How did this man, a household name for so long in America, rise and fall so far?
How did his career begin?
Born in 1937 in a housing project in Philadelphia to parents who were far from financially well-off, the young William Henry Crosby Jr shone shoes and worked at a local supermarket to help his family make ends meet.
His early life was touched by tragedy when one of his four brothers died and he, the oldest, became a father figure.
Accounts of his school years portray a joker and a storyteller who loved to entertain his classmates. After school he joined the US Navy, then went to university and had a part-time job as a bartender.
It was here that he found his way in to comedy, filling in for a club comedian and laying the path for his future fame.
His debut on NBC’s The Tonight Show in 1963 led to a recording contract with Warner Brothers, and the release of a series of award-winning comedy albums.
On one of those, 1968’s To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With, he established the themes that would define his work – the father as a loving disciplinarian; siblings who could plot together one minute, then scream blue murder the next; and a confidence in the bonds of family.
The album sleeve noted: “During his time on stage, Cosby never once told a joke. He didn’t sing or dance or do tricks. All he did was talk” – but the performer had the 10,000-strong audience in the palm of his hand throughout.
By the time the album was released, Cosby was already a TV star.
What boundaries did Cosby break as a black actor?
In 1965, he had become the first black actor to star in a drama series, when he was cast in the espionage show I Spy.
He played Alexander Scott, an undercover agent posing as a tennis instructor, alongside Robert Culp, who played fellow agent Kelly Robinson.
Cosby wasn’t originally in line for the role, which was intended for an older actor, but producer Sheldon Leonard had been wowed by the comedian’s stand-up routine and decided to rewrite the show as a buddy comedy.
Premiering during a time of great upheaval for race relations in the US, it was banned by some stations in the southern states. But Cosby went on to earn three consecutive best actor Emmys for his role – a record that still stands.
Despite his prominence on TV, Cosby made a conscious decision not to directly address race relations in his act – preferring a more subtle challenge to the status quo.
“A white person listens to my act, and he laughs, and he thinks: ‘Yeah, that’s the way I see it, too,'” he once said.
“OK. He’s white. I’m Negro. And we both see things the same way. That must mean that we are alike. Right?
“So I figure this way, I’m doing as much for good race relations as the next guy.”
The Cosby Show, which was launched by NBC in 1984 and aired for eight seasons, was his biggest success and established him as a household name.
Based on his stand-up routines, Cosby’s portrayal of an educated, affluent doctor – Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable – and the trials of raising five young children drew parallels with his own life.
His TV wife, Claire, was loosely based on his own wife Camille, whom he married in 1964.
One of the most popular shows of the 1980s, the sitcom was watched by about 30 million viewers each week. By 1989, its star was earning $4m (£2.5m) a month in syndication rights alone.
When the show was cancelled in 1992, Cosby embarked on a number of projects including film roles, but was never able to emulate the success of his star vehicle.
In 2013, he received rave reviews for his first TV stand-up show in 30 years, which led to a national tour.
But his comeback fell apart as several women came forward with allegations of sexual assault going back almost 30 years.
What were the allegations?
The accusations first surfaced in 2005, when Andrea Constand, a staff member at Cosby’s former university, said she had been drugged and molested by the star at his home a year earlier.
Prosecutors declined to press charges, citing lack of evidence, but Ms Constand filed a civil case against the comedian.
Thirteen women, 12 of whom remained anonymous, agreed to be witnesses, each with a similar account of sexual assault.
Cosby denied the accusations, which his lawyer called “preposterous”, and the case was settled out of court in 2006 for an undisclosed sum.
In subsequent years, some of Ms Constand’s fellow witnesses came forward and told their stories to the media. But the accusations were not comprehensively reported until Cosby’s planned TV comeback thrust him back into the limelight.
More than 50 women accused the star of sexual assault or rape, but due to time limits on cases in the US, only one – Andrea Constand – took the case to criminal court.
The accusations disrupted his hopes of a return to show business. Cable station TV Land pulled repeats of The Cosby Show, some of his stand-up shows were called off and protesters showed up to the ones that he still put on.
