To call this sitcom anything other than iconic is laughable. A Different World hit television screens in the late 80’s and still holds weight as one of the most influential black sitcoms in history.
Merriam Webster describes the word iconic as an adjective and defines it as widely known, recognized and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence. A Different World was true black excellence from its theme song (song and lyrics) to its unique relation to college life on an HBCU campus. This show was a statement piece for the culture and for the world. It showed black people who were not exposed to this way of life that better was possible while simultaneously educating white folks on the sauce, swag and vernacular of African Americans.
As an HBCU-wannabe, I am so happy A Different World is getting its flowers. I am of the second generation of A Different World. While I didn’t watch the show in real time because I was two-years-old, my parents kept the spirit of wholesome black television alive in my household and I remember many mornings watching this show before school or on holidays. I even remember how devastated I was when I learned this school did not exist.
This year, my favorite television show turns 35! That means 35 years of culturally relevant content for all generations to enjoy. Whether you could relate to Whitley’s privilege, Denise’s nonchalant attitude toward school or Lena’s fire, it was not only enough to stay on-air post six seasons but it is well worthy of due celebration by all that have positively been impacted by this work. In an interview with The Breakfast Club on A Different World’s 35th Anniversary, DJ Envy credits that show for being the reason he attended Hampton University.
Imagine my joy when Jada Pinkett Smith uploaded her latest content for The Red Table Talk on Facebook Watch and it was in celebration of where she got her start on A Different World. Jada was joined by the QUEEN herself Debbie Allen (and received her well deserved flowers), Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, Dawnn Lewis, Darryl Bell and virtually with Cree Summer, Charnele Brown, Marisa Tomei, Karen Malina White, Patti Labelle, Glynn Turman and Ajai Sanders.
A Few Spoiler Alerts that you may not have known: Jada’s Favorite Episode was Directed by Kadeem Hardison, Dawnn Lewis co-wrote the theme song but could not sing it, Prune Cobbler was actually blueberry’s, Debbie Allen was a safe space and advocate for many of the actors and actresses on set and basically had it not been for her the show would not have been as iconic.
For those of you “not into tv folks”, let me break down the origin of this amazing show. This six season sitcom was initially created as a spin-off of The Cosby Show. If you watched The Cosby Show you were introduced to Hillman College several episodes before A Different World became a show (Cliff & Claire Huxtable were proud alumni of the institution). The 1987 spin-off would center around their second child, Denise, who would go on to attend her parents alma mater and introduce us to a few fan favorites such as Dwayne Wayne, Whitley Gilbert, Ron Johnson, Jaleesa Vinson, Maggie Lauten and more.
Though Denise would go on pivot out of Hillman College, A Different World would never go lacking. This show would go on to feature icons from that of Diahann Carroll to Gladys Knight, and Heavy D to Whoopi Goldberg!
In celebration of A Different World’s 35th Anniversary, enjoy some of my favorite episodes on HBO Max or Amazon.
- The Wedding (Part 2)
- Somebody Say Ho!
- Original Teacher
- No Means No
- Homie, Don’t Ya Know Me?
If you’re like me and like to rock the official Hillman College paraphernalia, visit: https://www.hillmanbookstore.com/