Netflix Shelves Bill Cosby Special; NBC Series Next?

With the controversy surrounding Bill Cosby showing no signs of subsiding as more women come forward with rape allegations, Netflix has scrapped plans to premiere the Cosby comedy special it had scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving. “At this time we are postponing the launch of the new stand-up comedy special Bill Cosby 77,” Netflix said in a statement Tuesday night.

The streaming service had said on Saturday that it was planning to release the special as scheduled despite the controversy, which then was in its early stages. The scandal since has grown, with more testimonies by alleged victims and calls for Netflix and NBC, which has a comedy series with Cosby in the works, to distance themselves from the comedian. Netflix’s announcement comes on the day two more women, including former model Janice Dickinson, publicly accused the comedian of sexually assaulting them, bringing the number of women who have made their allegations public to half-dozen.

With the story very much in the headlines, and because of the nature of the accusations, the timing of the Netflix special, which celebrates Cosby’s 77th birthday, was perceived as incentive.

Netflix’s move puts more pressure on NBC, which continues to keep its family sitcom starring Cosby in development. It has been announced as being on track for a series launch in summer or fall 2015.

On the show, executive produced by The Cosby Show‘s Tom Werner, Cosby is to star as Jonathan Franklin, a patriarch of a multigenerational family who shares his many years of wit, wisdom and experience to help his daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren navigate their complicated modern lives. In light of the slew of disturbing accusations, it would be hard for viewers to accept Cosby as a lovable family man and for NBC to sell the project to advertisers.

The network has a lot of money at stake. According to the deal, Cosby is owed a big penalty if the comedy doesn’t go to pilot. Because these are old allegations with little or no legal repercussions, the network might have to write Cosby a fat check if it kills the project. But the damage to NBC’s image — especially with parent Comcast priding itself as a family business holding strong moral values — could be pricier if it opts to continue.


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