His statue was removed from the MGM Hollywood Studios park in Florida, and several colleges removed honorary degrees they had given him.
His portraits were taken down from the walls in his alma mater, Temple University in Philadelphia, and he resigned from the board of trustees.
What happened when the case came to criminal court?
At first, it appeared unlikely that criminal action would be taken against Cosby for any of the alleged incidents, partly because the statute of limitations applies to cases of rape and sexual assault in most US states. That means there is a time limit on cases.
However, one case came to criminal trial: that of Andrea Constand.
The case was seen as one of the biggest US celebrity court case since the murder trial of former American football player OJ Simpson in 1995.
She said Cosby had given her pills that he claimed were herbal and said would “take the edge off”, but which left her “frozen”.
“In my head, I was trying to get my hands to move or my legs to move, but I was frozen”, she said.
About 20 minutes later, she said, he put his hand on her genitals.
“I wasn’t able to fight it in any way,” she told the court. “I wanted it to stop.”
Cosby continued to deny the allegations. He did not give evidence in court but had one witness. In the end, with Cosby possibly facing the rest of his life in prison if found guilty, the jury was deadlocked, and a mistrial was declared in June 2017.
How was the retrial different?
The retrial, which began on 9 April, took place in a changed atmosphere.
A flood of sexual misconduct accusations starting last October against powerful men in the entertainment industry such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey triggered the #MeToo movement.
The Cosby trial became one of the first celebrity trials of the #MeToo era, and the decision by the judge to allow five more women to testify against him was seen as a key development.
On this occasion, the jury of five women and seven men took two days to find the comedian guilty on all three counts of sexual assault. Now he faces up to 10 years in jail for each count.
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The British broadcaster now has three huge international suitors: 21st Century Fox, Disney (through their bid for Fox), and Comcast, whose bid was formalised today.
For 21st Century Fox and Rupert Murdoch in particular, the bid is emotional as well as commercial. He set up the precursor to Sky in 1989 and it nearly bankrupted him. It is a business he has seen bloom and grow.
In 2010-11, his family bid for full control, but called it off because of the phone-hacking scandal. It was always unfinished business. The family’s latest bid for full control has been stuck in the regulatory quagmire for well over a year, to their frustration.
What unites these three companies is above all, of course, immutable commercial logic. The case for acquisition is partly about Sky’s model, and partly about the structural changes in the industry.
The entrance of massive technology companies to the media content business – above all Netflix – has meant a huge influx of cash and an explosion in consumer choice. Together with smartphone technology, this has shifted behaviour from linear TV, which is restricted by schedules, to streaming, which allows viewers to watch what they want when they want.
Apple are moving into content in a big way. Some people think the company would be smarter just to buy a content giant – like Comcast, Disney, or Fox, for example – but Apple doesn’t seem to be the acquiring kind when it comes to television-style Media. And in any case, that might face regulatory obstacles, so they want to do it their own way.
Amazon has launched itself upon content in an expensive fashion. That’s where you mostly find Jeremy Clarkson driving new cars these days. Facebook is doing ever more in content creation, and its Facebook Watch initiative and long-rumoured interest in live Sport suggest aggressive intent.
All of this means the competition for eyeballs is ferocious and unprecedented. Some eyeballs are still at the end of pipes, or distribution channels if you like; and around 23 million pairs of European eyeballs belong to Sky customers.
The disruption-driven consolidation in Media today is, as I have often written on this page, about the creators of content coming together with the owners of those pipes.
A juicy prospect
The other side to this is that Sky is a very attractive business right now.
Those 23 million customers are a juicy prospect. The main thing is that the fundamentals of the company seem well placed to exploit the opportunities of the next few years. Crucially, those customers pay subscriptions for Sky content. Sky has data on them, and can tailor its services accordingly; moreover, it means that although it makes money from advertising, it is not dependent on advertising alone.
