Goodbye, Huxtables

`THE Cosby Show" is gone, and we'll miss it. After eight years, the groundbreaking show about a black middle-class family in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., aired for the last time Thursday. It was the most-watched show of the '80s.

Bill Cosby, who starred in and produced the show, brought us a vision of a two-career black family that was happy, intact, and affluent. Some criticized the program as unrealistic, as presenting an image of black family life utterly at odds with statistics about single-parent households, school drop-outs, and crime.

The show brought a view of blacks as social and professional equals with whites and inserted blacks into the television mainstream. In so doing, it might have glossed over, for some viewers, the racial inequities still engrained in American life.

Still, in this era of dysfunctional families and domestic violence, the Huxtables were a model - for all viewers - of a family that loved, laughed a lot, and worked things out.

To discipline Theo for holding a party while his parents were absent, Cliff (played by Mr. Cosby) "volunteered" his son at a homeless shelter. And if any of the children messed up, they had some serious explaining to do for their lawyer mother, Clair.

Yet the relationship between Cliff and Clair was often more interesting than what happened with the kids. Filled with respect and delight, it was a marriage that still sparkled after 20-odd years - as the touching conclusion to the final episode demonstrated.

This was a show that deserved to be cared about.

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