Review: ‘You Bet Your Life’

Go ahead, bet the house, your wife, the kids and the bank account as well as your life: The chances are practically nil that Bill Cosby's latest TV venture won't be some sort of a hit.

Go ahead, bet the house, your wife, the kids and the bank account as well as your life: The chances are practically nil that Bill Cosby’s latest TV venture won’t be some sort of a hit.

New shows don’t come with much better pedigrees than this one. Produced by Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner with Bill Cosby, the gameshow-cum-comedy is the trio’s first collaboration since the demise of their wildly successful “Cosby Show.” And the popularity of this show’s premise can hardly be doubted, since the original Groucho Marx-hosted version lasted 11 years (1950-61) before going into reruns.

Wisely, the producers have tinkered little with the format that made the first “You Bet Your Life” such a hit. Two contestants at a time still stand somewhat awkwardly before the host, who is sequestered behind a podium.

All the entertainment comes in their repartee, not in the rather anemic, low-budget quiz that qualifies this as a gameshow. The contestants have been chosen carefully for the funny stories they have to tell and Cosby, like Marx before him, is quick to react to the strange tales. The first “You Bet Your Life” was heavily edited to cut out anything not chuckle-inducing and a similarly heavy hand has been employed here.

The other original characters are here, too, though in somewhat altered form. The duck carrying the secret word has become a black goose, while Groucho’s faithful foil George Fenneman is now the rather milquetoast “Renfield,” played by what appears to be just another pretty woman, Robbi Chong.

It’s obvious who the real star of the show is, however. The format enables Cosby to indulge in some of the standup-like routines that first brought him to prominence, and the living room setting enhances his comforting, folksy appeal.

Some may doubt whether a product of the mild-mannered ’50s, albeit one of the more racy ones of the time, can thrive in the crack-and-AIDS ’90s. The success of “The Cosby Show” itself, which was, after all, really just a remake of “The Donna Reed Show” and its ilk, should put such concerns to rest.

You Bet Your Life

(Mon. (31), 7:30-8 p.m., CBS-TV)

Production

Taped by Carsey Werner Prods. in association with Bill Cosby. Exec producers, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, Caryn Mandabach; supervising producer, Bill Carruthers; producers, Bob Davis, Henry Chan; coordinating producer, Robert Edwards; director, Carruthers; writing supervised by Howard Kuperberg; questions written by Rita Cash, Debora Dittmann, Andy Friedman, Robert Howe; production designer, Garvin Eddy; lighting designer, Carl Vitelli Jr.; exec in charge of production, Rita Burton; exec consultant, William H. Cosby Jr.; theme, Bill Cosby, Shirley Scott.

Cast

Host: Bill Cosby.
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More TV News from Variety

Loading