If you are a Media business dependent on advertising alone right now, you watch with horror as Facebook and Google gobble up ever more advertising dollars. This is one reason Adam Crozier, the former Chief Executive of ITV, tried to diversify that business by buying production capabilities. He wanted to reduce the vulnerability inherent in being solely dependent on advertising.
Sky offers a broad service of high-quality content, has innovated well to improve its mobile platform, and has a lot of loyal customers in Europe – a market the likes of Comcast and Disney really want to crack. Above all, it knows its customers, because it takes money from them.
This is why, while many traditional Media flail among the vicissitudes of the ad market, the company that nearly bankrupted Murdoch is today inviting him to enter a bidding war for it.
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But Gilligan (his first name is short for Mosiah) is used to online attention.
Several of the 30-year-old’s videos have been viewed and shared widely since he began posting them while still working in a clothes shop in Covent Garden.
“Customers would start to be like, ‘Oh, I saw you in that video right?’ and I was like ‘Yeah that’s me,'” he remembers.
“I worked in Levi’s, so there were quite a lot of young people that came in. Working in retail, you get recognised a lot more.”
Gilligan stuck with his job as his profile grew, and continued gigging on the comedy circuit.
“Working in retail was always my kind of side job, but it was quite difficult because you’d go from having a really cool show at the weekend, back to the reality of ‘What size do you need?'” he laughs.
“I was always putting my videos out as fun, trying new ideas, but they were gathering pace very quickly. And it became that realisation of, when I did quit [my job], I was like, ‘I think it’s time to go’. It was a scary thing to do because I’ve always worked in retail, and it was a kind of safety net.
“I liked the job, though. I wouldn’t ever sit here and say I hated it, but I think the transition is really weird now, because when I go into these stores, I’m like, ‘That guy was me this time last year’, so to be in the position I’m in now always throws me a bit.”
The position he’s in now involves filming a new Channel 4 pilot and being on an extensive UK tour, named after one of his catchphrases – Coupla Cans (more on that in a sec).
While his journey so far has seen him gigging a lot on the comedy scene, Gilligan concedes his success was given a considerable boost by Twitter and Instagram.
“The way that people consume comedy is different now, because you can access it whenever you want,” he says. “So people who watch my stuff can be like ‘OK, I wanna laugh, I’ll go and watch this.’
“The same way you can access music. It’s all readily available with streaming services and stuff. It’s kind of getting like that with comedy. YouTube is a bit more of a longer format, whereas Instagram you’re limited to one minute.
“The way people consume it now is through memes, sharing it by WhatsApp groups, so I think the way people are consuming comedy is a lot different to, ‘Let’s go out to a comedy show.’ They’re like, ‘It’s on my phone.'”
That’s one of the reasons, he says, why so many people who buy tickets to his live gigs have never been to a stand-up show before.
“My audience, they don’t go to a lot of other comedy shows. So I think their experience of going to comedy shows is getting picked on if they sit at the front, but with my show I try to include everyone.
“I love audience inclusion, but I think my audience are like, ‘Is he going to pick on me?’ and I don’t need to do that – I wouldn’t like to be like ‘Come to my show’, and then make people the butt of the jokes.
“I just like to get my audience involved, whether that’s call and response, or giving out stuff. We try to make it not just a comedy show, but a show.”
Given that he’s well known for his characters and sketches, many ticket buyers must be intrigued to see how his style translates to a traditional stand-up comedy venue.
“Without giving anything away, I try and use all those things that people kind of see and like in the videos, and then I try to put it into the stand-up a little bit,” he says.
“But also, I’ve been a stand-up for a long time as well, so it’s showcasing that I can do stand-up comedy. And so for a lot of people that have only seen me from the videos, they’re like, ‘Oh I didn’t know you could do stand up.’ That’s the one thing that I enjoy.”
Gilligan’s momentum shows no sign of slowing anytime soon – and he’s also been racking up celebrity fans along the way.
Last summer, Drake directly referenced one of his catchphrases in an Instagram post.
The “coupla cans” line pokes fun at the way so many men, the second the sun is out, talk about how hot the weather is and tell their girlfriends to “get a couple of cans in”.
