July 24, 2006 by Marc Lamont Hill
Why hasnâ€™t there been a Different World reunion episode?
In many ways, A Different World was just as important as The Cosby Show in terms of Black representation in the public sphere. For many, the show provided one the few available windows into a world filled with intelligent, morally upright, and successful Black youth. Also, A Different World helped represent Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as rich and powerful sites of community, tradition, and intellection.
Unlike many shows that start off strong and lose steam quickly, A Different World hit its full stride in the second season. This shift in quality during the season 2 was largely due to presence of Howard alum Debbie Allen, who assumed creative control over the show. Despite the loss of Lisa Bonet â€“a devastating tragedy for me and many other teenage boysâ€”the show managed to develop into a more sophisticated and realistic depiction of life in college.
Unlike many shows, which freeze characters into stereotypical and archetypal roles, A Different World allowed its characters to grow and change in developmentally appropriate ways. One of the best examples of this was the showâ€™s representation of Dwayne Wayne. The early Dwayne Wayne was not unlike many of the brothers who I knew during my freshman year at Morehouse College: silly, cocky, and driven by hormones. By the final season, he had gradually developed from a class clown into a mature and successful husband, father, and teacher. This was a story, which was a powerful contrast to the violent hood flicks of the 1990s, rarely if ever told in public.
In many ways, A Different World was Black peopleâ€™s Beverly Hills 90210. (Confession: I actually watched both shows. Thatâ€™s what happens when you bus your kids from the ghetto into White neighborhoods). To this day, if you describe someone as a â€œWhitley Gilbertâ€ or â€œFreddyâ€-type person, most Black folk of my generation will know exactly what you mean. Who didnâ€™t go to college and meet a tough professor like Colonel Taylor or a light skin-ded so-called player like Ron Johnson?
Maybe when Dr. Cosby finishes the most recent leg of his national venting tour, he and Debbie Allen can organize the A Different World reunion. To be clear, I’m not talking about a show where the actors reunite. I want to see the characters come back and do another episode. Are Dwayne and Whitley still in Japan? Did Freddie get a perm? Is Kim big as a house yet? These and other questions must be answered!
My only request, which Iâ€™m sure Cosby will be happy to honor just for me, is that he not invite the Season One drop-offs like Maggie (Marisa Tomei) and Millie (Marie-Alise Recasner). He can also scrap Season Five & Six new class, like Lina (Jada Pinkett) and Dorian (Bumper Johnson). No sir, I want the real crew back: Dwayne, Ron, Kim, Stevie, Whitley, Jaleesa, Mr. Gaines, Walter, Freddie, Col. Taylor.
And Denise. It was her show, remember?
Feel free to share you favorite A Different World memories and characters!!!
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