspiring characters. There’s no question about what’s gone wrong here. It’s everything. The stories are dull. The laughs are few. The mediocrity is suffocating.


Okay, I’ll cut the dramatics and instead try to explain why the third season is odious. The first reason is obvious — some of the better characters are missing for a large chunk of the season. Lisa Bonet’s Denise, one of the series’ bright spots, has gone away to college, and although she’s still credited as a regular, she only appears in less than half of the installments produced for the season. And yet, even though we’re fundamentally off-balance without her, it also makes little sense to see her as much as we do (the girl is supposed to be in school, right?), making it a no-win situation for the series. (Of course, as many of you know, next season Bonet became the star of the spin-off A Different World, which initially revolved around her exploits at Hillman College — we won’t be discussing that series here, but it will be brought up a few times.) The other character who’s not around as much as we’d like is Clair, played by Phylicia Rashad, who has clearly not been given the TV-actresses’ memo about timing your off-screen pregnancies around the production season. (Conceiving in late summer, delivering in late spring, thus being able to appear in every episode.) She’s only completely absent for two full episodes, but she’s a non-factor (that is, appearing in less than two small scenes) for the entire middle third of the season. The episodes in which she’s underused rely too much on the three remaining kids and are therefore a near collective disaster — middling, forgettable, and plodding.

Clair 04

The only flashes of the show’s former vitality come at the very beginning of the year (pre-Rashad’s maternity leave), for even in the latter third of the season once Clair is back, the quality has been reduced so much that a return to form seems impossible. Yet while I would credit the diminished uses of both Clair and Denise as impacting the show’s quick descent in Season Three, I wouldn’t cite this as the primary problem with the year, or the series. (Again, if the truncated ensemble was the main issue, the episodes in which everyone is present would be brilliant. But they’re not.) So aside from the cast issues, the only other excuse concoctable for this season’s inferiority is that the show’s reputation has gotten the better of it. There’s a more conscious effort this season to preach, I mean, teach some valuable life lessons through these fictional children. It’s very after school special-ish and reflects precisely what comes to mind when we think of ’80s sitcoms. It’s ironic that this series, which I’d actually credit for helping to define the sitcoms of the decade, is being destroyed by the very style it created. Am I being overdramatic again? Perhaps, but there’s a better question to ask: Can the show ever rebound from this season? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned… In the meantime, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify this season’s strongest installments. For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.


Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Three. (They are in AIRING ORDER.) Note that 18 of the 25 episodes this season are directed by Jay Sandrich. Any outings that have been chosen but aren’t directed by Sandrich will be noted below.


01) Episode 50: “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” (Aired: 09/25/86)

The Huxtable house is in an uproar over a snake in the basement.

Written by Matt Williams

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Season Three begins with considerably less spark than the debuts afforded to the first two years, but it’s not clear based on this episode that the third season is to be as dire as it will quickly prove. In fact, this episode would suggest that the third season will be, if not a slight comedown from the first two years, still a respectable situation comedy with laughs that come from characters and their established traits. One of the obvious reasons that this installment feels so good is that both Denise and Clair are still around, so the episode visually and structurally looks like the first two seasons — something that can’t be said for the majority of the year. The premise itself is decently relatable and many laughs are present in support.

02) Episode 51: “Food For Thought” (Aired: 10/02/86)

Clair intimidates Cliff into a diet and Denise prepares to leave for school.

Written by John Markus

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Chosen as the year’s MVE, I must warn you that this honor should be taken with fewer grains of salt than usual, for in this season of mediocrity (a sitcom sin of the highest magnitude, as regular readers know), there really aren’t any episodes that stand out above the crowd, which is usually the case in these years of lesser quality. However, this is the episode that has the fewest things working against it. Once again, we’re starting with a story to which many people can relate (I know dieting is something with which I’m all too familiar) and the script is able to derive laughs from not just the scenario, but from the utilization of the characters within the scenario. Also, some seasonal continuity: Denise readies to go away to Hillman College.

03) Episode 52: “Golden Anniversary” (Aired: 10/09/86)

The Huxtables plan a celebration for Cliff’s folks’ 50 anniversary.

