In original Cosby Show Pitch, Cliff was a Limo Driver, Claire a Plumber

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Can you believe The Cosby Show turns 30? September 20, 1984 the very first episode aired. I was just a little girl a few months shy from my 8th birthday. I can not recall if I remember seeing this episode when it aired or if I remember it when I got older but I do know that I have seen all 202 episodes of one of the best black shows.. scratch that, one of the BEST TV SHOWS ever. It was the one show my parents let me tune in every week to watch.

Since I deputized myself as the BIGGEST fan of the show, I was pretty surprised (and tickled) to see that there were things I did not know about the show that mentalfloss.com brought to our attention. Check it out:

1. HUXTABLE: LIMOUSINE DRIVER?

In Bill Cosby’s original pitch, he played a limousine driver, and Clair was a union plumber. Camille Cosby told her husband that she thought the TV couple should be more representative of their own family—two white-collar professional parents. When executive producer Marcy Carsey sided with Camille, Cosby capitulated and made the patriarch a doctor and Clair an attorney.

2. “MIRA QUE TIENE COSA LA MUJER ESTA…”
Another one of Cosby’s early visions of the show was for Clair to be Dominican, and to have her revert to her native Spanish whenever she was frustrated. He pictured it as a reverse I Love Lucy scenario, where the audience always knew when Ricky Ricardo had reached his limit because he’d burst into a Spanish-language tirade.

3. PHYLICIA RASHAD’S STARE HELPED GET HER THE ROLE
Of all the actresses who auditioned for the role of Clair, Phylicia Rashad caught Cosby’s eye because of the way she argued with Theo during the screen test. Unlike the previous candidates, she didn’t wag her head and she didn’t place her hand on her hip. Instead, she simply stopped speaking and gave Theo a look—and her eyes said enough to frighten any child into submission. Cosby knew immediately that Phylicia was Clair.

4. COSBY WORRIED ABOUT THE STUDIO AUDIENCE’S REACTION TO THE PILOT
The Cosby Show’s pilot was filmed in front of a live audience, and even though there were plenty of laughs where expected, Cosby was worried that the audience wasn’t embracing his overall vision of the series. In the scene where Theo is defending the “D” on his report card, he earnestly tells his dad, “If you weren’t a doctor, I wouldn’t love you less, because you’re my dad. So rather than feeling disappointed because I’m not like you, maybe you should accept who I am and love me anyway, because I’m your son.”

What concerned Cosby about this scene was the spontaneous applause from the audience after Theo’s speech. Luckily the audience reacted even more enthusiastically when he replied with complete conviction, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life!”

cosby-show-jemblog-dot-com-35. THE STORY BEHIND THOSE SWEATERS
Cliff Huxtable’s iconic sweaters were the work of Dutch fashion designer Koos Van Den Akker. Van Den Akker was asked by an customer of his in the early 1980s to make a unique sweater as a present for her friend, Bill Cosby. Cosby wore that sweater on camera while filming an episode of his show. Mail poured in as viewers wanted to know where they could buy a similar garment.

Cosby asked Van Den Akker to make more, and a legacy was born. The sweaters’ designer described the process of creating each pullover as a “painting,” throwing various colors and patterns of fabric pieces together on a jersey/wool blend canvas. According to Van Den Akker, each design tread a “very thin line between absolutely awful and something of genius.”

6. THERE WERE ORIGINALLY ONLY FOUR HUXTABLE CHILDREN

At one point in the pilot, Clair asks, “Why did we have four children?” He responds, “Because we didn’t want five.” Originally, Denise was the oldest of the offspring, followed by Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy. But once the series was poised to become a hit, Bill Cosby decided to add an additional older child—one who was away at college and was an example of successful parenting. Enter Princeton student Sondra, the eldest Huxtable child.

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7. IN REAL LIFE, SONDRA COULDN’T HAVE BEEN CLAIR’S DAUGHTER
Sabrina LeBeauf, the actress who played Sondra, is only 10 years younger than her TV mom. Sabrina won the role over such staunch competitors as Whitney Houston and future Miss America Suzette Charles. LeBeauf impressed Cosby partly because she had recently graduated from a prestigious university (Yale), just like the character he had in mind.

8. ITALIANS COULDN’T PRONOUNCE “HUXTABLE”
The Cosby Show not only topped the ratings charts at home, it was also a hit internationally—albeit with some minor tweaks made for non-U.S. audiences. For example, in Italy, the surname “Huxtable” proved to be impossible to pronounce, so the family’s name was changed and the show was titled I Robinson (“The Robinsons”) in Italy. Why “Robinson” instead of, say, Smith or Jones? The name was chosen in honor of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball.

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9. RUDY WAS ALMOST PLAYED BY URKEL
In Bill Cosby’s original vision, the Huxtables had two boys and two girls (this was before Sondra was added to the mix). The youngest child, Rudy, was originally supposed to be a younger brother who looked up to Theo. Eight-year-old Jaleel White (Family Matters’ future Urkel) had auditioned so strongly that his agent told his parents that they should start looking for apartments in New York, where The Cosby Show was filmed.

The producers still had a few more kids to consider, and one of those last-minute interviews was with four-year-old charmer Keshia Knight-Pulliam. Director Jay Sandrich recalled trying to talk to Keshia, asking her if she could remember lines, but she kept looking away from him. He finally asked her what was wrong. The story goes that she pointed to a monitor and said, “That’s me! How can you make me on the TV?” Immediately enchanted, Sandrich moved Keshia’s name to the top of the short list, and Theo became an only son surrounded by four sisters.

10. THEO WAS SUPPOSED TO BE TALLER
The casting call for the role of Theo specified that he was 6’2″ and 15 years old. Malcolm-Jamal Warner, however, was 13 and 5’5″. Nevertheless, he landed an interview on the last day auditions were held. According to Warner, he read the Monopoly money scene with Cosby like a traditional TV brat—hand on hip, eyes rolled, a real smart-aleck. Everyone in the room was laughing … except for Cosby. He asked the young actor if he’d act like that with his real father. With that advice in mind, Warner read for the part a second time and nailed it.

11. VANESSA’S EARLY COLLEGE ENROLLMENT WAS WRITTEN IN SO TEMPESTT BLEDSOE COULD GO TO ACTUAL COLLEGE
Season 7 begins with a “back to school” episode where Cliff and Clair happily usher their brood out the door the morning after summer vacation ended. But why was Vanessa carrying a suitcase instead of a Trapper Keeper? It’s revealed that Vanessa attended summer school so she could graduate a year early, and was now bound for Lincoln College in Pennsylvania. The sudden change in Vanessa’s story arc was due to Tempestt Bledsoe’s desire to get her degree, and Cosby’s determination to help her however possible.

After graduating from high school, Bledsoe told her boss that she’d enrolled at New York University but would be attending classes in the evenings and on weekends so it wouldn’t affect her work schedule. Cosby instead arranged the show’s shooting schedule so that Bledsoe could go to school full-time, which is why we only saw Vanessa sporadically throughout the season. Tempestt recalls that Cosby used to post her grades on his dressing room door.

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