The Cosby Show was a family sitcom that aired on NBC from 1984 until 1992. The series was created by and starred Bill Cosby as obstetrician Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, and centered around his large family.
Several Muppets from The Jim Henson Hour made a guest appearance on the episode "Cliff's Nightmare," which aired on January 11, 1990. The Muppet portions of the episode were filmed in April 1989. The episode was commercially released as part of The Cosby Show: Season 6 DVD boxed set in 2007 and in The Cosby Show: The Complete Series DVD box set in 2008.
After Cliff eats a sausage hoagie that disagrees with him, he experiences an elaborate nightmare, narrated by Wallace Shawn. The final sequence features various Muppets from The Jim Henson Hour, including Leon trying to con Cliff into buying a hall pass at his own hospital, and Digit trying to operate on him. The episode ends with Cliff encountering a sardonic group of Muppet foodstuffs in his refrigerator.
In addition to the Jim Henson Hour characters, Gonzo, Sweetums and Statler appear in the episode, and several obscure Muppet monsters make cameo appearances, including Doglion and Luncheon Counter Monster.
The episode was originally produced as part of the fifth season (production code episode #0526); the Muppet crew taped its segments in April 1989 toward the end of season 5. NBC hoped to use the episode as a kind of cross-promotion for The Jim Henson Hour, which was also on NBC at the time. However, the episode was held over and did not air until part way through season 6 of the Cosby Show, 9 months after the original taping. The episode finally aired in January 1990 and was re-numbered to fit its airing place as episode #0614. It has been speculated that the episode may not have been totally completed in 1989 or may have just been reworked to match the show's continuity after the Muppet segments were taped. This is due to the fact that Raven-Symoné's character Olivia appears in a scene (her character did not appear until season 6. However, since the Muppet characters only interacted with Cliff, it is possible that the other scenes were taped later as the episode was reworked or completed).
After Jim Henson's death in May 1990, five months after the episode first aired, the producers decided to dedicate the episode to the Muppet creator's memory. The episode was re-aired in August 1990 as a tribute to Henson, with an in-memory note, which appeared on most subsequent reruns, syndicated versions, and on the DVD release.
- During the Muppet portion of Cliff's dream, Gonzo announces that Cliff will be making the first delivery of a Koozbanian ever seen on television. However, Kermit the Frog already did a televised news report about a Koozbanian birth in The Muppets Valentine Show back in 1974.
- Digit's first scene, in which he asks for Cliff's help to get back in synch with his video image, was cut.
- Rudy's line, "If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that, I'd be a millionaire," was cut, but it is still echoed by the talking cheese in the closing.
- Gonzo, Digit, Leon, Jacques Roach, Patina, Statler, Sweetums, Doglion, Beautiful Day Monster, Boo Monster, Luncheon Counter Monster, Droop, Shakey Sanchez, Frackles, Penguins, Chickens, the Singing Food, Lobsters, Disagreeable Sandwich, Hypocritic Oaf, Anthony
- Fran Brill as Pink Frackle, Patina, and Tomato
- Kevin Clash as the Hypocritic Oaf, Beautiful Day Monster, Luncheon Counter Monster, Leon, and Pineapple
- Dave Goelz as Gonzo and Digit
- Richard Hunt as Statler, Blue Frackle, and Sandwich
- Noel MacNeal as Doglion and Cheese
- Jim Martin as Cauliflower
- David Rudman as Sweetums and Boo Monster
- Steve Whitmire as Scallions
- Four of the five Cosby Show kids -- Lisa Bonet, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Tempestt Bledsoe, and Keshia Knight Pulliam -- appeared in Muppet Magazine issue 13 and guest starred on Sesame Street, appearing in an insert about emotions. (EKA: Episode 2558)
- In the first season episode "Cliff's Birthday," Lena Horne appears as herself, and Rudy says "I saw you on Sesame Street!" "You did? Yeah, I was singing a song with Kermit the Frog." Rudy asks if she can meet the Muppet amphibian, and Lena graciously says "I'll see if I can set up a date for you, okay?"
- The fourth season episode "It Ain't Easy Bein' Green" took its title from the song "Bein' Green." The Ray Charles version of the song plays over a sequence in which Rudy feels alone and insignificant.
Many performers and writers who worked in Muppet/Henson productions also appeared on The Cosby Show.
- Debbie Allen played Emma in "If the Dress Fits, Wear It."
- Jason Bernard played Sgt. Major Boswell Stokes in "War Stories."
- Sônia Braga played Anna Maria Westlake in "Mrs. Westlake" and "An Early Spring."
- Roscoe Lee Browne played Dr. Barnabus Foster in "The Card Game" and "Shakespeare."
- Red Buttons played Jake Bennett in "Cliff and Jake."
- Eugene Byrd played Eugene, Theo's friend, in four episodes (1991-1992)
- Rosalind Cash played Dr. Hughes in "Denise Gets a 'D."
- Eddie Castrodad played Gerald in "Man Talk" (1986) and "The Drum Major" (1988)
- Alexis Cruz played Enrique Tarron in "Mr. Quiet."
- Dizzy Gillespie played Mr. Hampton in "Play It Again, Vanessa."
- Gilbert Gottfried played Mr. Babcock in "Say Hello to a Good Buy."
- Kadeem Hardison played Phillip Washington in "A Shirt Story."
- Lena Horne played herself in "Cliff's Birthday."
- Bill Irwin played Eddie Bartholemew in "The Show Must Go On."
- Leonard Jackson played the exterminator in "Bring 'Em Back Alive."
- Danny Kaye played Dr. Burns in "The Dentist."
- B.B. King played Riley Jackson in "Not Everybody Loves the Blues."
- Edwin Maldonado, Jr. played Carlos in "Theo and the Kids"
- Rita Moreno played Mrs. Granger in "You Only Hurt the One You Love."
- Thad Mumford wrote the episode "Theo and Cockroach" (1986)
- Josh Pais played Andy in "Waterworks."
- Austin Pendleton played Mr. Kensington in "Mrs. Huxtable Goes to Kindergarten."
- Tito Puente played himself in "Play It Again, Russell"
- Raven-Symoné played Olivia Kendall (1989-1992)
- John Ritter played Ray Evans in "Total Control."
- Matt Robinson was a writer and co-producer of The Cosby Show and played a French scientist in a sepia-toned sequence in "Cliff's Nightmare."
- Adam Sandler played Smitty in four episodes (1987-1988)
- David L. Smyrl was an occasional gag writer (uncredited), audience warm-up man, and appeared multiple times in guest roles: as a courtroom attendee in "Clair's Case," Chester in "Mr. Quiet," and recurring as contractor Sam Lucas in three episodes.
- Clarice Taylor played Anna Huxtable
- Lynne Thigpen played Mrs. Hudson in the two-part episode "Theo and the Kids."
- Leslie Uggams played Kris Temple in "The Return of the Clairettes."
- Joe Williams played Al Hanks in three episodes (1985-1992)
- Stevie Wonder played himself in "A Touch of Wonder."