We Need To Talk About Cosby is a four-part documentary in which comedian-turned-TV host W. Kamau Bell measures the groundbreaking accomplishments of Bill Cosby against the volume of women who accused him of sexually assaulting them after drugging them.
The Showtime docu, which premiered at January’s virtual Sundance Film Festival, was highlighted during a panel at Deadline’s Contenders Television: Documentary + Unscripted awards-season showcase.
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Cosby finds an interesting way into the discussion, as Bell interviews past co-workers, academics and women about their conflicted feelings. On the one hand, Cosby broke the color barrier on primetime television as the co-star of I Spy, and his work on the standup comedy stage and The Tonight Show made him a star when there were not many Black faces on the small screen. His work on the top-rated The Cosby Show made him one of the richest and most famous stars on TV, and fashioned an image he exploited as America’s Dad.
As Bell and executive producer Katie King discuss during the Contenders panel, while Cosby took it upon himself to tell Black men how to live their lives, he is alleged to have spent decades assaulting over 60 women. Numerous victims tell their stories in the docuseries.
“He is a catalyst in understanding America,” Bell said. “When you talk about how America was built and been run and ruled, two of the big forces are racism and also its treatment of women — sexism, rape culture. Bill Cosby’s story helps explain and understand both of those things.”
Cosby was sentenced in September 2018 to three to 10 years in a Pennsylvania state prison for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004. Cosby served about three years of his sentence, before it was vacated on a technicality and he was set free at age 83, a moment that also became a part of the series.
Check out the panel video above.
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