Monday, September 21, 2015


In 1992, Bachem Macuno secured a coveted job as the writers assistant on The Cosby Show, through his connection to Cosby's TV daughter Lisa Bonet, whom he had served for some years previous as a dealer of lab-grade hydroponic marijuana. The show, then in its eighth--and ultimately final--season, had been a groundbreaking cultural event in television history and had almost single-handedly turned also-ran NBC into the most dominant American network for years to come (TV historians commonly point to the direly sub-mediocre run of 'Jesse' as the beginning of the end). By this point in time, however, the show itself was keenly aware that its moment had passed--many original cast members had little or no participation, and the richest and most relevant creative territory seemed thoroughly mined. The operation of the show itself had relaxed into a somnolent auto-pilot, and executive producers became distracted with other projects they were developing independently. This relaxed oversight would factor heavily into events surrounding the episode Bachem Macuno authored, and was certainly a contributing factor in what was possibly the most memorable table read of the show's entire run.

The Writers Guild encourages shows to offer one script per season to writers who have not yet qualified for WGA membership. These episodes commonly go to the shows' hard-working writers assistants--in this case, Bachem Macuno. Shortly after receiving the script assignment, Macuno arrived early one morning to find a lovely young UCLA film school student, who was serving the show as an intern, in a state of tearful confusion in the break room. She confided in him that the night before, the show's titular star had invited her out to lend an ear to her entertainment industry goals, and to offer his considerable advice and assistance in pursuing them. What followed, however, was something she could not have expected and even then, in the aftermath, could make little sense of. Her story was difficult to follow and even harder to believe--had the most famous, admired and respected father in America really drugged and raped a woman young enough to be his daughter? Macuno could tell by her devastated emotional state that her story was true. More troublingly, her account only confirmed certain rumors he had heard whispered in hushed tones on at least two previous occasions.

By that afternoon, Macuno had already finished, in outline form, the story that his episode would tell.

Below is the script. 

The Table Read:

As was previously mentioned, the workings of the show had, by this final season, become very relaxed--so relaxed, in fact, that scripts were often not distributed prior to the network table read. Scripts historically ran very short, to leave room for all of the improvised mugging that Mr. Cosby was wont to do--the shortest episode shooting script on record ran just 8 pages, with Cosby making faces for a full 17 consecutive minutes.

So when this episode's script was passed out and read aloud by cast members to a room full of production company and network executives, the reaction was something that could be very accurately described as outraged, indignant, and violent. "It was fucking madness,' recalls a then-story editor, now-showrunner on a Netflix original series. "The message of the episode became more and more clear to everyone present--but for anyone to openly object would be to acknowledge the fucking reality of what Bill was known to do to young women in his sway--which the script was directly referring to. You can't just say, in front of everyone, 'Hey, hold on here; you're talking about Bill Cosby'--who is sitting right there. So everyone is caught between not wanting to offend Bill by continuing to read, and not wanting to offend Bill by refusing to continue, and thereby confirming what was of course an open secret. Like, 'Hey, Bill--this is you! This is shit you do!'  It was the most fraught, surreal 15 minutes of my life. It was like someone was engulfed in flames and everyone sat trying to quietly ignore it."

The script reading started characteristically enough, and took Bill through some disapproving moralizing with regard to young Black culture, represented by the character L'trelle. But it became increasingly tense toward the end of the second act, and was finally terminated around the 25-page mark, when Executive Producer Tom Werner called for security to escort Macuno from the building and the production lot--but not before a livid Dr. Cosby repeatedly invited Macuno to participate in a fistfight and Phylicia Rashad, in either a show of quasi-spousal support or just to demonstrate her awareness of which side of her bread held butter, spit on Macuno and called him a "disgusting human being." Malcolm-Jamal Warner, however, to his credit, gave Macuno a reassuring wink and, some time later, took him to Pacific Dining Car for the largest porterhouse steak he had ever seen. 

It goes without saying that the episode was never produced. But in light of recent revelations, Bachem Macuno's sole effort for the show--one that made ever again getting a job in television (under his own name) impossible, has earned him something like redemption. 

Lisa Bonet also proved a loyal friend after his firing, reassuring him, "No matter what, I'll still buy pot from you. Hey, did you hear about the crazy episode somebody on the show wrote about rape?"