I Just Finished Watching “A Different World”

I finally finished binge-watching “A Different World” and this is my write-up.

It’s probably one of the few shows that’s just distant enough from Bill Cosby to still be on Netflix but, yes he did create it. His vision for the show and empowerment of those black women to direct, write and produce a show that became increasingly poignant and relevant cannot be overlooked.

As I pointed out earlier, it’s really weird because there’s a whole episode dedicated to date rape. Maybe it was a coded message or a cover up…who knows?

The show dealt well with many issues. Some were a little on the nose but its racial, class and gender commentary was impressive. It was the first TV show to openly discuss AIDS and the bigotry surrounding it. I think Tisha Campbell’s character (and herself as an actress) did a great thing in that storyline.

One of my hopes for my comedy is that it would firstly be funny and entertaining but it would transcend that and be “useful to society”. In the same way Jon Stewart’s aim in starting “The Daily Show” was to increase the youth vote, I can only hope to inspire real progress and positive change. This show did that by inspiring many to go to college which is tangible. I think it also did the intangible by giving an identity to educated young black people.

I must say I enjoyed the cameos and seeing people who went on to great success. To name a few, Jesse Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Aries Spears, Kris Kross, Marques Houston, Jada Pinkett, En Vogue, Lena Horne, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Whoopi Goldberg and the guy who plays Olivia’s dad in Scandal. It’s a real all-star show.

The show did a good job of showing the murky waters people wade through in university to find love. For such a bright and clean looking show, there was no shying away from the cheating, lying, indecisiveness and friendships that mar the perfect romance story.

The character arcs of Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Gilbert (-Wayne) are nicely put together. The growth in confidence and life lessons really make you connect with them as individual characters and eventually as a couple.

I learnt so many reference points of the day through their humour. Amongst others, I noticed a recurring joke about Michael Jackson being “a gentleman”. Upon further research I realised that’s the answer he gave Oprah when she asked him if he’s a virgin. He told her he’s a gentleman. I love how comedy can provide a snapshot of the time it was created.

One of the things I look out for when watching a series is how well I connect with the opening sequence. Most of my favourite shows have me singing the theme tune with glee and enjoying it even though I’ve clearly seen it dozens of times. The evolution of this one did exactly that for me. Having a show’s theme tune eventually sung by Aretha Franklin (and for one season, Boyz II Men) can never hurt. Due to all the musical guests you could be sure there’d be great musical performances in the show.

I think the concept of it being a spin-off was almost a trick to get it made. The link from the first season was a little tenuous. It’s a great concept having one of the Huxtable kids go to college but Denise never really carried the show. Then again, it may have been because not much was written for her. The show actually got better when she left which is a tough for me to say since I really liked her and rooted for her. They just made her character so disposable with no real strong bonds to the other characters. She really was a butterfly character. I find it weird when shows continue and characters disappear like they never existed so it’s weird when Marisa Tomei’s character disappears with no explanation after season 1 or how Jaleesa fades away after having a baby. There’s a part of me that finds it a little scary. That sounds stupid…but that’s the closest word. I’m unsettled when people disappear and just are never spoken of again.

All in all, it’s a great standalone show that doesn’t need to be mentioned as a Cosby Show spinoff. It displays wit and slapstick humour side by side. It displays black experiences in their ups, downs and most importantly, their diversity. It’s unapologetically educational and that’s how I think it should be after six seasons in a college based sitcom. I just wish there was a graduating ceremony I could attend to fully express how much I appreciated my 6 years at Hillman.

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