Bill Cosby was more than TV's biggest star of the 1980s. He changed the course of TV and had historic impact on the medium.
He took one of TV's oldest formats, the family sitcom, gave a modern twist to "Father Knows Best" and, in one fell swoop, helped destroy decades of insulting black stereotypes on the home tube and in show business overall.
"The Cosby Show" started as a longshot. When it debuted on Sept. 20, 1984, TV comedy--especially with a family setting--was considered dead. The biggest hits were soap operas like "Dallas" and "Dynasty" and action shows such as "Magnum, P.I." and "Simon & Simon."
But after the ratings success of "Cosby," family sitcoms blossomed again: "Family Ties," "Growing Pains," "Who's the Boss?", "The Wonder Years."