On last night’s episode of Suburgatory, Noah (Alan Tudyk) helped George (Jeremy Sisto) sift through boxes in his attic and discovered a yellow and black ’80s-style shirt that looked ripe for the throwaway pile. “Are you kidding me?” George exclaimed upon beholding the satin wonder. “Flap in the back, two-toned pockets, it’s a Gordon Gartrelle. Keep!”
Many a fan was left wondering, “Where have I heard that name before?” Well, we found out…
It turns out, Suburgatory writer Matt Ward was paying homage to what Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who played Theo, has called one of The Cosby Show‘s most fan-referenced “Theo” moments to date. “We were in the writers’ room, pitching on funny, dated things that could be in an old box of George’s stuff, and somehow we got onto the Gordon Gartrelle shirt,” Ward tells EW. “Hardworking television writers that we are, we immediately went on the internet and watched the entire episode of The Cosby Show that it’s from — which instantly and for the rest of the season led to us doing impressions of Phylicia Rashad declaiming, ‘Gordon Gartrelle is a big designer!’ We just thought it would be a funny Easter egg for the people in America that got the reference.”
In real life, Gordon Gartrelle was the name of a Cosby Show writer and producer though fans of the show may remember his name best as the fictional fashion designer mentioned in the series’ fifth episode, 1984’s “A Shirt Story.”
The episode centers around Theo’s quest to snag the same design as George’s Gartrelle creation in order to impress his date Christine. When Dr. Huxtable (Bill Cosby) learns Theo handed over $95 for the designer shirt, he makes his son return it (though Theo tries his best convince his dad by pointing out the fly “flap on the back, two-toned pockets” — yep, same script George used!). Theo’s sister Denise (Lisa Bonet) offers up her amateur sewing skills to make an “exact” replica for a fraction of the price. Of course the results are disastrous, and Theo is forced to wear his sister’s mangled design (pictured above, right).
Luckily Suburgatory costume designer Danielle Launzel had better luck. “Our shirt was based on the ‘good’ version of the shirt,” she said. “I designed a replica and had it made.”