Cosby Show Retrospective Quietly Pulled From Rebranded TV Guide Network’s Lineup

Pop puts episode on 'permanent pause' due to scandal

Headshot of Jason Lynch

TV Guide isn't the only once-beloved brand that Pop exec Brad Schwartz had to jettison from the network's relaunch. An hour-long program featuring Bill Cosby and going behind the scenes of The Cosby Show—announced back in October as part of Pop's initial programming slate—has been pulled from the new network.

Schwartz, the network's president, entertainment and media, got the third degree from reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour on Friday—would he have pulled The Cosby Show? Schwartz was equivocal about other networks' decisions respecting Cosby's work, but he tells Adweek that his own was less difficult.

The Cosby Show was scheduled to be one of the classic TV shows spotlighted on Pop's new program, The Story Behind, an eight-episode series going behind the scenes of beloved programs like Home Improvement, Friends, ER and Everybody Loves Raymond. But the episode featuring Cosby and The Cosby Show was placed on "permanent pause" after enduring allegations of sexual assault by Cosby escalated into a seemingly career-ending scandal.

"With everything going on, why do you need to run it?" said Schwartz, whose rebranded channel, Pop, celebrates "enthusiastic fandom," which is pretty much the opposite of how most audiences now feel about Cosby. "I'm not going to pass judgment or make a decision on who's right and wrong, but it was a very easy decision for us to say, 'Let's not air it.'"

This is the second time in a few months that Schwartz has pulled programming off his network in response to scandal. Last October, he removed 7th Heaven episodes from TVGN's lineup after the Stephen Collins child molestation allegations, to which Collins has since confessed.

"The father in that show was a priest. And we just thought when these allegations came out, we didn't need to air it," Schwartz told winter press tour reporters last week. "It wasn't a big hit show for us. It wasn't something that we ever promoted. It was an easy decision."

This marks at least the fourth Cosby-related program to be taken off the air in the wake of his scandal. As Cosby's reputation became radioactive last November, Netflix postponed its Cosby standup special set for Thanksgiving, NBC ended its lucrative sitcom development deal with the star, and TV Land dropped Cosby Show episodes from its lineup.

While production had been completed on Pop's Cosby Show episode, Cosby himself had not participated in the program, which relied on archival footage of and interviews with Cosby, along with others involved with the series. (All other episodes of The Story Behind include new interviews with the respective show's actors, producers and execs.)

When asked if there are any circumstances under which the Cosby Show episode would eventually air, Schwartz says, "I think until we know, until there's some firm result … it's just on permanent pause. Why do we need to do it?" 

Schwartz's comments about pulling Pop's Cosby Show special echo recent statements from Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who told press tour reporters last week, "It just was an inappropriate time to have a standup comedy from Bill at that time in the middle of the holidays." Like Schwartz, Sarandos also couldn't envision a scenario in which Netflix's standup special would ever air. "Who knows? I wouldn't even want to go into the hypotheticals around that," Sarandos said. "I think the whole thing with Mr. Cosby was a tragedy."

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.