×

NBC Pulls Bill Cosby Comedy Project Amid Rape Allegations

NBC has dropped its Bill Cosby comedy project as the scandal of rape allegations leveled at the comedian by multiple women made it untenable for the network to keep it in development, according to multiple sources.

Sources said writers and producers on the untitled project were informed Wednesday morning that it would not be going forward. NBC confirmed Wednesday that the project was no longer in development but would not comment further.

NBC cut a rich deal with Cosby last summer to star in a new comedy that would feature him in his familiar family patriarch role. The project marked a reunion for Cosby and Tom Werner, the producer whose Carsey-Werner Co. banner produced the comedian’s blockbuster 1980s NBC sitcom and his CBS sitcom from the late 1990s.

NBC set the deal with Cosby and Werner directly last summer. Sony Pictures TV came in as the studio to develop the script with scribes Mike O’Malley and Mike Sikowitz. The studio was not believed to have turned in a finished script to the network.

NBC’s move comes on the heels of Netflix’s decision to delay the release of an hourlong comedy special, “Bill Cosby 77,” that had been set to premiere on Nov. 28.

In a sign of Cosby’s clout, the NBC deal called for the network to pay a hefty penalty fee directly to Cosby if the project did not get ordered as a pilot.

Also Wednesday, a lawyer for Cosby blasted the latest accusation of rape aired against the comedian on Tuesday by former model Janice Dickinson. Attorney Martin Singer said Dickinson’s claims of being assaulted in 1982 were a “fabricated lie,” and he denied other aspects of the story she told on Tuesday’s edition of “Entertainment Tonight.” Another Cosby attorney, John P. Schmitt, on Sunday issued a statement describing the claims of two other women as “discredited allegations.”

The loss of the NBC deal is a blow to the 77-year-old comedian’s legacy. Cosby was single-handedly credited with reviving not only NBC’s fortunes but the sitcom form itself in 1984 when “The Cosby Show” became a blockbuster hit out of the gate.

Moreover, “Cosby Show” has widely been credited with advancing the cause of race relations in America as a broad range of viewers embraced the domestic comedy about a middle-class African-American family.

Cosby has even deeper credentials as a TV pioneer. He was the first African-American actor to land a starring role in a drama series, toplining the 1965-68 NBC drama “I Spy” opposite Robert Culp, and he was the first African-American to win a lead drama actor Emmy for his work on the show. Cosby won the trophy for “I Spy” three years in a row.

Cosby has long been revered by other comedians, and admired for quietly earning two advanced degrees in education from the University of Massachusetts in the 1970s while still working in showbiz. On “Cosby Show” and other programs, Cosby’s on-screen producing credit read “Dr. William H. Cosby, Ed.D.”

In recent years, Cosby was often publicly critical over what he saw as the coarser aspects of contemporary African-American culture. Those criticisms spurred comedian Hannibal Buress to slam Cosby during a standup performance in Philadelphia (Cosby’s hometown) in October in which Buress flatly called Cosby “a rapist.”

A video of Buress’ performance was widely seen via YouTube and other outlets in recent weeks, which helped instigate the stream of women coming forward with stories of being drugged and raped by Cosby. The similarities of the stories going back as far as 1969 raise disturbing questions including whether industry leaders close to Cosby were aware of the allegations.

More TV

  • Beartown HBO

    HBO’s 'Beartown' Among 50 Nordic Sneak Peeks at Göteborg’s TV Drama Vision

    For the first time ever, a record number of 13 talent scouts -including U.S. reps from Wiip, CAA, Gersh- will set foot at Göteborg’s sold-out Nordic TV Drama Vision (Jan.29-30), where around 50 series in progress and in development will play to 420 industry delegates. “This is the first time ever we have such a [...]

  • BBC ITV BritBox Streaming

    BritBox U.K. Taps Will Harrison as Managing Director

    Streamer BritBox has appointed Will Harrison as managing director for the U.K. Harrison comes to the service from media investment group Ingenious Media, where he was managing director. An industry veteran, he has had previous stints at Warner Bros., HBO, Disney, A+E Television and Turner Broadcasting. His duties will include profit and loss responsibility, staff [...]

  • "La casa de papel" "Money Heist"

    U.S., Mexico Are Top Destinations for Spanish TV Dramas

    Having conquered the global SVOD market with large hits such as “La casa de papel” (“Money Heist”) and “Elite,” Spanish dramas continued gaining ground in 2019. The international presence of Spanish fiction was driven by period dramas and thrillers, as its most demanded TV genres. By territories, Mexico and the U.S. were the top destinies [...]

  • Two Rivers Media Buys Out Parent

    Two Rivers Media Buys Out Parent Kew Media Group's Stake In Business

    Two Rivers Media has bought out parent group Kew Media Group’s minority stake in the business. Formed by former STV Productions head Alan Clements in January 2019, the production outfit behind Channel 5’s recent “Susan Hill’s Ghost Story” launched with the backing of Kew, Noble Grossart Investments and Channel 4’s Indie Growth Fund. Noble Grossart [...]

  • The New York Times Building NYC

    The New York Times' Made-for-TV Endorsement Missed the Mark (Column)

    At some point during the New York Times’s special endorsement episode of its branded series “The Weekly,” the paper’s editorial board muses on the manner in which Donald Trump has changed how we envision what a potential president could look like. After the brief and energetic snippet we’re shown of a visit from candidate Andrew [...]

  • Jennifer Aniston accepts the award for

    SAG Awards: Jennifer Aniston Lands Apple TV Plus Its First Major Hollywood Win

    Apple TV Plus is on the board. The new streaming service won its first major Hollywood honor on Sunday, as “The Morning Show” star Jennifer Aniston picked up a SAG Award for best female actor in a drama. The win capped a busy Sunday for the streaming service, which held its first-ever presentation at the [...]

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm

    'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Music: How the Italian Tuba March Found Its Way to Larry David

    When “Curb Your Enthusiasm” returns for its much-anticipated 10th season it does so with it a musical theme that’s a prime example of recognizable sonic branding and has become synonymous with comedy in our complicated times: “Frolic” by composer Luciano Michelini. But surprisingly, this comic march for tuba, mandolin and piano wasn’t specifically written for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content