Bill Cosby knows “We Need to Talk” — but “The Cosby Show” titan wants to control the conversation.
The fall of “America’s dad” is at the center of W. Kamau Bell’s four-part documentary “We Need to Talk About Cosby,” which debuted at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and premieres January 30 on Showtime.
“As a child of Bill Cosby, I was a huge fan of all his shows and wanted to be a comedian because of him,” director Bell said in a statement. “I never thought I’d ever wrestle with who we all thought Cosby was and who we now understand him to be. I’m not sure he would want me to do this work, but Cliff Huxtable definitely would.”
Now, a spokesperson for Cosby is slamming the series ahead of its release, calling Bell a “PR hack” behind the camera.
“Let’s talk about Bill Cosby,” an official statement reads, as reported by PEOPLE. “Mr. Cosby has spent more than 50 years standing with the excluded; made it possible for some to be included; standing with the disenfranchised; and standing with those women and men who were denied respectful work … because of race and gender … within the expanses of the entertainment industries.”
The statement continues: “Let’s talk about Bill Cosby. Mr. Cosby continues to be the target of numerous media that have, for too many years, distorted and omitted truths … intentionally. Despite media’s repetitive reports of allegations against Mr. Cosby, none have ever been proven in any court of law.”
After being found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018, Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison. More than two years into his sentence, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Cosby’s conviction due to a “due process violation” in which the district attorney “broke an agreement made with Cosby to not use a confession against him,” via PEOPLE.
Cosby’s representative notes, “Let’s talk about Bill Cosby. In June, 2021, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court released Mr. Cosby; and the court’s Chief Justice defined the Pennsylvania Montgomery County District Attorney’s behavior as reprehensible…Mr. Cosby knows the realities of prosecutorial violations; and that those violations are threats to the integrity of our nation’s criminal justice systems. That is a subject matter for a professional documentary.”
The statement from Cosby’s spokesperson concludes with: “Let’s talk about Bill Cosby. Mr. Cosby vehemently denies all allegations waged against him. Let’s talk about Bill Cosby. He wants our nation to be what it proclaims itself to be: a democracy.”
Per the “We Need to Talk About Cosby” description from Showtime, “Cosby, the renowned comedian, actor, philanthropist, and African American icon, who for decades was revered as ‘America’s Dad,’ has gained infamy as a criminal defendant in a sexual-assault prosecution. The series explores the complex story of Cosby’s life and work, weighing his actions against his indisputable global influence through interviews with comedians, cultural commentators, journalists, and women who share their most personal, harrowing encounters with Cosby.”
The documentary uses archival footage to re-frame Cosby’s “cultural contributions and impact at the height of his disgrace,” which include being accused of rape, drug-facilitated sexual assault, sexual battery, and other misconduct by more than 60 women across 60 years.
IndieWire’s Ben Travers wrote in his review of the series, “It’s that we have to recognize the systems still in place that allow criminal behavior to go unchecked; that we, as a society, have a long way to go before we separate our reactions from those systems, and that Hollywood is a reactive organism built to make a buck as fast as possible rather than serving the long-term health of art or society.”
Travers summarized, “You may not want to talk about Bill Cosby right now. I sure don’t. But we still need to, and Bell’s series provides an accessible, perceptive, and thorough way to move the dialogue forward.”