Home » Most Memorable Episodes, The Black Archives

Most Memorable Episodes: A Different World!

14 April 2008 24 Comments

Those of you who know me personally know that this is my FAVORITE show EVER, and since I’ve been in a bit of a personal slump lately I have to take the time to relish in my picks for most memorable episodes, so indulge me. So many things I have mentioned on this blog have involved this show – I love it, love it, LOVE IT. In fact, I officially consider A Different World the best black sitcom of all time – it had every element: genuine humor (Jasmine Guy and Sinbad were regularly laugh-out-loud funny), musical guest stars (Kriss Kross, EnVogue, Heavy D, The Boyz), romance (I’m still trying to find my Dwayne Wayne), inherent blackness (Hillman was, of course, an HBCU), hotties (don’t front on Shazza or even Ron Johnson for that matter), the bravado of the “very special episode” (remember when Tisha Campbell had AIDS?), and, in an unusual twist, TWO shark jumping events (Denise Huxtable left, and later on Whitley and Dwayne finally got married – once they pulled out that Boyz II Men theme song we all felt kind of silly, didn’t we?). Best of all, just about every black actor who worked in the nineties was on A Different World at least once, from c-listers to living legends in recurring roles (Bebe Drake as Mrs. Gaines, Patti Labelle as Mrs. Wayne), in fact many of the black c-listers I’ve featured have had roles on this show. Of course I can’t find video for all of my favorite moments but if you ever make it over to Chez Thembi I have all of them on my Tivo thanks to Oxygen Network (and ultimately, Bill Cosby and Oprah).

5. “Homey Don’t Ya Know Me?” 1993. This episode features the late and great Tupac Shakur (he ain’t really dead, y’all, don’t trip) as Lena’s boyfriend Piccolo (insert eye roll) who pops in for a visit from Baltimore like he’s still her man. This clip is fabulous for the fashion alone, but remember that Jada Pinkett and Tupac were childhood friends, which must have made this episode such a pleasure to film! Mentioned on this blog – Bumper Robinson and Shaun Baker.

4. “Twelve Steps of Christmas”, 1991.
The sizzle of the realistic tension that Dwayne and Whitley felt while both attending Christmas dinner at the Taylors’, and Terence’s early ’90’s zealotry for Kwanzaa, both pale in comparison to Debbie Allen’s first class performance as Dr. Langhorne with that cone bra. Three words – Relax, Relate, RELEASE! Note: Did you know that the actor who played Terence Taylor is the real-life son of that ventriloquist with the dummy Lester? I bet you didn’t.

3. “A Stepping Stone” 1988. You may get the impression at times that I’m a white girl trapped in a black girl’s body, but I can dance, have never cut myself on purpose, and don’t enjoy Dave Matthews band. I’m actually pretty Negro. Yet, needless to say, my social upbringing did not involve stepping. In fact, I can raise my hand proudly as a black girl that has nasty childhood memories of being called to double-dutch and do the Boom-Tang dance only to be played. Anyway, the episode where the girls from Gilbert challenge Libby Hall to a step contest makes me wish I’d gone to an HBCU for a second, even if I would have made them look “like a bunch of ducks,” like poor biracial Freddie Brooks did. Peep how Jaleesa with her nasty lil’ headband breaks it down at the end (she was good for that), and watch for Kelly Jo Minter, a lost black c-lister, in the stepping line.

2. “Mammy Dearest” 1991.
I’m big and I’m brown but I have never had an incident where I was in a Halloween contest dressed as a princess and won runner-up because people thought I was supposed to be Aunt Jemima. Poor Kim Reese! I felt badly, but Mr. Gaines gave her a nice little talk and even told the boys to stop making “Yo’ momma is so black” jokes, which I had always known were wack (although not all brownskinned girls were lucky enough to have had my grandmother). Yet when Whitley found out that she had ancestors that had owned slaves I didn’t feel as badly. The musical number they put on inspired many a Black History Month assembly to come.

1. “Save The Best for Last Pt. II” 1991.
I almost refuse to believe that a love story could make me come close to fainting at the age of thirteen – I hadn’t even had a real boyfriend yet and certainly hadn’t considered the concept of marriage – but I distinctly remember watching this episode while standing and getting weak-kneed when Dwayne says “Baby Please!”. Dwayne and Whitley were written to end up together someday through four seasons of back and forth, and you know I couldn’t stand that Kikookala broad so I just had to swoon. Check this clip for upcoming c-lister Joe Morton as Byron, his mother played by one of the Hedebrink sisters from Amen, and so many other tasty black c-listers surrounding them. Honestly this still gives me a little chill…

Honorable Mention:

“Love Taps,” 1992. Gena gets beaten by her rapper boyfriend. I wanted to bust him in the head with one of those purple pumps.

