From Pledging To Crashing Weddings: Our 15 Favorite Episodes Of “A Different World”
You knew exactly what time it was when Aretha Franklin proudly proclaimed, “I know my parents love me! Stand behind me come what may.”At the sound of her soulful cry we didn’t just walk to the TV, we ran!
“A Different World” wasn’t just a spin-off of The Cosby Show, it was a series that continuously peeled back the layers on important issues in the lives of young people in our society, and was just simply a well-written, entertaining program. As a huge fan, I’ve seen most episodes of the show, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites. Feel free to share your own!
Rudy and The Snow Queen (Season 1 Episode 6)
Who wouldn’t want Denise Huxtable as an older sister? Better yet, who wouldn’t want Whitley Gilbert as one as well? In this episode from the first season (you know, when Denise went to Hillman) Rudy tries to have the best of both worlds, but in the end, realizes there’s no sibling bond stronger than that of the Huxtables.
Who doesn’t love a good step show!? Although this is not the first, this episode marks the beginning of a new era for the show as Debbie Allen took over as director and producer. Bye bye PWI and hello brand new Hillman, where our favorite leading ladies of color returned and broke it down in an incredible step performance that left us all chanting, “A.B.C.D.E.F.G, Gilbert Hall’s the one for me!”
Strangers on a Plane (Season 3 Episode 1)
Strangers on a plane or stranded on a plane? You’ve got to admit, although you probably loved every minute of it, it felt like Dwayne and Whitley were on that flight for the entire episode! In the end, after returning to Hillman, Whitley gave up on Dwayne being her “dream man” for a while, but watching them fall for each other in this episode was absolutely mesmerizing.
War and Peace (Season 4 Episode 12)
Not only did this episode address how the Persian Gulf affected black soldiers, but the episode was actually co-written by Jasmine Guy and Dominic Hoffman (who later played Whitley’s boyfriend, Julian). In an interview for Party Machine, Guy explained the inspiration for the episode: “What we were trying to do is, give some emotional input on how it feels to have our sons, our brothers, going off to war and into this foreign land that we don’t know about.”
If I Should Die Before I Wake (Season 4 Episode 23)
Guest starring Whoopi Goldberg and Tisha Campbell (now Tisha Campbell-Martin), this episode of “A Different World” tackled an issue that very few primetime show had tried to before: the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In an interview on Oprah’s “Where Are They Now?,” director Debbie Allen revealed that the episode was almost pulled from the air (due to several advertisers dropping out). However, years after the episode’s original air date, the series was praised for being one of the first to publicly tackle the subject and foster an open dialogue about the epidemic.
Success, Lies and Videotape ( Season 3 Episode 15)
Figuring out your life post-grad is hard, but figuring it out with the help of the Clair Huxtable? Now that’s a privilege with added pressure. Even though Denise had long departed Hillman’s halls, mama Huxtable still found time to check in on Whitley and co. And while most of the students kept it cool under the pressure of their professional interviews with Mrs. Huxtable, it was reassuring to see (through Freddie’s storyline) that sometimes you really don’t have to have everything figured out.
It’s Greek to Me (Season 2 Episode 16)
It’s pledging season and smooth talker Ron Johnson and his main man Dwayne Wayne have decided to join the line for Kappa Lambda Nu. Halfway through the process, Dwayne realizes that the fraternity life is not for him and bows out. However, Ron keeps going and earns his spot into the sacred brotherhood. Secretly, we always wished they both made it, but it was nice to see the honesty in recognizing that Greek life isn’t always for everyone.
Forever Hold Your Peace (Season 3 Episode 5)
This is by far the holy grail of mashups! In this episode, our favorite Hillmanites take a trip to Brooklyn and spend most of their time at the Cosby home. After an awkward introduction to Denise’s new life (new as in new husband, new hair and new stepchild), Dwayne Wayne struggles to reconcile his re-emerging feelings for her. Whitley serves as comedic relief clad in a ridiculous bridesmaid’s gown from her father’s wedding to his super young fiancée. While it’s an all-around great episode, the best part is the last scene where Dwayne and Whitley confront their feelings for each other in the back of his car.
It Happened One Night (Season 2 Episode 11)
Remember that one time when Kim thought she was pregnant? Yeah, us too! Luckily for her, we all found out later that for Kim and boyfriend Rob, it was only a scare. During a time where talking about pregnancy scares and sex during primetime was taboo, the episode encouraged a healthy dialogue about safe sex practices among young adults.
Perhaps Love (Season 3 Episode 25)
This episode is our favorite simply because Mama Wayne (Patti LaBelle) came to town armed with her famous prune cobbler: “Now look at you, honey! What happened to your little legs? You done lost your appetite or something?” That was just one of several hilarious lines from LaBelle’s constant banter with her beloved college-baby, Chipmunk (Dwyane that is). Phi Beta Kappa inductee or not, Dwayne knows to let mama play her position because she always knows best.
Mammy Dearest (Season 5 Episode 11)
In an attempt to celebrate black history, Whitley throws an event centered around reclaiming images of the black woman. However, things take a turn when she learns that her family actually owned slaves. Feeling some type of way, Whitley tries to detach herself from the celebration, not feeling “sista” enough. In true “A Different World” fashion, the gang puts on a a performance to show unity and power in reclaiming images of black women. Even Kim, who earlier in the episode struggled with the mammy image, appears as Aunt Jemima, reclaiming an insult hurled towards her as a child.
Pride and Prejudice (Season 3 Episode 14)
Due to her silver-spoon upbringing, Whitley thought she’d be above class discrimination because of her looks, but in this episode, that was not the case. Faced with a brutal reality, the gang helps Whitley recognize that it’s not about being able to “afford” the luxuries, it’s about standing up against discriminatory ideologies.
Save The Best For Last Part 2 (Season 5 Episode 25)
“BABY, PLEASE!” was the line that caused Whitley Gilbert to snap back into her senses and take Dwayne Wayne as her lawfully wedded husband. Although wedding objections aren’t exactly romantic (they’re often messy), we’ll give Dwayne a pass because we all knew that he was really the one that belonged alongside Whitley at the altar. Byron (Joe Morton), you were cute and all, but you’re no Dwayne Wayne. Sorry!
Homie, Don’t Ya Know Me? (Season 6 Episode 23)
It was truly “a different world” when Tupac shook things up as Picollo during his guest appearance in the sixth season. Despite the fact that we were absolutely giddy about his on-screen chemistry with Jada, we enjoyed the storyline exploring what happens when your hometown homies expect you to stay the same because they haven’t changed.
When One Door Closes… (Series Finale)
You weren’t a real fan if you didn’t shed at least one tear during this episode. Not only were we saying goodbye to the good times in undergrad and one of the greatest bromances to hit primetime, but this marked the end of television’s most successful spin-off. And boy, was it hard to say goodbye.