Partly thanks to Drake, it’s since caught on as a catchphrase you’re liable to hear all around London in the summer.
Such observational comedy is a style that percolates through a lot of Gilligan’s videos.
“A lot of the time [ideas] just kind of come to me… I tend to do a lot of my videos as soon as I’ve got the idea down,” he explains.
“So as soon as I’ve got it in my head, I try to record it as soon as possible, it’s fresh, and then once it’s edited, I try and put it out straight away. Because whenever I hold on to ideas, they never come out as good.”
He points out his background in drama and acting has helped him actually become the characters he talks about, rather than being a so-called outsider comedian who passes comment on other people.
“I kind of see myself as a person on the inside, rather than an outsider. Sometimes it’s easy to do comedy as an outsider looking inside, but I try to tell it from the inside.
“So whether that’s characters from girls doing pre-drinks, to a geezer asking for a couple of cans, I try and just tell that story. And my comedy is just very British as well – I’m influenced by what I’m around.”
Mo Gilligan is on tour around the UK until 13 June.
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“He told me was straight and we became friends, and at a certain point the relationship tipped over into something more intimate – and it felt like we were becoming lovers,” explains the singer.
“And suddenly, there was just an explosion of pain and conflict.”
The lyrics acknowledge the central tension of the relationship – with Alexander playing both the devil who tempts his lover to “sinfulness” and the angel who “walks through the fire” to help him explore his sexuality.
“I’ve been out as a gay guy for nearly 10 years, and I know how that journey of coming to terms with your own identity can be really painful,” he says.
“I wanted to write something that spoke to that experience.”
The single – Years & Years’ first new material since 2016 – forms part of a larger, mainstream cultural movement addressing sexuality and gender fluidity; via films like Call Me By Your Name and Love, Simon, and the lyrics of gay and queer artists such as Frank Ocean, Christine & The Queens, Muna and Troye Sivan.
“The landscape has changed dramatically for queer artists,” says Alexander.
“In the past, we’ve all been familiar with pop stars coming out in the middle of their careers, or after they’ve become huge and that feels like a heavy narrative to queer people.
“Now it seems to be really changing that artists can be out from the start of their career; and it’s not some sort of sensationalised headline.
“Of course, there are people who still really struggle with being out, and I know some artists think it might damage their career – but I don’t think the tabloids making a splash about sexuality would still happen.
“I think – I think – we can call that progress.”
‘Barriers to overcome’
Alexander made headlines himself recently, after revealing he was advised to keep his sexuality hidden at the start of Years & Years’ career.
Was he surprised at how widely the comments were reported?
“I understand why it’s a story,” he says. “I think lots of people are shocked when they hear about homophobia, because they think, ‘Oh, it’s 2018, surely everything’s fine now?’ But queer people know that it’s not.
“There’s so much stigma still around being who you are, and there are still so many barriers to overcome.
“So it’s an exciting time – but we’ve got a long way to go, and I think we need to stay vigilant”.
Alexander has emerged as one of music’s leading voices on sexuality and mental health since Years & Years won the BBC’s Sound Of 2015.
“A lifeline to troubled young people,” is how the Observer described him in 2016; while Gay Times wrote he was “one of the most influential gay pop stars of this generation,” adding with a flourish: “All hail the King!”
The singer has spoken candidly about being bullied at school, and how he was burdened with anxiety and depression because “society taught me being gay was not normal”.
Even now, he says “romantic relationships [are] quite hard because there’s a lot of emotional trauma and emotional baggage that is kind of present”.
“I’m kind of a self-sabotager,” he says. “And there’s so many reasons for that – but I should save those for my therapist.”
Or for his lyrics…
Years & Years’ second album, Palo Santo – launched this morning with a short film featuring Dame Judi Dench – is an intoxicating brew of streamlined, kinetic electro-pop that’s haunted by bad relationships.
From the boyfriends Alexander dumped or was dumped by, to his estranged father and the “enemies” he battles on a song called Karma, it sounds like the star’s been put through the wringer over the last couple of years.
