The Cosby Show was the biggest sitcom of the 1980's and is said to have revived what seemed to be a failing format in television. Although it was not the first show to have a predominately black cast (Good Times and The Jeffersons aired in the 70s) it paved the way for the likes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air due to it's ability to overcome the TV stereotype of 'the poor black family'. The shows protagonist Cliff Huxtable was an Obstetrician and his wife Clair, a Lawyer. Due to their affluent standing in society, the Huxtables were a refreshing change to how you would normally see a black family portrayed on US TV at this time. For example, in What's Happening!!, although they were not a family, the cast were a group of working class black teenagers who lived in the Watts area of LA, a place notorious for criminal violence, murder and gang activity.
The Cosby Show ran from 1984-1992 on NBC and is the third longest running sitcom with a predominately black cast, only to be surpassed by The Jeffersons and Family Matters. It was the highest rated show on television from 1985-1989, knocking Dynasty off the top spot and tied with Roseanne in the 89-90 season and was eventually beaten by Cheers in the 90-91 season.
The Cosby Show was able to deal with issues such as teenage pregnancy and Dyslexia, but was criticised for not acknowledging the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. However, this never effeccted it's popularity and it stayed strong in the ratings for nearly a decade.
I remember watching re-runs fondly as a child. It stood out against what seemed to be and endless stream of white characters on TV at the time and it is often commented how 'racist America' was able to acceptable their African American neighbours because they watched The Cosby Show. It opened the door for more African American actors to be cast in prime time TV shows and fought against the stereotype that had be enforced for so long.