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Cartoons, Cosby, and COVID-19

Does art negate the sins of the artist? Should contemporary families disregard Cosby’s sordid past in favor of retro cartoon co-viewing experiences? Does quantity usurp quality? In this case, does quantity of Cosby accusers pre-empt Cosby cartoon quality? After all, he has made darn good ‘toons.

From left: Journalist/event emcee Patt Morrison (LOS ANGELES TIMES), Nicole Weisensee Egan, Andrea Constant
On February 26 at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, Patt Morrison moderates a panel with CHASING COSBY author and podcast host/executive producer/reporter Nicole Weisensee Egan and several Cosby survivors, including Andrea Constand. From left: Morrison, Egan, Constand. Photo by Marlene Sharp.

Maybe it was easier to believe these women were liars than to accept that a wolf who had been hiding in sheep’s clothing for forty years had bamboozled us all.
Nicole Weisensee Egan in CHASING COSBY (2019)

While families worldwide confront both the terror and the ho-hum of sheltering at home, a convicted felon tries to pull a fast one.

‘Did you know that Bill Cosby wants an early release due to coronavirus?’ queries investigative journalist and author Nicole Weisensee Egan during a recent phone conversation.

Because Egan decrees it, then it is – in all likelihood – true. Egan is an expert on the incarcerated Bill Cosby and his 2018 conviction of multiple sex crimes against women. Besides her dogged, decades-long coverage on the scandal, Egan also is the author of CHASING COSBY: THE DOWNFALL OF AMERICA’S DAD (Hachette Book Group) and host/executive producer/reporter of its hit, companion podcast CHASING COSBY (LOS ANGELES TIMES, Herzog & Company).

Sure enough, a quick online search yields several articles aligned with Egan’s Cosby/COVID-19 assertion. Similarly themed pieces appear in DEADLINE, THE DAILY BEAST, VARIETY and USA TODAY. Keep in mind that Cosby has not contracted COVID-19, nor has he been tested accordingly. However, his spokespeople shout that Cosby fears infection from fellow inmates and prison staff. Ergo, Cosby deserves house arrest . . . for him to feel safe.

Egan quips, ‘If he burps in prison, it gets a headline.’

As for Cosby’s 60+ accusers, search results yield zero articles about their need to feel safe regarding potential early release of COVID-dodging Cosby.

CHASING COSBY LIVE at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles on February 26, 2020
Four Cosby survivors sit onstage and speak with moderator Patt Morrison and author Nicole Weisensee Egan during the February 26 LA Times live event at the Skirball. From left: Morrison, Egan, Andrea Constand, Tamara Green, Lili Bernard, Therese Serignese. Photo by Marlene Sharp.

‘Safety’ is more than just a buzzword nowadays: It is akin to that elusive winning lotto ticket, a lifetime achievement Oscar statuette, and The Crown Jewels co-mingled, except that ‘safety’ is scarcer. To state the obvious . . . Everyone wants guaranteed, authentic safety from the current outbreak. Probably none seek this more than parents. In addition to a safe, sanitary, wholesome home, caretakers of children covet stimulating entertainment for the duration of hibernation. That’s where nostalgic cartoons come into focus; grown-ups turn to childhood favorites, especially in uncertain times. Think of Linus and his security blanket as a metaphor that works on at least two levels here.

Now consider this: Lest one forget, Bill Cosby is a cartoon schlepper. In CHASING COSBY, Egan recalls his extensive kids’ content heritage thus:

Even FAT ALBERT AND THE [COSBY] KIDS, based on his life growing up in the Philadelphia projects, was created to be more than entertainment, showing how the kids dealt with day-to-day problems, which is why Cosby used the cartoon, one of the first to feature African American children, for his PhD thesis.

Vintage FAT ALBERT album cover
Vintage FAT ALBERT album cover. Bill Cosby himself appears in upper left corner.

In her book, Egan lists additional youth-oriented Cosby fare: Nick Jr.’s LITTLE BILL (1999-2003) 2D animated series, plus the TV show’s source material: a Scholastic young reader book series; KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS (1998-2000) unscripted, live-action, prime-time TV series; and of course, the grand poohbah of all poohbahs, sitcom juggernaut THE COSBY SHOW (1982-1994).

The cover of a Scholastic book in the LITTLE BILL series by Bill Cosby.
Intentional or accidental? The official title of one LITTLE BILL paperback installment is MY BIG LIE. This Scholastic book series serves as inspiration for the Nick Jr. animated TV series. Annotation by Marlene Sharp.