Written by Carmen Finestra

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A follow-up to last season’s memorable installment (which tops many fans’ best-of lists) in which the Huxtable family celebrates Cliff’s folks’ anniversary by lip synching to a Ray Charles song, this episode gives us another lip sync — this time to James Brown’s “I Got The Feelin’.” The gag is obviously not original, but the episode employs it intentionally, aiming for viewers to recollect that a number was performed last season. I think it’s just as comedic as the one prior, and even though it’s a cheap gimmick and the surprise/novelty factor is no longer present, if one were to watch this episode before last season’s anniversary episode, it’s very possible that he/she’d like this one better. (But don’t quote me on that one — this is Season Three, after all!)

04) Episode 56: “Theo’s Flight” (Aired: 11/06/86)

Clair agrees to let Theo take flying lessons while Rudy bosses around her new beau.

Written by Gary Kott | Directed by Tony Singletary

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I’m skeptical about sitcom episodes involving aviation (unless we’re talking about the big commercial airliners) because I find the use of flight to be very gimmicky — jumping out of planes, taking flight lessons, parachuting — these are big grand sight gags and as a viewer, I’ve been “burned” by them in the past, mostly because the incorporation of this plot element often requires a disregard for logic. So I walk into this offering not enthused about the premise — and I walk out still unenthused about the premise, but glad that it didn’t do the hammy hijinks that it could have. Rather, I like the subplot with Rudy and the introduction of her funny recurring boyfriend, Kenny (Deon Richmond), whom she bosses around and calls “Bud.” Comedic.

05) Episode 60: “War Stories” (Aired: 12/11/86)

Cliff plays pinochle and Vanessa is caught between two guys.

Written by Matt Robinson

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Now that we’re in the middle Clair-lite portion of the season, one can see the writers trying to play to perceived strengths from the year prior (and the fact that these don’t quite work is a testament that Season Three’s issues can’t be blamed on the cast absences). This offering aims to replicate the hysterical pinochle game that Cliff played alongside Roscoe Lee Browne in last season’s “The Card Game,” but without Browne or the idea’s freshness, the laughs are considerably reduced. I surprisingly find more to enjoy in the plot with Vanessa, who prepares for a date with a new beau (the comically goofy Tyrone, who has trouble pronouncing “Huxtable”) only to decide she’s more interested in another. Guess what? There are laughs!

06) Episode 64: “Say Hello To A Good Buy” (Aired: 01/22/87)

Cliff tries to play down his wealth when they go to buy a new car.

Written by John Markus, Carmen Finestra, and Matt Williams | Directed by Tony Singletary

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This is definitely the strongest of the middle stretch of episodes in which Clair Huxtable either appears briefly or doesn’t appear at all. Much of this has to do with the script itself, which is written by the show’s (then) three strongest writers, Markus, Finestra, and Williams, whose work is often unbeatably funny when founded upon the right ideas. This episode, with a very amusing premise about Cliff trying to get a better deal on a new car by not revealing his level of wealth — only to be ruined by a character played by the unforgettably voiced Gilbert Gottfried — was the most watched episode of the entire series, with nearly 65 million viewers tuning in that evening. (Sinbad plays the dealer.) Is this a great episode? No. But it’s close.

07) Episode 65: “Denise Gets An Opinion” (Aired: 02/05/87)

Denise has a blind date and Vanessa’s ex boyfriend hopes to win her back.

Written by Gary Kott | Directed by Tony Singletary

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There’s a half-baked misunderstanding at the crux of one of this installment’s two primary stories, and it, frankly, works more on principle instead of any particulars to its execution. (That’s this list in a nutshell!) Denise mistaking Cliff’s medical student for her blind date is a comedic idea, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Yet the same can’t be said of the story in which Robert, Vanessa’s boyfriend from last season, hangs around making a nuisance of himself so that he can reconcile with her. Initially an idea that looks unrewarding, the story concludes in a shockingly nuanced and believable scene where she gently turns him down and asks to remain friends. There’s no grand development, just an everyday conversation. And thats why I like it.

08) Episode 69: “Cliff’s 50th Birthday” (Aired: 03/12/87)

An old grudge threatens to ruin a dinner party in honor of Cliff’s 50th birthday.