“Oh, does it?” he says, surprised.
“I always present a confident, optimistic front in my daily life, and I try not to let negativity come through. But in songs, that’s how I process those emotions and complex feelings. So I don’t know that I’ve been through the wringer, as much as this is just how I process my experiences.”
Still, there are quite a lot of break-ups on the record.
“Actually, you’re right. It’s quite a petty album,” he concedes. “When I listened to it all the way through, I was like, ‘Wow, I was so angry!’
“But it’s good to show that stuff, you know? I think it’s human.”
Not everyone agrees. Someone close to the band recently told Alexander his lyrics were “not accessible enough”.
He won’t say who – but they’re wrong. Alexander’s unvarnished account of his demons, desires and doubts is what makes fans clasp Years & Years to their hearts.
The best pop music, after all, is written by outsiders for outsiders.
“I think so,” he agrees. “Pop can be a Trojan Horse. You can dress it up as a dancehall banger but actually it can have a deep meaning inside of its shiny coating.”
That’s exemplified on Hallelujah, a frisky disco track about the joy of dancing with strangers that also looks at the loneliness of random hook-ups.
“I used to go clubbing a lot, and a lot of that time it was because I wanted to meet somebody,” explains Alexander.
“I just wanted to find a connection and it didn’t matter who it was, sometimes. There was a real, almost dark energy that was propelling me to keep going out. But there was also a redemptive quality to doing that.
“I think a lot about how clubs are almost like queer churches. You go and congregate and you dance. That’s always been a sacred experience for me, although it’s been both positive and negative. I wanted to write a song that flitted between those two things.”
Does he still go out clubbing, or has fame made it impossible?
“Not as much as I used to, for sure. There have been a couple of times where people just want to take pictures of you.
“And the last place I want to have my picture taken,” he says, a grin spreading across his face, “is when I’m embarrassing myself in a sweaty drunk mess in a club.”
As for relationships, Alexander says “all options are on the table” – but one in particular stands out.
“What I think would suit me was if I was in a thruple and the other two guys lived in a house nearby,” he laughs.
“I could visit them every now and then and they’d cook me dinner, and then I could just go home and watch TV by myself.”
I think it’s fair to say that on the whole we have the same relationship with all those public statues of long dead grandees dotted around our towns and cities as we do with the terms & conditions box we are asked to click on for a software update.
That is to say, by and large, we ignore them.
A bit like the stars in the sky during the day – we just don’t see them. They have become invisible, a part of an urban fabric that forms the backdrop to our busy lives.
There are exceptions, of course even beyond divisive figures such as Cecil Rhodes, who has gained renewed visibility in our post-colonial age.
In London’s Parliament Square, for instance, the pugnacious representation of Sir Winston Churchill stands out from the mainly ‘invisible’ statues of other political figures.
As does a slightly comical depiction of David Lloyd George next to him, in which the last Liberal Prime Minister is made to look curiously like the Fat Controller out of Thomas the Tank Engine.
But until Tuesday it was an entirely male line-up in the Square.
Thankfully, that has now changed with the welcome arrival of Dame Millicent Fawcett (1847- 1929) to the ranks.
Credit for this goes to the writer and activist Caroline Criado Perez, who made the initial suggestion of having a statue to commemorate the suffragist who fought for decades for women to have the vote.
That the statue is of a woman makes it exceptional.
But it is also exceptional in terms of its execution by the Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing.
I’m not only talking about the technical side of things and the quality of the work by the foundry, which is first class (they’ve made bronze look and feel like tweed). But also the conceptual element of its creation, which is the bit Wearing really excels at.
As an artist, Gillian Wearing has spent most of her life exploring the extraordinary inner lives of outwardly ordinary people. She is a chronicler of the everyday, a champion of the disregarded. And that is why it makes perfect sense for her to be given the job of making this new public statue.
She knows how to make us see the overlooked.
And so the first thing you notice about the statue is not Millicent Fawcett.