The above-named are not the full extent of Cosby’s child-centric, professional forays. He also is a key creative contributor to the following, much of which contains hand-drawn and/or CGI animation:

THE ELECTRIC COMPANY’S HITS AND BITS (2006 live-action/animation hybrid TV special);
FATHERHOOD (2004-2005 animated TV series on Nick at Nite);
FAT ALBERT (2004 live-action film based on the animated series);
HEY, HEY, HEY: BEHIND THE SCENES OF ‘FAT ALBERT’ (2004);
LITTLE BILL: BIG LITTLE BILL (2001 TV special based on the book and cartoon series);
GHOST DAD (1990 theatrical feature film);
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BUGS: 50 LOONEY YEARS (1990);
THE MORE YOU KNOW (debuting in the late ’80s, this is the long-running NBC, kid-centric PSA program);
SESAME STREET: 20 YEARS AND STILL COUNTING! 1969-1989 – Cosby hosts!
PICTURE PAGES (1984);
READING RAINBOW (1983);
THE FAT ALBERT EASTER SPECIAL (1982);
SESAME STREET (1978);
THE FAT ALBERT CHRISTMAS SPECIAL (1977);
THE FAT ALBERT HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (1977);
JOURNEY BACK TO OZ (1972) – Cosby plays The Wizard of Oz!
THE ELECTRIC COMPANY (1971-1973);
BILL COSBY TALKS TO KIDS ABOUT DRUGS (1971) – This is a record album with a highly ironic title. 
AESOP’S FABLES (1971) – Cosby portrays Aesop!
NBC CHILDREN’S THEATRE (1969, 1971);
HEY, HEY, HEY, IT’S FAT ALBERT (1969).

As Fat Albert often sets forth, ‘Hey, hey, hey!’

In other words, those are a lot of kids’ franchises! That’s a lot of animation! It’s a lot of child-friendly art!

So what?

Does art negate the sins of the artist? Should contemporary families disregard Cosby’s sordid past in favor of retro cartoon co-viewing experiences? Does quantity usurp quality? In this case, does quantity of Cosby accusers pre-empt Cosby cartoon quality? After all, he has made darn good ‘toons.

Answers to the above are not necessarily black or white. Perhaps only this much is certain: The questions at hand conjure alternate article titles. Here are some choices: COSBY’S CREEPY CARTOON CHRONICLES; HOW COSBY CLOUDED THE KID BIZ; WHAT NOT TO SHOW YOUR KIDS DURING A COVID CARTOON BINGE FEST.

Readers, do you have an opinion? To unleash your own musings about the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing and his cartoon creations, please visit the ‘Contact Us’ section at www.pinkpoodleproductions.com. Also, if you feel so inclined, then please post in ‘Comments’ below.

In the meantime, stay safe . . . preferably as safe as Bill Cosby under cozy home confinement.

Bill Cosby autograph in the pages of his family tome LOVE AND MARRIAGE
Safety breach! Home invasion! Cosby infiltration! During the research phase of this article, Amazon delivers something unexpected to yours truly. It is an autographed copy of Bill Cosby’s highly specious non-fiction tome LOVE AND MARRIAGE.

Marlene Sharp

Marlene Sharp is a creative and business-savvy entertainment multi-hyphenate who originally hails from New Orleans but is now a Valley girl. Marlene recently served as Director, Production at LEVEL-5 abby, home of YO-KAI WATCH and other video game-based franchises. Formerly, as Producer, TV Series, at Sega of America, Marlene worked on much more than the Teen Choice Award-nominated cartoon SONIC BOOM. For example, her Hedgehog duties took her to the heights of nerd-dom as an official San Diego Comic-Con 2017 panelist. Her original sitcom pilot script BORN IN LA: DOLLS AND ALL won 2019 Best Screenplay at Oscar- and BAFTA-qualifying LA Shorts International Film Festival. This honor is particularly sweet validation after her years as ghost writer and uncredited project-puncher-upper for various employers worldwide. For chuckles, please visit www.pinkpoodleproductions.com.

By Marlene Sharp

Marlene Sharp is a creative and business-savvy entertainment multi-hyphenate who originally hails from New Orleans but is now a Valley girl. Marlene recently served as Director, Production at LEVEL-5 abby, home of YO-KAI WATCH and other video game-based franchises. Formerly, as Producer, TV Series, at Sega of America, Marlene worked on much more than the Teen Choice Award-nominated cartoon SONIC BOOM. For example, her Hedgehog duties took her to the heights of nerd-dom as an official San Diego Comic-Con 2017 panelist. Her original sitcom pilot script BORN IN LA: DOLLS AND ALL won 2019 Best Screenplay at Oscar- and BAFTA-qualifying LA Shorts International Film Festival. This honor is particularly sweet validation after her years as ghost writer and uncredited project-puncher-upper for various employers worldwide. For chuckles, please visit www.pinkpoodleproductions.com.

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