NEW YORK – NBC has scrapped a Bill Cosby comedy that was under development and TV Land will stop airing reruns of “The Cosby Show,” moves that came a day after another woman came forward claiming that the once-beloved comic had sexually assaulted her.
NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks said Wednesday the Cosby sitcom “is no longer under development.” A TV Land representative said the reruns will stop airing immediately for an indefinite time. “The Cosby Show” also was to have been part of a Thanksgiving sitcom marathon.
The NBC sitcom and “Cosby Show” reruns joined a Netflix Cosby standup comedy special, which was indefinitely postponed late Tuesday, as mounting evidence of Cosby’s faltering career. They occurred a day after model Janice Dickinson, in an interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” became the third woman in recent weeks to allege she’d been assaulted by Cosby – charges strongly denied by the comedian’s lawyer.
The developments, which involve allegations that were widely reported a decade ago as well as new accusations, have gravely damaged the 77-year-old comedian’s reputation as America’s TV dad at a time when he was launching a comeback. A year ago, a standup special – his first in 30 years – aired on Comedy Central and drew a hefty audience of 2 million viewers. His prospective new series was announced by NBC in January.
Cosby has never been charged in connection with any of the allegations. Former Pennsylvania prosecutor Bruce L. Castor Jr., who investigated a woman’s claims that Cosby had sexually assaulted her in 2004, said Wednesday he decided not to prosecute because he felt there was not enough evidence to get a conviction.
“I wrote my opinion in such a way as I thought conveyed to the whole world that I thought he had done it, he had just gotten away with it because of a lack of evidence,” the former Montgomery County district attorney said.
If Cosby hadn’t been co-operative with the investigation, “I probably would have arrested him,” Castor said.
Cosby was asked about the growing furor by an Associated Press reporter when the comedian was promoting an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art that features the comedian’s African-American art collection alongside African artworks.
When the AP interviewed Cosby, on Nov. 6, the story involved long-circulated accusations from several women and recent criticism from comedian Hannibal Buress. Cosby declined to comment, saying “We don’t answer that.”
The AP mentioned the allegations and Cosby’s decision not to comment at the end of its story, which, like the interview, was primarily about his loan of more than 50 artworks to the Washington museum.
Since then, two women have come forward publicly to accuse him of sexual assault, Netflix, TV Land and NBC cut ties and an appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman” was cancelled. In recent days, as the allegations gained increasing attention, AP went back through the full video of the Nov. 6 interview and decided to publish Cosby’s full reaction to questions about the claims.
The AP was among a handful of news organizations granted interviews with Cosby in connection with the art exhibition. After his initial refusal to comment – as the interview was winding down but with the camera still running and Cosby wearing a lapel microphone – the comedian asked the AP to not use the brief on-camera refusal to comment he had just made about the allegations. “And I would appreciate it if it was scuttled,” he said.
The interview was on the record. The AP had made no agreement to avoid questions about the allegations or to withhold publishing any of his comments at any time.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art has not changed its plans for the show, which opened this month on the National Mall and is scheduled to remain on view through early 2016.
“The exhibition has been very well received. We’ve actually had record numbers through the door,” spokesman Eddie Burke said, adding the museum has had no complaints.
The NBC project was in the very early stages, without a script or commitment to production. But it would have brought Cosby back to the network where he had reigned in the 1980s with the top-rated “The Cosby Show.”
There’s some precedent for a network burying a project because of stories involving a star’s personal life. NBC shelved a two-hour TV movie, “Frogmen,” starring O.J. Simpson in 1994 after the former football star was implicated in his wife’s death.
Cosby has continued working as a stand-up comic, and has at least 35 performances scheduled throughout the U.S. and Canada through May 2015. None of the performances has been cancelled.
National Artists Corporation, which is promoting part of the tour, said it will not be cancelling any shows.
Dickinson told “Entertainment Tonight” that Cosby had given her red wine and a pill when they were together in a Lake Tahoe, California, hotel room in 1982. When she woke up the next morning, “I wasn’t wearing my pyjamas and I remembered before I passed out I had been sexually assaulted by this man.”
Cosby’s lawyer, Martin Singer, said in a letter to the AP that Dickinson’s charges were “false and outlandish” and were contradicted by Dickinson herself in a published autobiography. Cosby’s spokesman, David Brokaw, did not return calls for comment.
Singer said the first Cosby heard of any assault allegation from Dickinson came in the “Entertainment Tonight” interview, and suggested the actress was “seeking publicity to bolster her fading career.”