It is the banner she holds across her body reading ‘Courage Calls To Courage Everywhere’, that catches the eye. The text is taken from a reflective piece Fawcett wrote about the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison who died after running onto the Epsom racecourse during the Derby in 1913.
It is a compelling statement.
It is also a call-back to the artworks that made Wearing’s name.
In the early 1990s she produced a series of photographs with the collective title, ‘Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say And Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say (1992-93).
To make the work she had to overcome her natural shyness to approach people randomly on high streets or in parks to ask them to write down an inner thought on a large piece of white card.
Those who agreed were then asked by Wearing to hold up their personal statement while she took their photograph (think Bob Dylan and his one-word lyrics on placards in Subterranean Homesick Blues film).
The point of the exercise was a revelation, to make their private public. ‘I’m desperate’, wrote a young man with a side parting and a smart suit and a tie. A less well-dressed, slightly older man held up his card, which read, ‘I’ve Thought About Being A Gigolo But I’m Worried About The Health Risks!’
You can view these images as stand-alone artworks, or as a unified entity, or as documentation of a performance piece by the individuals who participated. Or, when you look at them now in the context of the bronze Millicent Fawcett, as living statues.
All of which is to say, there is more to the slogan that the suffragist holds than the words we read.
It is, for Wearing, an expression of Fawcett’s inner feelings: her truth.
It is as much a statue of the subject as it is of the lifelike figure behind.
The Fawcett we meet is middle-aged, dignified and resolute.
Wearing doesn’t do hyperbole or grandstanding; she is more interested in finding the dazzling in normality.
Hence, she gives us Millicent Fawcett unmasked, a private woman on a public stage.
A woman who went through her life without compromise, and now stands facing Parliament in a no-nonsense ‘walking suit’, challenging those inside to do the right thing.
Which brings us to the most potent part of this statue, and that is the weighty impact it makes as a piece of contemporary sculpture.
I’m not talking about its scale, or about its form, or the materials from which it has been made. Neither am I talking about all those neat smaller details, like the belt of photographs of Fawcett’s fellow campaigners that goes around the top of the stone plinth on which she stands.
In fact, I am not talking the physical object at all.
I am talking about the effect it has on its surroundings.
That is sculpture’s secret weapon.
It doesn’t just occupy a space; it alters how we read the environment around it.
The Fawcett statue makes most of the others look ridiculous, or pompous or both (not Gandhi who stands to her right side).
It also creates a palpable tension that stretches between the Houses of Parliament and the implacable Fawcett. Which in turn gives this small island of lawn a focal point that it has lacked since the late Brian Haw occupied its southern edge with his tented peace protest (maybe he’ll get a statute on this plot of land one day?).
This statue of Millicent Fawcett has been too long coming, but at least Gillian Wearing has made it worth the wait.
The four members of Abba have appeared together in Sweden, and surprised fans with an impromptu singalong.
The stars gathered on Sunday at a private party to celebrate the 50-year partnership between songwriters Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson.
During the gala, Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad performed the Abba song The Way Old Friends Do.
Ulvaeus and Andersson joined in at the end of the song, marking the band’s first public performance in 30 years.
Footage of the performance has yet to surface, but images of the quartet have appeared on social media.
Since winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, Abba have sold almost 400 million singles and albums around the world. Mamma Mia!, the musical based on their hits and produced by Ulvaeus and Andersson, has been seen by more than 50 million people.
During their most successful period, the band survived marriage break-ups between Ulvaeus and Faltskog, and Lyngstad and Andersson, but they finally called it a day in 1983.
Their last public performance came three years later, on the Swedish version of TV show This Is Your Life, which was honouring their manager Stig Anderson.
Abba have resisted pressure to reunite ever since, including a reported $1bn (£689m) offer for the band to tour in 2000.
“They were talking about 120 gigs or something,” Andersson said of the deal. “It would have taken 10 years out of my life. Just the stress. And leaving people disappointed all the time.
“It was easy to say no to it. And we all felt the same.”
Speaking to the BBC in 2013, Faltskog said she preferred to leave the band in the past.
“It was such a long time ago, and we are getting older, and we have our different lives,” she explained.