The allegations of rape and sexual assault against Bill Cosby keep coming. With each new accusation, it became harder and harder for Netflix and NBC to stand by the projects they had in the works with the comedian. Netflix decided that it would be best to postpone the planned launch of its comedy special Bill Cosby 77, which had been planned to go live the day after Thanksgiving.
Just this afternoon, NBC announced that it too will pass on a planned sitcom with Cosby.
The change of heart comes after Netflix said on Saturday that it would proceed as planned. Just in that short amount of time, we’ve had more accusations, including one from former model and TV personality Janice Dickinson, and a CNN interview with one of the accusers, Joan Tarshis, that gave Don Lemon the chance to go full Don Lemon. (Ugh.) Lemon has since offered a (pretty generic) apology, but it has prompted a new hashtag — #DonLemonReporting — that puts the focus back on the original issue and the heinous nature of Cosby’s (alleged) actions.
Then we have the old recording with Cosby joking about giving women “Spanish fly.”
Both NBC and Netflix have clearly made their respective decisions with their brands in mind. The allegations show no sign of going away anytime soon. In fact, the talk about them seems to be escalating the more we hear from both the alleged victims and from others surrounding the issue.
While both companies were putting their reputations at risk by moving forward, it seems like NBC had more to lose. Cosby and NBC are closely linked because of the iconic nature of his previous sitcom. The new one, in which Cosby would have played “the patriarch of a multi-generational family,” was meant to be his return to network television. And NBC, looking for a hit, has talked up the project.
But a Variety poll of 1,000 people surveyed by a brand expert, Jeetendr Sehdev, found that 72 percent of people feel the network should cease its relationship with the comedian. Even though half (51 percent) said they didn’t feel differently about Cosby in light of the allegations, 41 percent said they felt negatively and 44 percent said they probably wouldn’t watch the NBC show when it aired. The show would’ve been launching with a heavy weight.
And since this story shows no signs of slowing, there’s no telling what more could have happened between now and either the summer or fall of 2015 when the show was scheduled to debut.
The allegations against Cosby are awful, disgusting and predatory. Standing by him in the face of these accusations would have done tremendous damage to both Netflix and NBC. The risk was simply too great to sustain their relationship. Some would say the companies should’ve cut their ties sooner given Cosby’s deafening silence during the NPR interview and the “no comment” statement issued by his legal representatives.
According to TMZ, Cosby’s stand up gigs will proceed as planned. He should expect hecklers.