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Bill Cosby’s Fabulous Flops

July 23, 2014

NBC recently announced that Bill Cosby will return to TV in 2015 with a new sitcom. Will it be closer to a classic like The Cosby Show, or will it be largely forgotten…like these Bill Cosby flops?

You Bet Your Life

Cosby FlopsOne of the reasons why Cosby ended The Cosby Show in 1992 (when it was still a top 20 show) was a desire to do new things. The first thing he did was a syndicated revival of Groucho Marx’s classic comic game show You Bet Your Life. The original was driven largely by Marx’s personality and persona, and even Cosby couldn’t fill those shoes…at least among viewers who could remember the show from more than 30 years earlier. The revival was gone in under a year.

The Cosby Mysteries

A light detective drama with elements of comedy, The Cosby Mysteries debuted on NBC in January 1994 after a highly-rated made-for-TV movie. About a lottery winner who solves mysteries, it was created by former Columbo and Murder, She Wrote writers who Cosby had commissioned to create a non-violent detective show. Airing opposite the popular Roseanne on ABC and Beverly Hills, 90210 on Fox, The Cosby Show not-so-mysteriously vanished after 18 episodes.


Cosby wasn’t a failure, but it wasn’t the giant hit CBS thought it was going to be either. In 1996 the network announced that it had signed Cosby to return to episodic television for the first time since The Cosby Show ended in 1992. CBS, anxious that Cosby would flee to another network, allowed him to make whatever show he wanted, with whoever he wanted, and a guaranteed run of at least two years—an unprecedented concession. Instead of a bright family show, Cosby produced Cosby, a remake of One Foot in the Grave, a dark British sitcom about a cranky retiree. The show debuted to huge ratings in Sept. 1996, but by its fourth and final season in 2000, Cosby was the #82 show on TV.

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