“A World Alike,” 1990. Some apartheid episode that is only notable because someone is wearing a t-shirt that says “Thembi” on it, which is a South African word.

“Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” 1989.
“Jaleesa is Sheila, Sheila is Jaleesa!” Dreadlock wigs really do it for me. If you don’t remember this shame on you.


  • THE 78' MS. J said:

    I believe that we were sisters in another lifetime because I am such a stan of a different world that is the show that made me pack my duffle bag and apply to a HBCU but hell it was nothing like hillman. Anywho you know I couldn’t stand that kankokalon either, and I loved kim reese especially when she got with the jamacian pre-med dude and left tired ass ron johnson alone. My heart still does a dance and I still get a cold chill from the wedding scene of life. That was one of my first crushes Dwayne wayne and if I had to lose him I was glad it was to whiney I mean whitley. Another favorite episode is when she found out she was pregnant, oh how I wish they would do a reunion show. Dare to dream.

  • THE 78' MS. J said:

    I believe that we were sisters in another lifetime because I am such a stan of a different world that is the show that made me pack my duffle bag and apply to a HBCU but hell it was nothing like hillman. Anywho you know I couldn’t stand that kankokalon either, and I loved kim reese especially when she got with the jamacian pre-med dude and left tired ass ron johnson alone. My heart still does a dance and I still get a cold chill from the wedding scene of life. That was one of my first crushes Dwayne wayne and if I had to lose him I was glad it was to whiney I mean whitley. Another favorite episode is when she found out she was pregnant, oh how I wish they would do a reunion show. Dare to dream.

  • TalentedTenth said:

    thembi…i think the episode where gina gets beat up deserve to be in the top episode list. i had that taped on a VHS and kept it for years!

    and that tisha campbell episode was good, too.

    wait wait wait…what about the one where kim thought she was pregnant? forgot all about that one…

  • One Man’s Opinion said:

    You know I’m mad at you, right. Different World was the bomb, and you making me relive that crap. The reality is that there are not many show, if any, that were able to introduce a new ensemble of case members and still get better. They did an excellent job on the show. Who would have thought it once Denise left. Thank you fro the post and the Youtube moments.

  • Lola Gets said:

    Ok I cant see the video on this crappy computer, and I dont recognize some of your descriptions, but I have always loved ADW! That was one positive Black show: Kids from different backgrounds attending college! Working together to improve themselves and the greater world! That show was the sh*t!

    And, as a woman who went to a white college, ADW gave me the “Black experience” I missed (well not completely, but you get the drift).


  • Stacy said:

    omg memories!! i haven’t seen a rerun of this show in YEARS! wow. i remember dying to go to Hillman when i was like 8 years old, loving Dwayne, learning about life from these guys…
    what happened to good TV? its such a damn shame. thanks for posting this! it brought me WAY back! :o)

  • Aaliyah said:

    job well done, thembi. dwayne and whitley…sigh. thank you!

  • Kim said:

    I absolutely loved A Different World back in the day. And my HBCU (NC Central University) wasn’t anything like Hillman either. But I remember screaming at the TV when the Wedding episode aired. I was swooning to when Dwayne said “Baby, please”. If I could, I would have ran through the TV and knocked Whitley down to get to him. I can’t believe its been over 15 years since that show’s been on. Man, I miss good black television.

  • TalentedTenth said:

    every now and again, oxygen plays old episodes…like with lisa bonet and marissa tomei.

  • KelleBelle said:

    There must be some fantastic fresh black girl programming executive at Oxygen who gives us ADW reruns AND Living Single.

    That takes guts. She probably had to give Bad Girls Club the green light as compromise.

  • LaJane Galt said:

    What about the episode where Dwayne jumps on top of the car to stop rape?!!

  • jazzfan360 said:

    “Save the Best” pts 1 and 2 are more than just wonderful sitcom and their best episode, they’re GREAT black soap opera. There’s just SO much going on there, all that delicious stuff with Kim and Ron (one of the great unsung opposite couples), the fun bachelor party scenes (“COOOOOOOOO-LADAS!!”), a whole host of great black character actors (Roxanne Beckford! Barbara Montgomery! Michael Warren! Orlando Jones! Ron O’Neal! That AWESOME old-ass lady who useta beat Martin up all the time!), and that great DWhitley tension. Dwayne crashing the wedding is one of the GREAT television moments. And of course, anytime the great Diahann Carroll appeared was always something special.

