The rape allegations against Bill Cosby just keep coming. Another one surfaced yesterday, this time from former supermodel Janice Dickinson, who said on “Entertainment Tonight” that he drugged and raped her in Lake Tahoe years ago.
Dickinson is at least the fifth woman to come forward with public allegations.
We are left staring at this wreckage of a story and of a man and we have to shake our heads, wondering if it’s possible that five decades of one of the most stunning careers Hollywood has ever seen is now reduced to a pile of rubbage, his legacy transformed in weeks from industry trailblazer to disgusting old man.
And now we have begun to see the response from Cosby’s industry, Hollywood—an industry that Cosby almost singlehandedly rescued from financial oblivion in the 1980’s with “The Cosby Show.” Netflix last night announced that it was postponing a comedy special, entitled “Bill Cosby 77,” that had been scheduled to air on Nov. 28 commemorating his 77th birthday (though he was born in July).
NBC announced that it had dropped plans to develop a new situation comedy in which Cosby was to play the patriarch of a large family.
The man is simply too toxic for any money-making entity to risk connection to him. It is indeed a mammoth fall for a figure who previously could move a new show into production with a nod of his head.
As we see these chastened, embarrassed images of the aging Cosby, it is almost hard to recall just how much power he held in the television industry, just how much of a game-changer he was, with a career that smashed stereotypes and kicked down doors from its very beginning. With “I Spy” in 1965 he became the first African-American to co-star in a dramatic television series. With “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” a show loosely based on his childhood in Philadelphia, he added a much-needed dose of diversity to Saturday morning children’s television. And with “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s, he reinvented and revived the situation comedy while forcing America to fall in love with an upper-middle-class African-American family.
But when future generations look into the history books to find out who was this man who ruled television at the end of the 20th century, there’s a good chance that his monumental successes will be the footnote and the word “rapist” will be the headline.