In the late '90s and early '00s, Bill Cosby hosted Kids Say the Darndest Things for CBS. Back then, Cosby was still America's Dad, and his reputation had not been ruined by accusations of sexual abuse. It would be impossible to resurrect Kids Say the Darndest Things with Cosby now, but the "comedian-talking-to-kids" format lives on in NBC's runaway hit series Little Big Shots, a show in which Steve Harvey acts like a bizarro-world reinterpretation of his disgraced predecessor.
Little Big Shots is a pleasant show celebrating phenomenally talented kids. Host Steve Harvey talks with them about kid stuff like what they do for fun and what they want to be when they grow up. Anyone doing a show like this would be compared to Cosby, but Harvey actively courts comparison by doing what is essentially a Bill Cosby impression throughout the show — he actually speaks like someone doing a parody of Bill Cosby's voice, eerily similar to comedian Jon Daly's Bill Cosby impression.
Harvey does things straight from the Bill Cosby playbook: He makes exaggerated reaction faces like he's auditioning to sell pudding pops. He directs winking jokes to the grownups in the audience. Many of the segments are amped-up versions of things Cosby did with the kids. Harvey doesn't touch the kids as much as Cosby used to (Cosby is handsy with other people's children in a way that's pretty startling to watch in retrospect), but sometimes he picks them up. You would think Harvey would want to avoid treading the same territory and risking association with someone widely considered to be a rapist, but nope. Daly doesn't even do his Cosby impression anymore, because Bill Cosby ruined the joke.
Perhaps Harvey is still able to separate Cosby the performer from Cosby the man, and therefore has no qualms about emulating his friend. He could be trying to conjure positive memories of Cosby before the scandals. It's even possible he's not fully aware of what he's doing.
This is in no way intended to imply that Harvey imitates Cosby in any way other than hosting like him. It's just to point out that in 2016 it's incredibly jarring to see someone do a Bill Cosby impression in a non-satiric context in a family-friendly setting.
We made a supercut of clips from Little Big Shots and Kids Say the Darndest Things to illustrate how similar Cosby and Harvey act on each show. Check it out:
Sorry again for spoiling this otherwise perfectly wholesome and enjoyable show for you.
Little Big Shots airs Sundays at 8/7c on NBC.