NBC formally cut ties with Bill Cosby a little more than a year ago, canceling a planned project with the veteran stand-up comic and accused serial rapist while chairman Bob Greenblatt declared the situation “tainted” by the accusations against the comedy legend. Now, one of the network’s shows is going to address the complicated reality of Cosby’s legacy—one which includes a long partnership with NBC, during which Cosby kept the network afloat pretty much single-handedly in the ’80s and early ’90s via the massive success of The Cosby Show—head-on.
Unsurprisingly, the program in question is The Carmichael Show, which has slowly but surely garnered a reputation for itself as the most socially conscious sitcom on the air, with episodes addressing the Black Lives Matter movement and transgender issues in its freshman season. Now, star and producer Jerrod Carmichael will take on the elephant-sized peacock in the room, devoting the premiere of his show’s second season to a discussion on what it means when a beloved household name is revealed to be a monster.
Talking to Entertainment Weekly, Carmichael—who co-wrote the episode with Simpsons writer Mike Scully—said the episode would focus on the character’s reactions to Cosby, rather than the question of his guilt. “I think a lot of people go through these things with whoever they’re a fan of, anytime this happens,” Carmichael said. “It’s about that moment of decision, where you’re trying to figure out how to adjust that fan-person relationship. It’s about that moment where you’re trying to figure out: Where do we place Bill Cosby in our minds?”
According to Carmichael, NBC initially balked at the idea, greeting the pitch for the episode with a flat, “No.” But the writer and stand-up was apparently able to talk them around, even as he struggles in the EW interview to not outright call Cosby—who he was once “summoned” to meet and talk comedy with—a rapist. “I don’t think that 55 people made something up. I don’t think there’s a grand conspiracy either… It’s not that I don’t know, it’s just not my place to say,” Carmichael said, pointing to the courts as the arbiters of legal guilt—even if, as he puts it, ”We all know the answer.”