The Cosby Show and Married with Children represent two significant and acclaimed television sitcoms that fashioned subsequent productions although both differed in their themes and presentation. While the Cosby Show was an African American show that reflected on the lives of a functional family…
Moreover the Cosby Show was an effort to promote better social and cultural values while Married with Children took up non-standard topics for its time. Both shows provided enhanced ratings for their host channels and helped to create new trends in entertainment programming on television. The central theme of both shows provides a startling comparison to the way that social existence is viewed in groups with differing cultural backgrounds within the same society.
The Cosby Show was centered on the Huxtable family’s life which was portrayed as a well to do African American household living in brownstone (brown collared apartment building in New York) located in Brooklyn Heights. The father was Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable who was shown as an obstetrician as well as the son of a famous jazz trombonist and was played by Bill Cosby. The mother of the household was Clair Huxtable nee Hanks and was shown as an attorney. The family was shown as affluent in order to garner the thought that well to do African American families existed too in prime time television. Before this it was common to portray African American families as blue collar only. Another aspect of the show that made it different was its ability to handle serious topics as well. For example the Cosby Show dealt with the themes of Theo’s (son of the family) struggle in dealing with dyslexia and was inspired by Bill Cosby’s son Ennis who was suffering with the same problem. Another such issue dealt with was teenage pregnancy when Denise’s (daughter of the family) friend gets pregnant. Although these problems were wrapped up in a comedic overtone, however, discussion on these themes showed that the show was in part educational too. It is attributed that Bill Cosby retained a high level of control over the show’s creative direction and imbued educational concepts in it which reflected his background as an educationist. Moreover the entire show was taped in New York in comparison to Los Angeles where most other shows of the time were being taped. Another major difference created by the Cosby Show was its lack of using racial themes unlike contemporary African American comedy shows such as The Jefferson’s routinely banked on racial tones to augment their comedy. On the other hand The Cosby Show did portray African American themes such as that of the Civil Rights Movement in a positive light and it also promoted African American culture and values. The works of myriad African American musicians and artists were presented through The Cosby Show such as the works of James Brown, Jacob Lawrence, Michael Jackson, Duke Ellington etc. While The Cosby Show was praised for promoting African American culture and for portraying successful African Americans, it also came under fire for representing only a certain segment of the African American population. In contrast the show Married with Children featured a Caucasian family at the centre stage as well as their neighbors. The show is based on the lives of Al Bundy who is portrayed as a once famed high school football player but whose luck has forced him to work as a salesman for woman’s shoes. Al has an acrimonious and at times irritating wife Peg as well as an attractive yet “bimbo” and rather promiscuous daughter Peg and an unpopular son Bud who is intelligent and crazy for girls. The son Bud is portrayed as the only person to have attended college in the family. On the side are Al’s neighbors Steve Rhoades and his wife Marcy. Later in the series Marcy gets married to a white collar criminal Jefferson D’ ...
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