    Some great ones not mentioned:
    -“If Only For One Night,” the late S1 ep that planted the Dwayne/Whitley seeds.

    -“If You Like Pilgrim Coladas,” the one that really cemented the Kim/Whitley friendship, where they went out and got smashed on Thanksgiving with Michael DeLorenzo.

    -“Radio Free Hillman,” TRULY one of the great black TV episodes, where Dwayne leads a protest against Rosalind Cash and the campus brass for censoring his radio show.

    -“Baby, I’m a Star,” when Kim’s nightclub act goes to her head.

    -“Cabin in the Sky,” where Whitney and Dwayne share a wilderness vacation with the Gaineses.

    -“Happy Birthday to Moi”–“Happy Easter, happy Fourth-a-Joo-ly, I hope ya like ya happy birthday bean pie!” YOU know what I’m talkin about hahaha. And, “Je’mappelle, I’ma fail” is one of the show’s funniest scenes.

    -And my favorite, “Faith, Hope, and Charity,” with that great diva showdown with Mrs. Wayne and Mrs. Gilbert in the kitchen, and that WILDLY campy and mean performance by Carroll, and Nestor Carbonell going WAAAAY over the top and freaking out over Kim. Great episode, and it really FEELS like Thanksgiving. The mothers in jail is a series highlight. Love when Patti says she can never make up for missing the wedding–Carroll’s flat “You know, you’re right…but being there was *so* much worse” is priceless.

  • asheselah said:

    Wow!…this post made me smile. Your #3 has to be it for me. As a sista attending a large, white univ (30K+, 8% black) Hillman was always “what it must be like over there”…my floor never missed an episode lol..thx 4 the memories :)!

  • hottnikz said:

    This is my favorite show as well, Thembi are they out on DVD?

  • Thembi said:

    @78’s ms jay and talented tenth
    I thought about that episode! I especially love how later on Whitley refers to it as Kim’s “brush with Senor Stork.”

    And you know when they started throwing on Inhale Yoga instead of ADW homegirl was slippin on the job.

    Je’mappelle I’ma fail” was one of the few great moments once “the new class” came along – that and as much Patti and Dihann as they would give us.

    Only dry season one is on dvd :-/

  • Aaliyah said:

    fresh black girl at oxygen – yes there is. and she lives in brooklyn. she’s dope.

  • Kesi said:

    Thembi–Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner(the 1st producer names that popped up after every episode)OH, and the Cos of course were geniuses. ADW was TV at its best. And the way they started showing it right after The Cosby Show–Man!
    Ur- blog: LOVIN IT!! But one thing, Im surprised noone mentioned the “racism” episode where Dwayne and Ron (and the wolf mascot;) were locked up for fighting with the white boys at the football game and they all gave different versions of what really happened. That episode had everything good TV was supposed to be-it was funny, exciting, and thought-provoking all-in-one.
    Definitely worth an honorable mention. And remember when Dwayne and Whitley were gonna “do it” for the first time!! Aw man, I could go on and on—-but I won’t.
    Keep em comin Thembi

  • Thembi said:

    One of those white racists was dean cain!

  • Caramelqueen said:

    OMGawsh . . . I just had a “moment” looking at the wedding clip. Watching ADW actually made me excited about going to college. I wanted to go the “Hillman” and wound up at Hampton. I’m glad I found your blog. =)

  • A said:

    I know this whole episode line for line! And I have it recorded on a VHS tape at home. Better convert it before VCRs become extinct.

  • Anonymous said:

    This is my first time coming to your blog (peeped you on AverageBro) but I am loving it! That wedding scent still makes me tear up. Loves it..

  • Black History Month Pop Culture Challenge Week 1: Answers | What Would Thembi Do? said:

    […] were some good guesses and close ones, but the only show I have ever explicitly called my favorite is A Different World. (No Ratings Yet)  Loading […]

  • Peajai said:

    Baby, I’m a star! is definitely my favorite episode. I’ve had it saved on my DVR for over a year. Which was the last time I saw any episodes on TV!! Do they still only have season 1 on DVD?!

  • tonia said:

    I was in college(not a HBCU to my chagrin once I saw this show) during the run of a Different World and I LOVED this show so much. It was wonderful to see a reflection of myself on TV. It really was a window to white America that black do strive in their lives and want a better future for themselves such as they do. I have come to appriciate the fact that they had blacks from all socioeconmic backgrounds unlike the ghetto fabulousness that we are lumped into today. I kid you not that to this day when I see Dwyane yell out at the wedding I cry like I did when I first saw the episode in 92. I wish we had shows like this today!

So what do you think? Please be respectful to other readers!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.