Most Memorable Episodes: A Different World!
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…
“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.