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'Bill Cosby Show' - earmarks of an endearing hit

Bill Cosby is back on prime-time series TV with a group of his favorite kind of people - children. ''Wholesome'' is the word for The Bill Cosby Show (NBC, Thursdays, starting Sept. 20, 8-8:30). But wholesome with a glint in its eye.

Just about everything Bill Cosby does seems to be permeated with taste, judgment, wit - and just a bit of mischief. ''The Bill Cosby Show'' is no exception. It's intelligent, responsible, droll fun, studded with charming little shocks of recognition for the whole family.

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But don't expect Red Foxx- or Eddie Murphy-style ethnic humor. This new series is not about a black middle-class family; it concerns itself with a middle class family of ''yuppies'' who happen to be black. If the mild, laid-back humor is indigenous at all, it is indigenous to families. This very universality may subject the show to some criticism from black groups - the same kind of activists who criticized ''Julia'' many years ago for being ''too white.''

In the premiere episode, most of the time is used to introduce the main characters - obstetrician Cosby, his lawyer wife, and their four children, who live in an apartment above his offices in a New York City brownstone. Nothing much happens - the oldest daughter insists on dating a boy who wears an earring in one ear; one son finds it difficult to distinguish between being ''a real person'' and a lazy student. The dialogue on cost-of-living for a young person today is typical Cosby-esque - amusing, discerning, and at the same time very relevant.

Perhaps it suffers a bit by comparison with those utterly charming 30-second Coca-Cola commercials, which Cosby has been doing for the past few years - it's difficult to sustain warmth and charm for a full 30 minutes. But with Ed Weinberger (one of the old ''Mary Tyler Moore Show'' people involved with Cosby himself in producing and writing), ''The Bill Cosby Show'' - despite its lack of superficial flash - has all the characteristics of an electronic perennial. I predict that the buds revealed in this promising premiere will surely burst into full bloom in the weeks - probably years - to come.

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