Yo, Mofo!, the pilot for The Cosby Show (1984 - 1992), starred Bill Cosby as William H. Cosby, Jr., Ed.D., and Phylicia Rashad as his longsuffering wife, Fellatio. The National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) was so proud of the show that its icon, a peacock, sprouted feathers for the first time in its history, displaying them in a fan, accompanied by the network's new slogan, "NBC: proud as a peacock."
Cosby wanted the show to be both educational and entertaining, showing white America what it is like to be a poor, inner city black without hope or ambition. Since he lived in New York, he insisted that the fictional family depicted on his show also live in New York. However, whereas Cosby resided in a luxury penthouse condominium on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, the TV family named for him eked out their existence in the rat-infested, cockroach-ridden slums of Harlem.
The main character, William H. Cosby, Jr., Ed.D., was educated on the G. I. Bill after having been drafted into the U. S. Army during the Vietnam War and serving his country as a cook in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. While on active duty, he met his future wife, Fellatio, in a bar. She was a single mother working part time as a prostitute to support her son, Sleezo, and her twelve daughters. William bartered stolen pancake batter for sex with her, and they eventually formed a common-law marrriage, moving to Harlem, where William became a ne'er-do-well drunk, living on welfare. He would disappear each month after collecting his welfare check, not showing up again until he'd spent all the money he had on "booty and booze." Sleezo became a crackhead and a pimp, prostituting Fellatio and his sisters to support his habit.
At Cosby's insistence, the whole family spoke ebonics. The show's dialogue was always more or less some version of the following:
- Fellatio: Yo, mofo! Where you been, mofo?
- William: Jive-ass bitch! Who you callin' 'mofo'?
- Sleezo: Anybuddy seen Nessa? She on booty call, and ain' nobuddy seen her black ass.
- Fellato: Hunny, you shouldn' be whorin' yoah own sistah.
- Sleezo: Shit, somebuddy gotta pay da bills roun' dis crib.
The show was well received, garnering Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, NAACP Image Awards, a Peabody Award, and a Middle Finger to America Award. Paradoxically, for different reasons, it was especially popular with members of both the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the Black Panthers. The former organization enjoyed the show because, members said, it "showed the inferiority of niggers to people like us, the real men in the hood," and the Black Panthers liked the series because, they said, "it show whitey why he need ta pay us reparations for treatin' us like we wuz low as da KKK sheet-heads."
The ratings for each season, at the end of the season, were:
- 1984-1985 #3
- 1985-1986 #1
- 1986-1987 #1
- 1987-1988 #1
- 1988-1989 #1
- 1989-1990 #1 (tied with Roseanne, a series about a family of white trash who lived in a trailer park)
- 1990-1991 #5
- 1991-1992 #18
“To think I kissed her there--and there--and there!”
When Lisa Boneme, who played 'Nessa, threatened to sue NBC for the false arrest of her career as a developing minority, the network met her demands for a new show starring her. As a result, Nessa was launched in 1993, with the Cosby family's daughter attending the fictitious Huxtable College of Ethnic Cleansing.
However, after one season, Nessa was cancelled, its title character dropping out of school at the end of her freshman year to return to prostitution.
Boneme, however, remained a popular actress and is known for her willingness to appear nude in any movie, TV show, or televised commercial. Cosby calls her "a credit to the race," citing, in particular, "her perfect rack and booty."