NBC has decided to shelve its development deal with Bill Cosby for a new sitcom that was slated for next year. This comes after three women claimed in recent weeks that the 77-year-old comedian had drugged and raped them in alleged incidents that go back decades.
In particular, former model Janice Dickinson came forward this week with her own account of an alleged assault by Cosby that allegedly happened in 1982.
"It just became the latest culmination in a series of renewed charges," said Vulture.com's Joe Adalian on The Frame. "A lot of these allegations are decades old, so they're not particularly new, but there's been a new spotlight on them."
An NBC spokeswoman said Wednesday that the network’s Cosby project is no longer under development and she had no further comment. Tuesday night, Netflix said it was indefinitely postponing its pre-taped comedy special starring Cosby that was scheduled for Thanksgiving eve.
Cosby will likely receive a payout from NBC because of the cancellation.
"What's a little unusual is rather than going to the studio involved, [the payout] is going to probably go to Mr. Cosby himself, directly," Adalian said. "He came before there was a project, before there was a studio, before there were writers there was Bill Cosby doing a sitcom. That's the deal NBC made."
Still, Cosby's influence on comedy, television and American culture is undeniable, especially through his popular NBC sitcom that ran from 1984-92.
"There are people who have said that the success of 'The Cosby Show' laid the groundwork for the election of the first African American president 30 years later," Adalian said.
Also on The Frame, comedian Alonzo Bodden spoke about Cosby's legacy.
Is Bill Cosby someone you looked up to in your career?
Cosby, in my opinion, is the best. I think there are three comics that are considered, like, greatest of all time, which would be Cosby, [Richard] Pryor and [George] Carlin. Different people like them for different reasons. I think they're all great, but Cosby's been doing it for 50 years. He still does new material. So as a comic, yeah, Cosby's one of the all-time greats and absolutely I learned from him, we all did. Cosby influenced comedy so much even Richard Pryor in his first book talked about how much he looked up to Bill Cosby early in his career.
What was it that Cosby had that was relevant to comedians of your generation?
There's a relatability, the stories he told about everyday things ... people love Cosby so much it was palpable. When you go to a Cosby show, there's no opener, there's no music, it's just, Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Cosby. And the whole audience stands up and starts clapping and you can tell that ovation will continue until he comes out and sits down.
Were the allegations against Cosby discussed when they originally surfaced in the comedy world?
I think it was rumored, I don't know how much of it was known. I'd heard from people who worked backstage or in the production of the show would be like, Well, Cosby's not the saint everyone thinks he is. Meaning there were some women hanging around. Not anything direct, but rumors and allegations and that's the other side of Bill Cosby, right? He's human. We looked at him as America's dad and this perfect guy and so on, but he's also human and he's a man, so it happened.
Were you surprised that Hannibal Buress' routine about Cosby sparked this backlash?
Hannibal Buress is a great comic and I guess it was a little surprising. I looked at his set on YouTube. It's funny ... Cosby does have a Teflon image and the idea of a comic making fun of Cosby — I wouldn't say it's unheard of, but nobody would think of it ... I have no animosity [toward Buress] and I haven't heard of any. I don't know if there's any blowback on Hannibal for saying this, but he's right.
Do you expect Cosby to continue to perform?
It's up to him. When you're Bill Cosby, you've done everything, you've been at the top for a long time, so he could just say, Ya know something, I'm not going to deal with any of this. I'm going to sit back and I've got a few hundred million dollars to play with. And maybe he'll just make some appearances where he wants to. Or not. This is one of those things, [like] the question, When did you stop beating your wife? Once these rape allegations have been made and there's been proof that there's been payoffs ... People ask me if I think he did it. I have no idea, but where there's smoke there's fire and where there's a settlement there's probably some guilt. But does he want to deal with [performing] at this point? Does he want to be bothered? Maybe he just wants to say, Look, say whatever you want, my work stands for itself. I'm done.