So yeah, I can’t believe I’m revisiting this show yet again. For context, I talked about this obscure animated series, Fatherhood, long ago. I posted reviews on different sites, one of which, is now lost forever. I had revisited this show multiple times based on the amount of episodes that were initially available.
To wit, the first time, all I had to go off of was an episode I purchased from Apple TV years ago. The second time, one episode was posted on YouTube from a home recording, with another one following suit. It ranged from negative to somewhat neutral to sum those up.
However, since then, every episode is now available on YouTube, but the uploader butchered them considerably, okay, a stretch, but whatever. So I checked out a couple of episodes, more than I expected, and now that I have access to the episodes for free, a revisit is in order.
Fatherhood was the first original animated series made for Nick at Nite, released in 2004. The series was created by Bill Cosby… who had previously wrapped on Little Bill for Nick Jr., alongside longtime collaborator Charles Kipps. This was based on a book Cosby wrote in the mid-80s. It related to parenting, so I imagine most tips or anecdotes were adapted into episodes.
That aside, beyond creating and writing the episodes, Cosby honestly has little presence in this series, and that’s something I want to bring up right away because I have to. You can never see things the same way when you realize the creators of them are terrible people, Cosby withstanding. But, you can see past that if the creator has enough distance from a project.
For instance, Cosby doesn’t play the main character, and the main character isn’t Bill Cosby, and that has a bigger impact than you think. It’s a reason why I like Twelve Forever in spite of the creator of that being a degenerate. While she created and wrote the episodes, that was about it. She didn’t voice the main character, I hope you get the picture.
Now, when shows involving Cosby were purged during the allegations, this was no exception. While it hasn’t been rerun since it concluded, its first season was put out on DVD and the entire series was available for streaming on Amazon, but it got taken off, and then put back on again. That aside, I mentioned this was available on Apple TV, and to this day it still is.
On the show’s cast, we have those who’ve popped up on The Cosby Show. Blair Underwood appeared in two episodes of The Cosby Show, and to demonstrate his tendency to rub elbows with problematic black celebrities, he was involved in at least one Tyler Perry production. Sabrina Le Beauf is known for not having any relation to Shia Le Beauf, as well as playing Sondra Huxtable in The Cosby Show, had one appearance in 2000’s Cosby, and like many celebrities you see once or twice, she appeared in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Fatherhood was her last role until 2009 with an obscure film.
Giovonnie Samuels was a series regular on All That, and while she didn’t fling with Cosby, she did fling with a B-list Tyler Perry, Byron Allen, in one of his scam- series Mr. Box Office. Marc John Jeffries was in a lot of stuff I remember watching, like The Haunted Mansion, Spider-Man 2, Finding Nemo. Jamai Fisher is active, but the only thing I know about that she was in was an episode of The Boondocks.
The show also had a few known actors in it too, Don Knotts, Bumper Robinson, Jim Belushi, among others, even Ron Glass, who you may recognize as Detective Ron Harris on Barney Miller… okay he was also Randy Carmichael on Rugrats. As another connection, this series had Ruby Dee. She would also appear as Alice the Great in Little Bill, so along with union actors, Cosby would take advantage of actors he had worked with previously.
That aside, while Cosby had allegations going back years, they didn’t have the traction they did back then. Ergo, Fatherhood was released and unceremoniously canned after two seasons. Whether or not Nick at Nite programs compete with others or the block gets the views necessary, it’s down to network support, and it could only go so far.
But now for the grand thesis. Perhaps the most obscure Bill Cosby cartoon, does it hold up over the scrutiny Cosby has against him? Is it any good? Let’s find out.
As this is based on a parenting book, the crux of this show lies on family oriented lessons, which seems basic on its own, but let me tell you this. This is actually an adult animated series, and for one it is quite restrained, and hence to many a breath of fresh air.
A lot of what I learned came from the episodes, otherwise not stated on a bare bones Wikipedia article. Arthur Bindlebeep is a high school teacher residing in Massachusetts, which I need to specify since Pennsylvania is where Cosby is from, hence another disconnect. While a generally smart and connected man, he is far from perfect and tends to cause as much trouble as he holds his children to, hence him having to learn a few lessons from them.
His wife Norma otherwise acts as a foil. Any times she gets to shine are in episodes that directly focus on her, otherwise while she does bounce off everyone well, on her own she isn’t very interesting, she is an educated woman who didn’t have the misfortune of being in a troubled marriage with a brown skin bald dude from Law and Order.
The kids fit the roles of archetypical ones. While it makes sense when trying to deal with parenting, as a series it only works if the characters are written well, and, they kinda are I’ll admit. Angie is the typically teenage brat, but she demonstrates love and commitment for her family. She’s at least not obnoxiously annoying, can be reasonable and though she has teen needs her heart is in the right place.