Written by Gary Kott | Directed by Carl Lauten & Reggie Life

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I really wish this episode was better than it was (but heck, that could apply to every episode on this list, and every episode on every list) because it’s an adult-focused script with more substantive material thrown to Cliff and Clair, something we don’t see a lot at this point in the show’s run (especially in Season Three, in which we’re never completely sure that Clair will be around for two scenes in a row). But this premise isn’t something that The Cosby Show usually does, and unlike the atypical offerings from better seasons, which actually have a chance of thriving, this rotten season doesn’t have the goods to back up a story that’s decent, but doesn’t really gel. That’s how I feel about this episode, which like the season, is (a qualified) “good.”

09) Episode 70: “I Know That You Know” (Aired: 03/19/87)

Elvin and Sondra conspire with the rest of the family to pull a practical joke on Cliff.

Written by John Markus, Carmen Finestra, and Matt Williams

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Although a very story-driven installment (as these prank war type of episodes usually are — because they’re all about the plot points and the machinations of the convoluted scheming), it would be difficult to deny that this is the funniest and most rewarding installment of the back third of the third season, in which Clair is present, but the show still isn’t able to “right” the tragic course it had begun earlier in the year. Also, this is a somewhat important episode in terms of the narrative development, as Sondra and Elvin officially become engaged. This is a welcome beat because Elvin has a comedic relationship with both Cliff and Clair, and he’s the only thing that actually helps make Sondra an interesting character. Plenty of laughs here.

10) Episode 73: “Planning Parenthood” (Aired: 04/30/87)

Cliff takes Rudy and her friends to a fancy restaurant.

Written by Elizabeth Hailey & Oliver Hailey

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Echoing what I said above about Cosby’s ability to play off children, and Keshia Knight Pullman’s Rudy especially, this enjoyable excursion works because of the premise, which finds Cliff taking Rudy and her friends, including the always riotous Kenny (“Bud”) to a fancy restaurant where they proceed to do all the embarrassing things that you’d anticipate. The script doesn’t actually hit any new or surprising beats, or grant us any spectacular laughs that we otherwise weren’t expecting, but it also doesn’t do anything to forsake that which the premise already engenders. And because we’re in a year where anything positive deserves to be recognized (because it’s, unfortunately, in short supply), this episode looks like a clear winner.


Other notable episodes that narrowly missed the list above include: “Man Talk,” a solid Theo-centered story, Vanessa’s Rich,” which has an interesting premise but a script that’s not comedically satisfying, and “Bald And Beautiful,” which is notable for the guest appearances of Ann Reinking and Robert Culp (Cosby’s former I Spy co-star), and a major sight gag involving Theo and Cockroach’s shaved heads. (Grading degrees of mediocrity isn’t easy and, worse, it isn’t fun, but that’s what Season Three required for picking both this list and these three honorable mentions.)

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*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Three of The Cosby Show goes to…..

“Food For Thought”

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Come back next Tuesday for the best from the fourth season! And tune in tomorrow for a new Wildcard Wednesday post!

28 thoughts on “The Ten Best THE COSBY SHOW Episodes of Season Three

  1. Was “Cliff’s 50th Birthday” the episode where Clair is being judgmental toward one of her and Cliff’s friends, Mark Eaton, for leaving his wife, Margie, for another woman?

    IIRC, there was a rumor that the writers had planned to incorporate Rashad’s pregnancy into the scripts (with the explanation that Cliff and Clair would deal with raising a “change-of-life baby”) and that, for whatever reason, they changed their minds. Of course, there had been another rumor about incorporating Lisa Bonet’s real-life pregnancy after she had left ADW, but that either the network or Cosby himself felt showing Denise as a college dropout AND unwed mother might tarnish the Huxtable’s otherwise squeaky-clean reputation; so who’s to say whether either rumor contained kernels of truth.

    Finally, a small, inconsequential point of fact: I was named after Rashad’s then-husband, who, at the time of my birth, was still playing for the Minnesota Vikings. Ergo, you could imagine all the Phyllicia/Ahmad Rashad jokes I heard in elementary school — along with all the requisite Star Trek/”Wrath of Khan” jokes — during these years of TCS.

    • Hi, Rashad! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I was wondering if you were indeed named after Mrs. Huxtable’s real-life husband! Yes, “Cliff’s 50th Birthday” is the episode of which you’re thinking.

      And, it probably goes without saying, but I’m glad we didn’t have any forced pregnancies on the show. I’m a big believer in recognizing the audience’s ability to separate the performer from the character — and particularly with regard to an actress’ pregnancy, if it’s not going to be a benefit to the show (and it rarely is), just give her appropriate clothing and stage her creatively behind large objects! It’s a lot less trouble.

