A Different World is an American television sitcom which aired for six seasons on NBC. It is a spin-off series from The Cosby Show and originally centered on Denise Huxtable and the life of students at Hillman College, a fictional mixed but historically black college in the state of Virginia. After Bonet's departure in the first season, the remainder of the series primarily focused more on Southern belle Whitley Gilbert and mathematics whiz Dwayne Wayne. The series frequently depicted members of the major historically black fraternities and sororities. While it was a spin-off from The Cosby Show, A Different World would typically address issues that were avoided by The Cosby Show writers. One episode that aired in 1990 was one of the first American network television episodes to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Dwayne and Whitley recall their honeymoon in Los Angeles. Whitley insisted on going shopping in Beverly Hills while Dwayne drove to Inglewood to pick up basketball tickets. During her excursion, not-guilty verdicts were announced for the police officers who beat Rodney King. The shopping center closed after the riots broke out, leaving Whitley stranded. After hearing the verdicts, Dwayne got out of his rental car and began kicking the tires. A cop drove by and decided to arrest him, much to the chagrin of his partner. The students and staff of Hillman discuss the case. Lena sees it as just another example of the injustice toward her race, while others criticize the prosecution for overconfidence. Freddie arrives, and stuns everyone by sporting straight hair and a business suit. She is enrolling in law school and helping med student Kim run the dorm. Lena calls her a sell-out, but Freddie argues that she is trying to make a difference from within the system. She feels that Lena's milita
Dwayne and Whitley continue to describe their chaotic honeymoon to friends. Dwayne was not arrested because the police officers were called back to the station for emergency detail. Whitley confronted some rich white women, who hypocritically looted a department store as they talked loudly about blacks being criminals. While trying to get directions, Dwayne ran into a group of young people looting their neighborhood grocery store. The shopkeeper pleaded that he disagreed with the verdicts, and Dwayne and another man tried to calm the rioters. A man ignored them and smashed the windows, while others stole Dwayne's car. Whitley struck up a conversation with a homeless man, who saw the riots as a way for people who felt invisible to make themselves heard. Dwayne rode up on a bicycle and was reunited with Whitley. Col. Taylor disagrees with the suggestion that the riots will make a difference, as people had made similar comments after the Watts riots of the 1960s. Lena scoffs at the idea o
Whitley and Dwayne argue about which furniture should be kept for their new house. Freddie and Ron admit that they cannot stop thinking about each other, and nearly kiss again. Freddie, fearing that they will not be able to control themselves, recommends that he find somewhere else to stay. Ron feels uncomfortable about seeing Shazza with Freddie and decides to go. Kim snaps at Freddie; she believes that she forced Ron to leave because she hates him. Ron temporarily stays on the Waynes' couch, then rents a basement apartment from the eccentric landlord. As compensation for having to live with Ron, Dwayne agrees to let Whitley keep whatever she wants. Lena does not want to participate in Height Hall's coed stepping routine because she wishes to focus on her writing. Charmaine and Gina suggest incorporating her poetry into the routine. She agrees after learning that Dorian has joined the team.
Charmaine annoys the other students with her pushy attitude in Dwayne's statistics class. Someone tapes a sign to her back that reads ""digit ho."" She assumes that Terrell is responsible, and he refuses to apologize. She calls him a hood, and they nearly get into a fight. Charmaine feels that Terrell humiliated her by publicly calling her a whore. She files a formal complaint. Although she finds his behavior deplorable, Freddie offers to represent Terrell in student court. She defends his right to free expression, points out that he was joking, and gets Charmaine to admit that she had also insulted students. Freddie finally realizes that Gina was actually the one who taped the sign on Charmaine's back. Terrell explains why he didn't deny the charges. He didn't think anyone would believe him because they had already assumed that he was a thug. Charmaine and Terrell make peace, and Gina is placed on academic probation.
Ron becomes jealous when Freddie leaves for a weekend camping trip with Shazza. He decides to prepare a candlelight dinner for Kim. Kim has problems dissecting her first cadaver in anatomy class. She throws up on the professor. She is too depressed to eat Ron's dinner, but decides to sleep with him. Kim's partner, Spencer, helps restore her confidence. The professor marvels at her work. Spencer comes over to celebrate, interrupting Kim's romantic evening with Ron. Dwayne sees Whitley's weekend business trip as a chance to enjoy his freedom. However, he soon becomes desperate for companionship. Charmaine annoys Lena after getting a job at the Pit.