Roy is the middle child, though he’s mischievous, he is also shown to be somewhat intelligent, higher above, and willing to lend a hand when needed. Katherine is the youngest child, and while she can be annoying at times, she does have some mature wit and is bearable to deal with. They all drive the point home on familial harmony, but at least they’re easy to deal with.
The humor is consistent, lighthearted and moral centric, though around the second season they started to place a heavier emphasis on comedy, while maintaining some of its initial elements. Honestly it’s for the better, as I came back to season 2 episodes more often than the first. An otherwise simplistic premise can be forgiven if the story is enjoyable, like Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken, and that has otherwise been a key component to Cosby’s schtick, enduring characters and enjoyable stories, otherwise tainted by his sins.
Also that aside apparently in his heyday he was a huge perfectionist, wanted to share that for no reason.
The show also made use of fantasy sequences, sorta like Doug, and I bring that show up because that and this are similar in terms of a more casual presentation, though I’d be lying if I said Fatherhood’s fantasies weren’t the high point of this series.
A simple series may have little to really talk about, here we are now. Fatherhood is a pretty innocent show, based on the few episodes I’ve seen of it, there is little in it that I’d consider destructive, though as a consequence, as an adult animated series it is so lacking when it comes to adult cartoon tropes that you’d wonder if this was even made for adults in the first place. Apparently this also aired on Nickelodeon outside of the Nick at Nite block, but I can’t confirm this.
Fatherhood deals with moral lessons, those of which would be applicable to children, it has very little for adults on the surface. Okay that’s a stretch, this is intended to teach the parents how to deal with their kids, which, points for doing something different, but I question the staying power this would’ve had, then I remember this only had two seasons.
If the plot is not interesting enough for you, the animation certainly is. At least during the first season, the show made use of both 2D animation and cel-shaded 3D animation, the former being the standard, and the latter used for environments and certain panning shots. They mesh well enough together, but it’s not exactly subtle, and I feel it was done for the hell of it.
It reminds me of another 2D show that made use of 3D environments, Free For All, aka the only good cartoon Showtime ever did. I guess for better or worse the 3D elements were restrained, otherwise it would lead to some more unique results. By the second season, the 3D effects were cut back considerably, lest the budget was also cut back.
The characters appear to have an oil-paint type look, with a focus on high-contrast colors, but otherwise limited environments, also one of two cartoons to feature characters with blue hair, Mission Hill too. Certainly stands out from other shows at least in terms of design, and that seems to be a standard for Cosby cartoons, each of them found a way to stand out or be experimental, and yet I keep coming back to the fact that it’s Bill Cosby’s work.
Okay, now that I’ve seen more episodes of this show, I can conclude that while this show isn’t remarkable, it isn’t that bad either. It wanted to provide lessons to parents about how to deal with their children and it feels like they have, but you can only go so far with a concept like that. Honestly, it feels like the reason Cosby had this sent to Nickelodeon was because he couldn’t get this anywhere else, either that or this was a Wacky Delly deal where they wanted one more show before they’d let him go.
The show is unique on the surface in terms of how it plays out and what it’s trying to do, and in a sea of edgy adult cartoons this is far more conservative, not in a modern conservative way, I mean in the sense of the word. It could’ve been a home run, but then again with how times had changed I’d imagine this show would’ve been blasted for basically operating in a bubble outside of current events. Even for its time, the show basically strayed from major issues, on one hand allowing this to not be dated, on the other making me question if they’d have the capacity to handle relevant topics.
What I’m trying to says is, maybe there’s a reason people forgot this existed. Hell, the only reason I know about it was because I actually remember watching the show when it was new, and it stuck in my mind for whatever reason, maybe it was the fantasy sequence in the first that I first thought was Arthur going through childhood trauma, but that wasn’t the case.
Fatherhood was too simple for its own good, and maybe by this point if the allegations didn’t kill him, maybe his brand of humor did. Even more, Cosby’s lack of involvement beyond creating and writing the episodes means that this show would even be spared of Cosby jokes, not one person was offered mysterious pills.
But speaking of Cosby, as mentioned before this series was pulled from one of the two avenues where it was available for streaming along with other Cosby programs, that was the most attention it ever got.
That’s just my opinion, let’s see if others could get in on this. Cosby’s heart is still beating, so he could start trending any moment now. Someone get this show to… I dunno, Bradley Smith? Maybe if I ever win another Patreon raffle on Media Memento’s server I can pitch this as a video topic.
The forgotten Bill Cosby cartoon
Is the first Nick at Nite cartoon any good?