  2. What other shows do you plan to cover in the near future? Also by any chance will you ever cover some of the shows that you didn’t get to, or weren’t” your favorites? To be honest I would love for you to discuss every tv series. That”s how much I enjoy your reviews. But that”s up to you of course. Thanks again. Looking forward to every Tuesday!!!

    • Hi, Asante! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I really appreciate that nice compliment — thank you. You can check out some of our “Coming Attractions” here. The next shows covered in full on Sitcom Tuesdays will be THE GOLDEN GIRLS, IT’S GARRY SHANDLING’S SHOW, MARRIED… WITH CHILDREN, and MURPHY BROWN.

      Regarding shows that I’ve heretofore overlooked, I do intend to reverse course and cover a few notable titles — mostly from the ’50s and ’60s. The decision to feature something here hinges on a lot of factors — my personal regard for the show, the time commitment, the ability to present a specific point-of-view, etc. — and a lot of this is dependent on the realities of the moment. That is, do I want to cover this show, and do I want to cover it NOW? For instance, I would, ideally, like to one day study EMPTY NEST. But I don’t feel like doing so currently as part of our coverage of the ’80s, because it’s both inaccessible to the majority of my readers and it’s fundamentally of a lower quality than say, THE GOLDEN GIRLS, MARRIED… WITH CHILDREN, and MURPHY BROWN, thus making it far less pressing material for discussion. Yet I leave the figurative door open in case I do change my mind, as I am wont to do!

      If you have any inquires about individual shows (from the time period that this blog has already covered — ’50s through the ’80s), please feel free to make them here or on the Coming Attractions page!

      • I didn’t watch much sitcomms from the 1980s but I liked a bit from the 1990s. I even watched “Murhpy Brown” for a while. Will you consider doing these :

        “Love & War”
        “Herman’s Head”
        “Mad About You”

        I’m so excited for “Golden girls”!! Betty white is a goddess !

        • Hi, BB! Thanks for reading and commenting.

          COACH: Not likely — I don’t love it, and because the majority of the years remain unreleased on DVD, it doesn’t make sense to cover now.)
          WINGS: Very likely.
          ROC: Not likely on Sitcom Tuesdays; slight chance of being Wildcard Wednesdays fodder.
          LOVE & WAR: Haven’t seen any of the series, but it’s on my radar due to Diane English (of MURPHY BROWN).
          HERMAN’S HEAD: Very likely.
          FRASIER: Absolutely.
          MAD ABOUT YOU: Very very likely.

          (And although you didn’t ask, I’ll let you know that SEINFELD will definitely be seen here in 2017, most likely right after MURPHY BROWN, which will immediately follow MARRIED… WITH CHILDREN. Also, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW will be seen here next year, and another HBO sitcom, DREAM ON, is also very likely at this point.)

          Stay tuned…

          • THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW was brilliant. I greatly look forward to that. And DREAM ON! I thought the entire world had forgotten that series. I’ll give you my DREAM ON MVE right now: Tom Poston as Uncle Bouncy. Comedy gold.

            • Yes, I think we’re going to have more fun next year as the blog moves into the ’90s. (I still have a few tricks up these figurative sleeves of mine too…) In the meantime, Shandling’s earlier TV effort is coming up in November and I’m really looking forward to sharing those posts as well. Stay tuned!

      • Awesome! I rly didn’t expect “Herman’s Head” or “Dream On”as possibilities. I’m excited!

      • OMG I loved HERMAN’S HEAD. My husband and I (back when we were still dating) would spend Sunday nights with MURDER SHE WROTE at 8 and then we’d switch to Fox at 9 for the networks best comedies MARRIED WITH CHILDREN and HERMAN’S HEAD. I can’t wait.

        Would you ever consider discussing MURDER SHE WROTE? Lots of stars, usually very entertaining. Warm, campy, clever.

        • HERMAN’S HEAD, if it is covered here — which I’m thinking right now is highly probable — won’t be seen for over a year from now. (Although, if it’s any comfort, that’ll be a shorter wait than FRASIER, which now seems pushed back into 2018.)

          As for MURDER, SHE WROTE, I love the show and have considered featuring it here, although not seriously. Also, DYNASTY has given me drama fatigue (or more accurately, hour-long series fatigue), so it’s not on the horizon anytime soon. But its inclusion here at some point remains not improbable!

