Show [2002/I]

An Emmy-winner for Outstanding Comedy Series its first year, The Cosby Show rapidly became to Thursday nights what The Wonderful World of Color and Bonanza were to Sundays in the 1960s: a family tradition. And the best was yet to come. Season 2 features some of this gold-standard series' benchmark episodes, most notably. "Happy Anniversary," the one in which the family honors Cliff's parents' wedding anniversary with a show-stopping lip-sync routine to Ray Charles's "Night Time Is the Right Time." In "Theo's Holiday," Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) gets a taste of the real world when his family shows him what it takes to live on his own. The Emmy-winning "Full House" anticipates Seinfeld "nothing"-ness as an exhausted Cliff (Bill Cosby) wanders his home in search of peace and quiet. In The Cosby Show's charmed world, race was beside the point. Cosby strove to address universal truths about parenthood. In this season's first episode, "First Day of School," adorable Rudy (Keisha Knight Pulliam) tells her father she doesn't want to return to school because a classmate called her "a name." Much like Cliff, the audience braces for the worst until it is revealed that she was teasingly called "Rudy Huckleberry." More to the show's point was fostering an appreciation of black heritage, history, and culture. In "The Card Game," Theo gives his girlfriend Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man to read. In "The Auction," Clair (Phylicia Rashad) bids on a painting by her great-uncle, artist Ellis Wilson, which used to hang in her grandmother's house. And in the stirring final moments in "Vanessa's Bad Grade," the entire family congregates in front of the television to watch Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. From the first, The Cosby Show promoted education and fulfilling one's potential. In one of the season's very best episodes, "Mrs. Westlake," Theo's dread math teacher, a.k.a. "The Dragon Lady," (guest star Sonia Braga) comes to dinner. Fearing the worst from the strict teacher who has forced him to study harder, he is stunned not only by her transformed bombshell appearance but by the results of his math test, which he feared he failed. Love and respect for one's elders and each other thrive in the Huxtable household. In the Emmy-winning "Denise's Friend," Cliff and Clair hold a hilarious and heartwarming family meeting to assure their children that no matter what trouble they get into, they can always come to them. From Danny Kaye's delightful Emmy-nominated performance in "The Dentist" to Rudy's gridiron heroics in "Rudy Suits Up," season 2 is brimming with happy memories of TV's most functional family. --Donald Liebenson

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