"Pilot" (also known as "Theo's Economic Lesson") is the pilot and first episode of Season 1 of the The Cosby Show. "Pilot" originally aired in the United States on NBC-TV on Thursday September 20, 1984, at 8:00 PM Eastern time. This episode debuted the week before the official start of the 1984–85 United States network television season. It was writeen by Ed. Weinberger and Michael J. Leeson and directed by Jay Sandrich

About the episodeEdit

The confrontation with Theo in this episode is seen again in a flashback in the series finale "And So We Commence". The episode was directed by Jay Sandrich and written by Ed. Weinberger and Michael J. Leeson. The episode was a critical and commercial success, achieving both high ratings and positive critical feedback.


Theo's (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) report card contained four Ds, which upset his mother, Clair (Phylicia Ayers-Allen). Theo attempts to pacify his father, Cliff (Bill Cosby), by letting him know that since he did not intend to go to college, his low grades did not matter to him. His reasoning was that it is his destiny to be a "regular person." In an attempt to guide his son by analogy, Cliff gives fatherly advice using Monopoly money as a teaching tool about the blue-collar economic facts of life for the everyday American. Although the lessons seem harsh, Cliff makes it clear that his instruction is an attempt to convince him that it is important to try his best. Cliff is troubled upon meeting Denise's (Lisa Bonet) latest admirer (Todd Hollowell) who is a former merchant marine and Turkish prisoner.


Clair Huxtable, an attorney, and her children are having dinner at home. Clair is upset with Theo due to the poor grades on his recent report cards. His younger sister Vanessa was trying to get Theo in trouble for throwing food at her as well. Dr. Cliff Huxtable comes home from a long day at his job as an obstetrician/gynecologist just after the meal.

Cliff confronts Theo about his poor grades and asks how he plans to get into college with such grades. When Theo replies that he's not planning to go to college, Cliff replies "Damn right." Theo explains that he just plans to get a job after school as a regular person. Cliff uses play money from a Monopoly game to show just how far a "regular person"'s income would actually go in the adult world. Cliff gives him an amount of money representing a generous monthly salary for a "regular person". He then takes money out of Theo's hand in amounts representing various costs such as housing, food, clothes, transportation and finally a girlfriend, until there is nothing left.

Cliff also meets Denise's earring-wearing beau, who had recently been in a Turkish prison. When Cliff tells his daughter about what time he expects her home and what attire she should wear, she scoffs at the notion since it is a Friday night and thus, "not a school night." Cliff responds by asking her if she went to school that day and that it was a "school night."

Theo responds that he should accept his son's weaknesses and love him unconditionally because they are father and son—a typical sentimental idiom in family sitcoms of that time, and one which generated the typical applause from the studio audience. Cliff, however, to the audience's surprise and amused approval, immediately and angrily calls this sentiment "the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life". He completely rejects the notion that loving his son means he must quietly and willingly accept it when the boy does not give his best effort in school, and famously threatened him with the often quoted line, "I brought you in this world, and I'll take you out." Cliff then tells his son that he expects him to work to his potential and tells Theo that he loves him.

At the end of the day, Clair and Cliff settle into bed. As he becomes amorous, she reminds him that was how they got all those troublesome kids. This puts him off for a few seconds. Then Vanessa and Rudy knock on the bedroom door because Rudy was scared of a fictional monster in their closet. Clair invites the kids to sleep with her and Cliff.



Although this episode was written by Weinberger and Leeson, the headwriter for the series was Earl Pomerantz. Rather than producing the show in Hollywood, the show was produced in New York City.

As the networks battled to preempt each other's thunder for the 1984–85 United States television season, the Cosby Show became one of seven NBC shows (along with Punky Brewster]], Miami Vice, Hunter, Highway to Heaven, Partners in Crime, Hot Pursuit) to debut prior to the September 24 date that marked the official beginning of the season.[2] In the show, Bill Cosby is an obstetrician with his office located below his family's residence in a brownstone home. Less than three months before the show debuted, its producers had not yet decided whether the brownstone would be set in Brooklyn or Manhattan.[3]

The set used for the pilot episode of The Cosby Show was notably different than the one used during the remainder of the series. In the first episode, the first floor has extra rooms that it does not have in the rest of the series. The fifth child, Sondra - who was the eldest child - was not introduced until the tenth episode of the first season, entitled "Bon Jour, Sondra". Her being away at college is the reason given for her absence in the earlier part of the season. In this episode, the plaque outside Cliff's office lists his full first name as "Clifford." In the rest of the episodes, however, his name is Heathcliff.



Cosby was a three-time winner of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, but Tom Selleck was the incumbent winner. Cosby's sitcom was slotted against Selleck's Magnum, P.I. The show placed first in the Nielsen Media Research ratings for the week with a 21.6 million person viewership. This placed it ahead of runner-up 60 Minutes, which had an audience of 20.7 million.[4][5][6] It was the most popular premier for NBC since the 1977 premier of What Really Happened to the Class of '65?.[7]


  1. Kaplan, Peter W. (1984-09-13). A Preview Of Networks' Fall Lineup. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2012-02-21.
  2. Bianculli, David. "Being First Is Often Fatal For New Series", Philadelphia Inquirer, 1984-08-30, p. C10. 
  3. Blau, Eleanor. "New York City-Television Star In The Ascendant", The New York Times, 1984-06-24, p. A25. 
  4. 'Cosby Show' Is Tops But ABC Wins Week. The Palm Beach Post (1984-09-27). Retrieved on 2012-03-30.
  5. Cosby triumphs in TV ratings. Tri City Herald (1984-09-26). Retrieved on 2012-03-30.
  6. Week of September 26, 1984. Mr. Pop History. Retrieved on 2012-03-11.
  7. Bianculli, David. "NBC Gains in a 'Sneak Week'", Philadelphia Inquirer, 1984-09-26, p. E7. 

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