  3. Thanks Jackson for your insightful reviews. I really look forward to them. I see on the “Coming Attractions” that Dynasty will be covered monthly. What about Dallas or Knots Landing? Overall, I thought Knots Landing was the best of the night soaps. However I loved to hate JR.

    • Hi, Smitty! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      These questions were addressed when I announced coverage of DYNASTY back in May. I’m reprinting my response below. The shorter answer is that I’ve seen a little bit of both KNOTS LANDING and FALCON CREST, believe that the former has a lot of merits, but would require a big time commitment to discuss, and that the latter isn’t exceptional. (Although I had one of my readers champion FALCON CREST, so one day I’ll give it a harder look). Meanwhile I’ve seen all of DYNASTY and DALLAS, and although I think the latter is both MUCH better written and singlehandedly responsible for this whole primetime soap trend, I believe DYNASTY to be the one most deserving of coverage during our look at the ’80s. See why below!

      A working knowledge of the other major primetime soaps of the era has been fundamental in my coverage of DYNASTY — the first five posts of which, from August to December, have already been drafted — and I will specifically address DALLAS, KNOTS LANDING, and FALCON CREST within that first entry (some more briefly than others).

      But in answer to your question, my survey of FALCON CREST has thus far been comparatively meager and utilitarian, and I have not yet been compelled to seek out a complete series collection. The same can be said for KNOTS LANDING, although my reason for not yet exploring the show in its entirety is really based on an intense hunch about its strength and my accompanying reluctance to devote the necessary attention to a work that, despite perhaps deserving full coverage, would require a commitment that’s beyond my capability at this point in time.

      In complete transparency, I’ll tell you that I actually toyed with covering DALLAS instead of DYNASTY, as I have complete sets of both series (and actually believe the former to be the more narratively sound), but there were three big reasons that ultimately persuaded me to cover the latter this August instead.

      1) I know DYNASTY better, having first seen the entire series about a decade ago (when I was but a middle schooler battling chronic insomnia), while most of DALLAS I’ve screened only once — if that often. So at this moment, I feel more qualified to discuss DYNASTY.
      2) I think DYNASTY is easier to enjoy sans “strings.” When it’s good, it’s good; when it’s bad, it’s bad. From this simplicity comes an ability to embrace its consistent entertainment value without ignoring its unending (and I mean UNENDING) list of missteps. In contrast, the qualitative “shades of gray” that exist more readily on DALLAS require a sharper critical eye to dissect, thus making the series’ entertainment value less durable in the wake of its faults. In other words, DALLAS commands greater respect, which means the unrespectable moments are more heartbreaking — even if, for the sake of argument, they’re never as low as DYNASTY’s.
      3) I believe DYNASTY represents the ’80s better than any of the other dramas — artistic merit (and DALLAS’ seminality) aside. And with the decade’s other televisual entertainment being highlighted on Tuesdays of this year, the ’80s became the angle through which I wanted to introduce coverage of another drama. From my perception of the two shows’ contrasting styles, DYNASTY ultimately felt due for coverage now (or never), while DALLAS could and might be discussed at any time and during any era on this blog.

      Of course, I’m still much more interested in situation comedies than primetime dramas, but the state of ’80s television requires that I steer some of my focus away from sitcoms — for a little while, anyway. The decision to cover DYNASTY, warts and all, along with MOONLIGHTING (which concludes this week) has been enjoyable so far, but I wouldn’t anticipate seeing any other non-comedies here within the next year. (I write this because I’d rather any more dramas that pop up be a welcome surprise to all of us, instead of an obligation that we’re all waiting to be fulfilled.) One thing I can promise, however, is pointed individual commentary. As discussed above in response to bobster427, DYNASTY is one of those shows that entertains me, in spite of my remaining in full observation of its textual deficiencies; reckoning with these frailties had made for a fascinating time. Stay tuned…

  4. “I find the use of flight to be very gimmicky — jumping out of planes, taking flight lessons, parachuting — these are big grand sight gags”

    I assume you are excluding the “Flying Felix” episode of THE ODD COUPLE in this anti-aviation screed.

    • Hi, Guy! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I enjoy “The Flying Felix.” I think it’s a very funny episode and probably the best of THE ODD COUPLE’s fourth season. Yet I do find it to be gimmicky, particularly in the hastily written ending. I won’t complain about it, however, because I think the episode is a great success and remains much superior to a lot of its competition.

