YOU GUYS. I have some very exciting news. TVOne, a channel I must confess I didn’t even know existed until last week, is now showing reruns of A Different World.
DOES ANYONE ELSE REMEMBER A DIFFERENT WORLD? In case you don’t, let me fill you in.
Back in 1987, hoping to grow on the success of The Cosby Show, NBC created a spin-off. Quirky Denise Huxtable went off to Hillman, the fictional college her parents and grandparents attended. The first season centered around Denise’s freshman year, where she often floundered. Other cast members included Kadeem Hardison as loveble nerd Dwayne Wayne, Jasmine Guy as southern belle Whitley Gilbert, Dawnn Lewis as older student Jaleesa Vinson, (a whopping 26!) and a very young Marissa freaking Tomei as energetic Maggie Lawson.
The outcome? According to Wikipedia (and we all know Wikipedia never lies) it was a ratings success but a critical failure. So in season 2, the show got a major retooling. Maggie and Denise were out; the focus shifted to Dwayne and Whitley, and new characters were added, including Cree Summer as the flighty Freddie Brooks and Charnele Brown as med student Kimberly Reese.
A Different World ran five more seasons, and came into its own as a show. If one were to start the watching in season 2, they would find very little connection to The Cosby Show, except for a few guest appearances by members of the Cosby cast, and some random references to Denise.
So now that you’ve got the background, let me state how freakin’ excited I am to see A Different World again. Y’all, I LOVED this show. Ask anyone who knew me from 1987 to 1993. It was one of my favorite shows growing up. I loved Whitley, and waited breathlessly for her and Dwayne to finally get together. When they broke up, I was heartbroken. And when Dwayne crashed Whitley’s wedding and stole her back, the wee fangirl in me rejoiced. My favorite character was Kim Reese, and I thought (and still do) she had a beautiful smile and gorgeous eyes. I couldn’t wait to go to college so I could hang out at at The Pitt and have a cranky but ultimately loveable boss like Mr. James. After the show ended, there was a Hillman-sized hole in my heart.
Years later, I was thrilled to see Jasmine Guy show up on Showtime’s Dead Like Me, playing a character about as different from Whitley Gilbert possible.
So, I liked the show just a little bit.
For some reason, only the first two seasons are out on DVD, with no plans to release more. Maybe this run will change things. I hope so.
A Different World started running again last week, and it’s been great to rewatch episodes not seen in years. They’re still showing season 1, and I have to admit, as much as I love seeing wee Marissa Tomei, I can see why they decided to revamp. Supposedly, Denise left because Lisa Bonet got pregnant, and the show runners didn’t want a knocked up college student on the show. But TV history is rife with hidden pregnancies – in fact, Phylicia Rashad hid hers early on in the Cosby run.
To be honest, I don’t think losing Denise was a bad thing. Girl is pretty spoiled, especially on this show. Also, in season 1, Dwayne is hopelessly smitten with Denise, which is fine, but the better love story is with Dwayne and Whitley, two opposites who find the good in one another.
If you have TVOne and want to travel down memory lane, I suggest watching A Different World. Here in the DC area, it’s on weeknights from 10-11 on channel 270.