Once a popular series reaches its third or fourth season, it's pretty tough to keep track of which one was which -- but The Cosby Show made it easy: Season 4 is when Lisa Bonet left the cast to head off to college and a spin-off series called A Different World -- which also turned out to be quite the little hit for NBC. But for those who tune in mainly for The Coz, there's no reason to fret: The legendary comedian is still at the top of his game in his series' fourth season.
Actually, Denise went off to college in the third season, but it seems like season four is when the family got used to not having the teenager around -- which means there's a lot more room for the exploits of little Rudy, precocious Vanessa, underachiever Theo, newlyweds Sondra and Elvin, the lovely Claire -- and the main reason anyone even tuned in in the first place: Mr. Bill Cosby as lovable OB/GYN Cliff Huxtable. As many people have been happy to point out in the past, the series was not much more than a framework on which to hang Cosby's patented brand of family-friendly comedy -- but it's a pretty good thing the producers surrounded the funnyman with a strong cast.
For those who haven't watched TV in the afternoon for the last fifteen years, here's a handy breakdown on what you'll generally find on The Cosby Show: Dad Cliff (doctor), Mom Claire (lawyer), and a bunch of generally lovable offspring of various ages and attitudes. The Huxtables' exploits are strictly conventional sitcom fare, but the series boasts a lot of memorable moments (most of them courtesy of The Coz). As the fourth season rolls on, you'll notice that the stories are decidedly simplistic -- some would say comfortably so. (Some like me!) Then again we do get some rather strange guest stars; folks like Wallace Shawn, Roscoe Lee Browne, Angela Bassett, Christopher Plummer and a young Adam Sandler pop up here and there. (Sandler actually pops up a lot!)
Highlights from the fourth season (if it's me you're asking) include the time Rudy got lost at the mall, the time Rudy played violin at school, and Rudy wears the clothes she's not supposed to. (Hey sue me. I think Rudy's funny!) Lowlights include the 2-episode clip show (a necessary evil I suppose -- but an easily skippable one) and anything to do with Sondra's dull husband Elvin. (The guy just irks me.) As far as Mr. Cosby is concerned, season four is packed with some of the comedian's best schtick -- thinly disguised as actual dialog.
So while The Cosby Show does get a little trite here and a little corny there, who's to say there's anything wrong with a typically conventional sitcom that exists solely to highlight one very funny man? (Let's face it: With a different leading man and the same supporting cast, this series would have lasted maybe two seasons. Plus they'd have needed a different title.) The fourth season represents some of the best that The Cosby Show had to offer, all things considered. Bonet is missed (a bit), but Coz is still the king -- and this series really started to fall apart at the seams sometime around season six or seven. (It lived to see eight.)
Gathered here in one handy three-disc set are all 23 of The Cosby Show's fourth season. And if you've been burned on these DVDs before, you don't have to worry. As far as I can tell (and I did check) all of these episodes are delivered in their original network broadcast form. No lame-ass "syndication cuts," so thanks to whomever got on the ball as far as Coz's DVDs are concerned. Obviously this set is a big-time no-brainer for hardcore fans of the series.
Video: The episodes are presented in their original fullscreen format. Colors are a bit soft and mushy, but the show looks better than it would on syndication. That's for sure!
Audio: No-frills DD 2.0, but it does the job.
Extras: The back of the box says the following: "Spanish subtitles / English CC." Yeah.
If you were soured on purchasing this fine series after S1 hit DVD in truncated form, your worries are over. The Huxtable gang makes a fine (if unspectacular) fourth appearance on DVD. The longtime fans would probably kill for some documentaries or coz-mentaries, but I guess the (uncut) episodes are all that really matter.