      But you know, I struggle in general with THE ODD COUPLE, which I think is the best of the late Garry Marshall’s oeuvre. Sometimes I feel like I’m too hard on the series, but every time I devote to it considerable attention, I always come back to the state of the writing, which I find to be often easy, predictable, and yes, gimmicky. If there’s any intelligence to be had, it comes from the simplicity of the premise, the property’s theatrical origins, and the professionalism of the exceptionally well-cast leads. I ultimately believe that’s enough to redeem the series and make it regularly amusing, so again, I don’t want to complain — but I just can’t credit the strength of the writing outside of a few very specific instances.

      • Speaking of Garry Marshall – ANGIE – unavailable to you or uninterested? I don’t know how involved he was with it anyway, but it was more notable for its quick collapse than for anything in the show besides Doris Roberts.

        • Hi, Jake! Thanks for reading and commenting.

          I’m interested in giving the series a fair examination, but not before the promised release from VEI. I thought Roberts’ death earlier this year might have hastened its roll-out, but now there’s a double incentive with Marshall’s recent passing, so hopefully it’ll be made available soon.

            • Indeed — neither role far off from the one she briefly played on SOAP. Like Mabel Albertson, Roberts seemed to be the quintessential mother-in-law/mother-in-law-to-be.

  5. So after rewatching this season I gotta agree most of the episodes were boring or just have no solid plot. However I feel lie this is a time to say that I believe this season is when Vanessa really embraced her bad girl phrase which really didn’t come to nature til later this season

    • Hi, Track! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I don’t know if I would call Vanessa a “bad girl” outside of a few isolated incidents, most of which occur later in the run. However, I think her character was written with a mind towards teenage angst and the stories that this could generate. These changes began right at the start of Season Two, and lasted until — at least — she went to college. Of course, I find this usage of her character to be very detrimental to the show’s comedic storytelling, which then became preachier and After School Special-ish as a result, but it’s interesting to note that several of the episodes centered around Vanessa ended up being among the third season’s most memorable, because that’s not usually the case. (However, Season Three is an odd, unfortunate entity anyway, and very little of it makes good sense.)

      Stay tuned for material that’s better (and worse too) ahead…

      • I always felt sorry for the charming Tempestt Bledsoe, having to contend with angst-y Jan Brady-like plots (and like Jan, being stuck with an adorable, younger co-star). I remember how either Cliff or Cosby made a remark about Vanessa being visited by the “breast fairy” and I cringed for the poor actress. Bledsoe was by far my favorite on this series, which admittedly I seldom watched. (Even back then Cosby’s sanctimoniousness grated on me.) I do thank you for telling me the episode I loved and still crack up over, 30 years later, “Theo’s Flight.” Rudy’s bossing of “Bud” (“he’s just BUD”) always was hilarious.

        • Hi, Mark! Thanks for reading and commenting.

          Be sure to check out our other posts on THE COSBY SHOW — especially the first and last, Bledsoe’s best showings — if you haven’t already!

  6. Really a bad season, but funnily enough I dont remember disliking it as much at the time as I do now. Maybe it was less offensive seeing it only once a week.

    • Hi, Elaine! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      It’s interesting — usually shows improve on DVD and/or when binged, because rocky episodes and periods can be bypassed quickly. In the original network run, viewers had to wait each week for a new half-hour installment that was most likely to disappoint. All hype, no substance… repeatedly.

      But I think one of the reasons the third season may not have seemed as bad at the time is that the show was still ACTING like it was the best on television. It clearly wasn’t making it, but it sure was faking it — and that does make a difference. In fact, when this pretense eventually does fade away and no one seems interested in pretending anymore, there’s a noticeable down shift. But that’s weeks away; stay tuned…

  7. There’s a specific scene in “Planning Parenthood” that I’ve always loved. It’s when Vanessa and Theo recount his attempts to showoff for the girls on the tennis court. The way Claire and the other women react has always made me laugh. Scenes like these are what made The Cosby Show unique in my opinion. It’s the humor from everyday life that can spring up out of nowhere.

    • Hi, Brandon! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, when the show diverted its aims away from the simple desire to find comedy in relatable everyday occurrences, the results suffered.

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