In 1984 the world met Dr. Cliff Huxtable and the other members of the Huxtable family. They presented the black family in a format never before seen on television. The Huxtables transcended race, because all Americans related to them. Yet there was no denying that Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad and the other cast member gave black America something very precious to claim. The Huxtables represented a strong black family clothed in dignity, respectability and high achievements. That show exploded barriers for many, but for me, the real breakthrough was 19 years earlier.
In 1965 this 13 year old black boy met Alexander Scott. That historic first episode of I Spy changed my life. Bill Cosby staring as Alexander Scott shared the lead with Robert Culp, who was Kelly Robinson. That was the first time a black man lead in a dramatic television series. In those days, if a black man was in a show, he was generally a servant and most assuredly subservient. If he performed any types of heroics, you could bet the farm he’d die before the closing credits.
Alexander Scott was intelligent, brave and did not take second place to anyone including Kelly Robinson. He was an equal partner. Not only did he kill the bad guys and lived another day, he also occasionally got the girl! Both actions were unheard of 50 years ago. Blacks were seldom allowed to justifiably kill whites and black females were usually undescriptive servants instead of desirable women on both the small and big screens.
Today’s generation may find these relations uninspiring, but prior to 1965, there had never been anything like it on any screen. Times were changing on television and in the movies. Alexander Scott was introduced to America two years prior to Sydney Poitier setting the big screen ablaze as Virgil Tibbs – “In the Heat of the Night.” Virgil Tibbs was the man in that movie, but Alexander Scott was the man every week!
Television shows and movies allow us to fantasize. We cherish the ability to escape the present realities, and experience the world of the characters we watch. I am certain that Americans of all persuasions find it extremely difficult picture Dr. Huxtable as the person Bill Cosby is accused of being. For me, it is even more difficult to believe that Alexander Scott is that person; therefore, I chose to retain my fond memories of Alexander Scott. As for Mr. Cosby, my memories of him will just have to be whatever the closing credits reveal. (Google Image: I Spy espisode Laya first aired September 25, 1967 Bill Cosby & Janet MacLachlan)