I'd been a fan of Bill Cosby ever since "Fat Albert" in the 1970s and hearing many of his comedy albums. I was also a loyal viewer of "The Cosby Show" in the 1980s, though that wore thin after its first few years and I had bailed on it long before it ended. I had enough faith in him to watch 1987's Leonard Part 6 despite the unanimously negative reviews and Cosby himself denouncing the movie, though it was still awful. I sort of lost my respect for him when after that fiasco, he followed it up with the just-as-bad Ghost Dad, which unlike Leonard where he actually told people not to see it, I had seen him on TV promoting it prior to its release as if he truly believed it was a good movie.
I kind of lost track of Cosby after that, but he's kept soldiering on in various areas and now brings us this concert Blu-Ray appropriately titled "Far From Finished." Billed as "his first comedy special in thirty years" (though I remember his last visual performance titled "Bill Cosby: 49" being released in 1987 on Kodak's short-lived home video label), Cosby gives us a 94-minute performance at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center in southern California. He's introduced rather humorously, as the show starts out with a stagehand carrying a throne out for Cosby to sit on, but is then sent back out repeatedly to replace it with less-fancy chairs until he's finally satisfied with a plain folding chair, suggesting that while Bill Cosby may be a living legend he doesn't demand the royal treatment. Right away he addresses that he's doing this show for Comedy Central, which is regarded mostly for humor less savory than Cosby's: he says one person he told about the show started crying, saying "Mr. Cosby's gonna curse!" I've never heard him use foul language, and he still doesn't here. While some comics can use that effectively, others seem to do it just for "shock value" which pretty much wore off a few decades ago.
Bill Cosby considers himself as much of a storyteller as a comedian, so there really aren't a lot of one-liners or quick laughs. Most of the material he does here deals with relations with his wife, who he never mentions specifically by name. He jokes about marriage being like chess, where "the queen moves anywhere she wants!" He tells how his wife "gave" him a room in the house to keep all his stuff and watch TV, and how (as many older people joke about their wives) his wife will just pop her head in while he's hanging out there saying "THERE you are!" and walk away, making him wonder if she really needs him for something or is just making sure he's there at all. He tells a story of how the two of them went out to dinner and he snuck out to an adjacent bakery to get cookies, which his wife didn't approve of, and acts out the subsequent covering up his tracks as a sword dual with her. The moral of most of the stories is that the wife is smarter, so you shouldn't try to fool her. Almost makes me glad I'm not married myself.
There's also a brief routine about driving his kids to school when they were at the stage where they didn't want their friends to see them being dropped off, but the childhood stories that I enjoyed on his older albums are absent here. Maybe he's done them so many times that they aren't funny to him anymore, but they still make me laugh. Nothing here really made me laugh at loud, but it was still amusing, refreshing to see any stand-up comedy that didn't resort to crude humor for cheap laughs, and was good just to see Bill Cosby back on stage in any form.
This show was shot in 1080i HD video, at the traditional video frame rate of 30 frames per second which I much prefer to the slower film-like rate used on many recent productions. While the 24-frame rate certainly looks more "dramatic," live performances or anything else capturing reality just look more natural at 30 frames, as if you were watching it broadcast live as it happened. The picture is very detailed, showing off every stitch in Cosby's red shirt, though there is a bit of graininess in the dark background behind him, typical of most video cameras' reaction to low light levels. He appears to be playing to a full house but we don't see very much of the audience as the cameras stay on Cosby most of the time.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound mix is adequate, with Bill Cosby's voice in the center and audience laughter mostly in the front left and right with just a bit carrying into the surrounds. A 2-channel Dolby Digital track is also included.
The disc includes yellow SDH-style subtitles.
The primary extra is a conversation between Bill Cosby and the show's director Robert Townsend (who also helmed Eddie Murphy's 1987 concert film Raw, possibly Cosby's polar opposite where he was even made fun of) which I found more interesting than the concert performance. Cosby talks at length about how he got into show business after a college professor was extremely impressed with his humor in a written assignment, some of his early comic influences and how one of his first gigs was at a local club "to break up the monotony of the folk singers."
Three other brief pieces show the recording of the show's theme music, some local college students helping set up the event, and some comments from audience members as they head out after the show.
Bill Cosby may be getting up there in years, but here he shows that he can still entertain a large audience. I personally didn't find the material as appealing as that from his older albums, but your mileage may vary. The interview where he speaks rather candidly is a nice bonus.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.