NBC pegs high hopes on a new Cosby show

November 29, 1993|By Verne Gay | Verne Gay,Newsday

It's 5 p.m. on a Thursday night, under the canopy of a vast, rusting pier on West 23rd Street in New York where NBC hopes, perhaps prays, that its flagging fortunes are about to be reversed.

Bill Cosby is about to wrap up production on a movie that marks his first starring role for the network since "The Cosby Show" ended its spectacular run two seasons ago. Simply called "Bill Cosby Mystery Movie" -- a working title -- it will likely air in February, and another will follow shortly after that. If ratings are what NBC expects them to be -- that is, BIG! BIG! BIG! -- a series may pop up sometime next fall.

Inside Pier 62, NBC has built a model -- to Mr. Cosby's precise specifications -- of an Upper West Side apartment where the star's character, Guy Hanks, lives. Mr. Hanks is a retired forensics specialist who likes to play jazz clarinet and flirt with his physical therapist (Lynn Whitfield).

Before long, of course, they have a mystery to solve.

Mr. Cosby looks much the same as he did in his "Cosby Show" days, except that the paunch has grown a little larger and the hair a lot grayer. There's no doubt that the Cosby ideals are unchanged.

"When I did 'The Cosby Show,' all I wanted was an audience long enough to get my idea and my philosophy on," he said in an interview on the set. "With this series, there are things we are working on the air. Number one, it's a romance, not a slide-into-bed-and-rip-your-clothes-off.

"It's about being a gentleman, about discovering each other first."

This, he adds, is "because of what's happening with AIDS, because people are having children without getting married."

Mr. Cosby clearly expects "Mystery" to be at the vanguard of prime-time programs with positive social messages.

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