Legendary comedian Bill Cosby heading back to TV

Bill Cosby (WENN.COM)

Bill Cosby (WENN.COM)

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:34 PM ET

When I first heard how many live shows Bill Cosby still does per year, it sounded exhausting. But when the 77-year-old Cosby put his unique spin on it, a whole new perspective emerged.

“Let's average it out to about 140 shows a year,” Cosby said. I was impressed by that number, but he added, “No, no, no, no, no. There are those of us who are the troubadours.

“Think about it, if I do 140, it comes out to maybe an average of two-point-something, maybe 2.3 or 2.4 shows a week. Now, two-point-something a week means that five days, I'm off. Or 4.7 days a week, I'm off. I could be any place my wife would let me.”

There's preparation and travel and all sorts of stuff that Cosby wasn't factoring into his calculations. But the point is, he still enjoys performing live, and he'll be back in Canada for a show at Casino Rama, north of Toronto, on Friday, Aug. 29.

And Cosby is headed back to TV, too. NBC is developing a new series for him, with an eye toward a 2015 debut. Cosby will play the patriarch of a multi-generational family, but he was scheduled to meet with the head writer only this month, so it's still in the fairly early stages.

“NBC has given me an opportunity to work in a series, it's a generational situation, I will be meeting with the writer, Mike O'Malley, and that's all I can tell you,” Cosby said. “What bothers me is that I'm coming in when there are so many different choices, hundreds of choices (on television).

“If you had 10 million people, that might be a test pattern in the early '80s. Today, 10 million will keep you alive on a network show for a long time, man.”

True enough, the massive audiences that used to gather to watch The Cosby Show in the 1980s are split in many different directions now. Just on Tuesday in Canada, Rogers Media and Shaw Media announced a new online streaming venture called “Shomi,” which essentially is a way to try to compete with Netflix.

As someone whose stardom has spanned many TV eras – dating back not only to The Cosby Show, but to Fat Albert before that, and The Bill Cosby Show before that, and I Spy before that – Cosby compared the changing landscapes to running a race.

“Let's say that I was in great shape and in 1960, when I ran the 400 metres – I'm making this up, do you understand? – but in 1960, I ran, let's say, 60 seconds flat, and I came in last, I was in last place,” Cosby said. “Now in 2014, I'm going to run again. And I'm in shape. So they fire the gun in 2014 and I run 60 seconds flat. And I win. This time, I win the race.

“In TV now, all down the line, there are these smaller channels that are just happy with an audience of two-point-something million. And do you know who I feel sorry for? Coca-Cola.”

Um ... say what?

“When you think about it, how do you spread your advertising to all these places, to anybody with a channel?” Cosby asked, comically and rhetorically. “Hello, we have a brand new channel called How to Cut Your Toenails, and it's a 24-hour channel. Here comes Coca-Cola. Here comes McDonald's. Here comes Burger King. How much money do they pay to advertise there? I'm telling you man, it's not good to own a company. It's not good. You gotta advertise any place, man.

“Good afternoon, welcome to the Still Life Channel. We just show photos. We show photos of flowers and rocks. Here comes Coca-Cola. Here comes Jell-O Pudding. They're advertising, trying to reach people. In the old days, you had NBC, CBS, ABC, and along came this other channel called Fox, and that's all you had to spend your money on.”

Well, if anyone can figure all this out, be it on TV or on stage, creatively and financially, it's Bill Cosby.

And he still gets 4.7 days off per week. Sweet.

Twitter: @billharris_tv

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

 


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