Bill Cosby is making some changes in his show for the fall, both in front of the camera and behind it.
He denies any of this is prompted by the challenge of Fox's "The Simpsons," but that's about as likely as "Ghost Dad" being a big box office smash this summer.Anyway, the most obvious change viewers will note is the addition of Pam (Erika Alexander), Claire Huxtable's 17-year-old cousin once-removed, who comes to live with the family. She's been living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a tough area of New York, and "her less-privileged background brings a fresh perspective of life to the Huxtable family."
Funny . . . that sounds an awful lot like the premise of "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," NBC's new sitcom that takes a kid from the tough side of Philadelphia and sends him off to live with relatives in Bel Air.
And the "Cosby" cast now looks like the huge ensemble of NBC's upcoming "Parenthood." Now we have four grandparents, two parents, five kids, two sons-in-law, three grandchildren and a cousin - a total of 17.
Cosby also has hired four new female writers to give the show a woman's perspective and a lawyer to act as consultant on attorney Claire's story lines.
Like this show is concerned about reality.
Maybe "The Simpsons" will give "Cosby" the kick in the pants it needs. It was funny the first year, OK the second year and has been coasting for the past four.
Here's a suggestion that would immediately improve the program - get rid of that awful Lisa Bonet.
WHINER ALERT: ABC, which apparently hasn't had enough of Richard Lewis' whining, has resurrected "Anything But Love" from cancellation and placed the Lewis-Jamie Lee Curtis sitcom in midseason-replacement status.
(Reruns of the show will return on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., beginning July 18.)
You'll be thrilled to know that Lewis wants his and Curtis' characters to, uh, consummate their relationship. "Two season of foreplay is enough," he told the New York Daily News.
HBO GETS THE BLONDE: After five months of intense negotiations, Home Box Office has signed the Material Girl herself, Madonna, to do a live concert show.
HBO is beside itself with joy, spending untold thousands of dollars to send out pop-up press releases by overnight express mail to television critics across the land.
The one-time-only concert is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 5, at 7 p.m. MDT, and may be broadcast from a site in southern France.
MERLIN GETS A PARTNER: CBS' newest sportscaster, NBC refugee Merlin Olsen, will be working with play-by-play man Dick Stockton this season.
Dan Fouts, who was Stockton's color guy, will be paired with Verne Lundquist. Lundquist's ex-partner, Terry Bradshaw, is joining the in-studio team, replacing Irv Cross. Cross is going back to color commentary after a dozen years, joining Tim Ryan.
Have you got all that?
RATINGS: As usual, reruns dominated the A.C. Nielsen ratings, and NBC finished first, ABC second and CBS third in the network race.
Fox again had two shows in the Top 10, but "Married . . . With Children" was tied for seventh, ahead of "The Simpsons," which tied for 10th. (For those of you keeping track, "Cosby" was third.)
THE TOP 10: 1. "Cheers," NBC; 2."Roseanne," ABC; 3. "The Cosby Show," NBC; 4. "Empty Nest," NBC; 5. "60 Minutes," CBS; 6. "The Golden Girls," NBC; 7. (tie) "Coach," ABC, "Married . . . With Children," Fox, and "Seinfeld," NBC; 10. (tie) "A Different World," NBC, "The Simpsons," Fox, "Designing Women," CBS.