NBC and Bill Cosby have been joined at the show-business hip for decades.
The network was the home for “I Spy,” the lighthearted 1960s spy drama starring Cosby that established the comedian as a major television star. The phenomenal success of “The Cosby Show” two decades later reversed the fortunes of the struggling network while single-handedly reviving the TV sitcom genre.
And until last week, NBC was in development with Cosby on a comedy that would have brought the legendary entertainer back to primetime.
That project was dropped in the wake of the furor revolving around a flurry of accusations by several women who say Cosby sexually assaulted them. And the latest edition of “Saturday Night Live” demonstrated that the comedian is not a sacred cow at the network he helped save.
Cosby was targeted during the show’s “Weekend Update" segment by anchor Michael Che, who linked his joke to Cosby’s repeated criticisms against young African Americans using poor grammar and wearing their pants too low.
“Hey, Bill Cosby, pull your damn pants up!” Che said pointedly as a photo of the comedian flashed behind him. The audience responded with uncomfortable laughter as he added, "I’ve always wanted to say that.”
Che continued, mentioning how TV Land had pulled reruns of “The Cosby Show” as the controversy flared. “I don’t know how to feel about that, because I don’t know Bill Cosby but (Cosby’s character) Cliff Huxtable practically raised me. I loved that dude. And the only thing he tried to sneak while people were asleep was a hoagie.”
He added, “So while I may never forgive Bill Cosby, hopefully someday I can forgive Dr. Huxtable.” He then made reference to comedian Michael Richards, who angrily fired off racial epithets in a comedy club a few years ago when he was heckled. Richards played Kramer on “Seinfeld.”
Said Che, “I mean I know it’s not the same thing. But I forgave Kramer.”
Cosby has repeatedly denied the allegations.