Over the weekend, “The Cosby Show” celebrated the 30th anniversary of its debut on NBC. Yes, just typing that makes me feel old.
While this is not a perfect TV show, I believe it is the best regular series in this history of television. It was legitimately humorous, and didn’t feel the need to be scandalous. It was morally clean almost all the way through, and even gave families something positive to talk about, instead of trying to sheepishly avoid certain topics usually discussed on television.
So, in honor of the 30th anniversary of “The Cosby Show,” today we share with you 30 life lessons. Some are humorous and some are serious, but all are better learned wearing a colorful sweater and with cool jazz playing in the background.
1. Respect Your Grandparents. One of the greatest aspects of the program was how often the grandparents were involved in the lives of the children. They were present for the major events in life, and were always talked about with respect.
2. Never Let Your Sister Make Your Clothing. A Gorden Gartrelle shirt–or Ichy Amarada–or whatever should never be left in the hands of someone with so little experience.
3. Reading is a Key Part of Life. I love the emphasis in the show on reading and learning. Cliff and Claire were constantly reading books or magazines, and the children were often told to “go to the library.”
4. Husbands and Wives Should Stay Romantic. Flirting was constant between Dr. and Mrs. Huxtable, and they were always doing things for one another. Such should be the case with husbands and wives. Keep the romance bright!
5. Kids are Rich, but Not with Money. “Your mother and I are rich; you have nothing.” What a great line! But, the children were also told that they were rich, just not with things. They were rich in love and relationships.
6. Be “the House” that Others Want to Visit. Almost every episode featured someone coming to the house. Some were family. Some were friends. Some were friends of friends. And they were people of all ages. I want to be “that house”–the one people just feel drawn to by hospitality.
7. Education is Invaluable. The final episode is Theo’s college graduation, and the show constantly focuses on the schooling (elementary, high school, and college) of the children. The parents regularly talk about their own college experiences. They build in their children a love of learning.
8. Volunteer in Your Community. In later years, the show featured Cliff and Claire helping at a local community center. This “giving back” was a key message of the show, and one more people could take to heart.
9. Zrbtts are Great Signs of Affection. What is a zrbtt? It is blowing on the cheek of someone you love, instead of kissing them. While zrbtts were seen early in the show, there was a touching scene near the end of the last season where a now-teen Rudy zrbtts her dad to show her affection.
10. Talk about Family Heritage Often. I love how often family stories are told, and how family heirlooms are part of the weaving together of the show. Doing this helps children feel grounded and part of something larger than themselves.
11. “The Government Comes for the Regular People First.” Monopoly money and a boy who thinks he has it all figured out. When Cliff teaches Theo that taxes come off the top of a paycheck, life starts to sink in for the boy.
12. Dads are to be Old Yeller. Cliff was famous for how “rough” he was on the boyfriends of his daughters. His explanation? “I’m like Old Yeller.” Boys will be careful when they come by that house. (Of course, he’s then reminded that, at the end of the movie, “They shot Old Yeller.”)
13. Celebrate Purity. We are never shown “the talk,” but it is obvious that it was given. When a decision for purity was made, it was celebrated. When Cliff finds out that Denise was a virgin on her wedding night, he celebrates. Would that every parent had this same attitude!
14. Spend Time with Children. I love the interaction that the family has with children. There are so many episodes where kids are being treated to something nice (dinner, a show, or just a party) by the Huxtables. While the kids are not in charge, they are being shown that they are special, and are gaining life skills through this intentional time.
15. Wear Old Clothes when Buying a Car.
16. When You Try too Hard to Impress a Girl, It Will Backfire. The more Theo tries to impress girls, the more it blows up in his face. From trying to talk more mature to opening his shirt to show his manly physique, it just never works. When he is just himself, he gets the girl.
17. It’s Okay to Say the Word “Cancer.” One of the more poignant episodes is when a friend of Theo’s is in the hospital with cancer. Theo can’t bring himself to say the “c word” until the friend says it to him. I like the humanity of that exchange.
18. Go to Church. While church was not a focus of the program, they did not hide it, either. There are a few episodes set in church, and they talk regularly about going. Would that more programs at least mentioned church in a positive light.
19. “Go Discover America” is Not a Bad Thing to Tell Your Got-It-All-Figured-Out Teenager. This may be Leah’s favorite line ever on the show.
20. Modesty is Important. When Vanessa and her friends form a new girl group, they select outfits that have them “flinging parts from one end to the other.” The simple statement from Claire is to go “put some clothes on.” Amen!
21. Junk Food is a Man’s Best Friend. Cliff and junk food. How many running jokes did this show have about hoagies, chips, and desserts? And he was a doctor!
22. Sometimes–Not Often, but Sometimes–You Have to Tell Your Kids Exactly What’s On Your Mind. When Vanessa and her friends lie and travel to see the band The Wretched, she is left with no question as to how her parents feel about it.
23. Get Away Sometimes. Cliff and Claire live in a house with five children (and more people as they years go by). Yet, they took the time to go on dates, take vacations, and have get-aways. Every couple needs these times to reconnect and unwind.
24. The Salary of Early 1900s Coal Miners Will Mean a Lot to You When You Have Children. I love how Cliff often tells his kids what people earned before he was even born. It was a way to help them appreciate what they have without complaining.
25. It is Okay for Parents to Laugh at Themselves. There was a lot of laughter in the Huxtable house, and sometimes it was the parents realizing they had done something dumb. That’s okay. However……..
26. It is Not Okay for Parents to Lose Control of the House. One of the major features of “The Cosby Show” was that the kids did not run the household. There was never a question as to who was in charge, and that needs to be reinforced in our homes today.
27. Talk. A Lot. Have you noticed how often the TV was on in the show? It wasn’t much. But there were a lot of conversation around the dinner table or sitting on the couch.
28. When You Argue, Make Up Quickly. In one episode, Cliff and Claire argue and decide to go to bed angry (for the first time in their marriage). It only takes part of the next day before they make up. While the way in which they make up may be a bit strange (“desk dancing” over the phone), it just shows that couples need to make up quickly instead of letting bitterness grow.
29. Make Your Home the Safest Place in Your Child’s Life. In reality, outside of the humor, I think this is the overall message I take away from “The Cosby Show.” The kids just want to be at home, because they feel connected and safe.
30. Lip-Syncing is a Perfectly Acceptable Form of Entertainment. Just watch the video. It is, in my mind, the single greatest scene in the history of American comedic television.
By the way, if you have never bought the 8 seasons on “The Cosby Show” on DVD, do so! Enjoy them with your family. Here’s a link to the first 2 seasons for less than $10.
QUESTION: What is your favorite “life lesson” from “The Cosby Show?” Share yours in the comments below!
Photo credit: Daily Mail (UK)