‘The Cosby Show’ Almost Stole a Classic Element of ‘I Love Lucy’

The Cosby Show is one of the most iconic TV shows of all time. The ’80s sitcom won numerous awards and retained high viewership until the finale. The show follows the Huxtable family through the usual ups and downs that families experience over time.

While you might wonder what set this show apart from all the other family sitcoms, the answer is simple. The series brought strong, relatable characters and storylines. The family relationships kept viewers coming back. That is why it might be surprising that initially, The Cosby Show considered stealing a classic element of I Love Lucy.

‘The Cosby Show’ was groundbreaking at its time

The Cosby Show cast
The Cosby Show cast | Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank

The Huxtable family consisted of Cliff, his wife, Clair, and their five children. The show was relatable to everyone.

The storylines portrayed everyday life like how to get your picky eater to eat vegetables and what to do when your kids start dating. The show also touched on some taboo topics like teenage pregnancy.

The Cosby Show depicted a middle-class Black family. The show was groundbreaking because it consisted of a primarily Black cast, helping to break racial stereotypes. The matriarch of the family Clair, played by Phylicia Rashad, also helped to break sexist stereotypes.

Who is Clair Huxtable?

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The matriarch of the Huxtable family was not a meek housewife. She commuted from Brooklyn to Manhattan every day to practice law at a prestigious firm.

While her husband also had a successful career as an OBGYN, he supported his wife’s aspirations. In fact, he chose to work out of their house so that he could take on the responsibilities of household tasks and childcare. 

Several episodes addressed gender roles, but one episode in particular sticks out. The oldest daughter, Sondra, brought a boyfriend home to dinner. The boyfriend questioned Huxtable’s choice to work outside the house, and she explained in no uncertain terms: “Let me tell you something, Elvin. You see, I am not ‘serving’ Dr. Huxtable, OK? That’s the kind of thing that goes on in a restaurant. Now I am going to bring him a cup of coffee just like he brought me a cup of coffee this morning. And that, young man, is what marriage is made of. It is give-and-take, 50-50. And if you don’t get it together, and drop these macho attitudes, you are never gonna have anybody bringing you anything, anywhere, any place, any time, ever.”

Ricky or Rashad?

The feminist Huxtable mother was embodied perfectly by Rashad. Before starring on The Cosby Show, Rashad attended and graduated from Howard University. She appeared in several productions but is most famous for her playing Huxtable.

The surprising reason Rashad was cast for the role was due to her speaking fluent Spanish after living there so her sister could pursue a dancing career. There was a time when The Cosby Show‘s mother was supposed to be a feisty Latina.

Cosby explained: “Clair was also going to be Dominican, and have a mother and father speaking Spanish—which would be the reverse of [I Love] Lucy. I would be the person that didn’t understand when she spoke Spanish. The idea was to emulate Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy. Whenever Ricardo would get frustrated, viewers knew immediately because he would launch into a Spanish tirade. Writers thought flipping the script and having a female lead who did the same would make for great comedy.”

Rashad’s character ended up not emulating Ricardo, even though she does speak Spanish in the pilot episode. The Huxtable matriarchs’ character encompassed a woman of strength, intelligence, and charisma. Over time, Rashad’s role took on more comedic storylines but always stayed the family’s grounding force.