Also during the 1970s, Cosby and other African-American actors, including Sidney Poitier, joined forces to make some successful comedy films that countered the violent "blaxploitation" films of the era. Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Let's Do It Again (1975) were generally praised, but much of Cosby's film work has fallen flat. Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976), costarring Raquel Welch and Harvey Keitel; A Piece of the Action, with Poitier; and California Suite, a compilation of four Neil Simon plays, were all panned. In addition, Cos (1976) an hour-long variety show featuring puppets, sketches, and musical numbers, was canceled within the year. It was during this season that ABC decided to take advantage of this phase of Cosby's career by associating with Filmation (producers of Fat Albert) in creating live-action segments starring Cosby for the 1964/1971 animated film Journey Back to Oz, which made its network premiere at Christmas 1976, and aired subsequently in syndication. Cosby was also a regular on children's public television programs starting in the 1970s, hosting the "Picture Pages" segments that lasted into the early 1980s.
These endeavors created a bridge in Cosby's career that led to his greatest success that would save a faltering television network from the ratings cellar.
The Cosby Show and the 1980s
Cosby's greatest television success came in September 1984 with the debut of The Cosby Show. The program aired weekly on NBC and went on to become the highest ranking sitcom of all time. For Cosby, the new situation comedy was a response to the increasingly violent and vulgar fare the networks usually offered. Cosby is an advocate for humor that is family-oriented. He insisted on and received total creative control of the series, and he was involved in every aspect of the series. The show had parallels to Cosby's actual family life: like the characters Cliff and Claire Huxtable, Cosby and his wife Camille were college educated, financially successful, and had five children. Essentially a throwback to the wholesome family situation comedy, The Cosby Show was unprecedented in its portrayal of an intelligent, affluent, African-American family.