Charmaine observes Whitley in the office as a sociology project. Whitley is dismayed to learn that her company has put a hold on all purchases until a merger is completed. Determined to hold onto one of the paintings, she convinces Dwayne to invest in it with her. The merger falls through, and Whitley (along with her entire department) is laid off. Dwayne promises to find a way to keep them afloat until she gets a new job. He takes Whitley to dinner to console her. They return to discover that they have been cleaned out by burglars. Kim and Freddie invite Ron and Shazza for dinner in the hopes that they can all make peace. Ron and Freddie cannot stand to see one another with other mates. They alternately flirt and act jealous, and everyone gets into a huge argument. Kim realizes that she and Ron have no chemistry, so they decide to break up. Ron stops short of telling her about his feelings for Freddie.
During their Halloween party, a drunken Dwayne responds sarcastically when Whitley and friends discuss women's rights and the ""Year of the Woman."" He falls asleep on the couch after the party, and dreams that all of the candidates in the upcoming presidential election are women (including incumbent Georgia Mush and eccentric Texas billionaire Rose Godot, who can't decide whether or not she is in the race). Whitley is the philandering Jill Blinton, who frustrates husband Hilliard (Dwayne) with her lying and infidelity. Hilliard agonizes over the fact that no one--including his own wife--has any respect for his opinions. Dwayne wakes up and apologizes to Whitley for his sexist comments.
Whitley catches Ron sneaking Freddie out of his apartment at six o'clock in the morning. Dwayne and Whitley cannot find any time together because he is working three jobs in an effort to support her. Dwayne expresses his frustration to Kim. Kim tries to convince Whitley to talk things out with Dwayne, but she hangs up on her. Whitley calls Montel Williams' talk show and confesses that she and Dwayne have not been having sex. She does not realize that Gina is addicted to the show and has organized a dorm-wide viewing party in the lounge. All of the girls come over to Whitley's house and offer advice. Lena, Gina and Charmaine suggest a girls' night out to take her mind off things. Whitley, Kim and Freddie go to a club alone because the others are under the drinking age. Freddie confesses to Kim about her attraction to Ron. Kim already knew what was going on, but thanks her for her honesty. Kim dances with Spencer, her lab partner. Whitley goes home to find Dwayne waiting for her, and the
Whitley's mother surprises Whitley and Dwayne by coming to visit for Thanksgiving. Whitley is too ashamed to admit that she is unemployed and that the couple was recently robbed. Marion stuns Whitley by introducing her fiancÃ©, Malik, a much younger man who sells oils and poetry for a living. Although Dwayne believes that Whitley should let her mother live her own life, she fears that Malik is a golddigger. She asks Kim to come over and flirt with Malik in the hopes of driving the couple apart. Just when it seems that things can't get any worse, Dwayne's mother (who has not spoken to him since he married Whitley) shows up on the Waynes' doorstep. Freddie tries to avoid Ron and re-commit to her relationship with Shazza. She even dons her old ""earthy"" look for a rally on behalf of Haitian refugees, but a law school assignment conflicts with the protest.
Marion and Adele clash over preparations for Thanksgiving dinner and throw food all over the kitchen. Marion takes Malik to task for paying too much attention to Kim. However, he is not her fiancÃ©, but rather an actor whom she hired to break up Dwayne and Whitley. Malik backs out of the deal and joins the rally for the Haitians. Adele and Marion are mistaken for protesters and hauled into jail. When they wonder why they haven't been bailed out, Freddie breaks the news that Dwayne and Whitley are broke. Adele and Marion seem to bond over their disdain for their children's marriage. After returning to the house, Adele admits to Dwayne that she is mostly upset because she didn't get to see his wedding. Whitley assures her mother that she is happy, and everyone makes up. Shazza tells Freddie that he is aware of her dalliances with Ron. She admits that she can't decide which man she wants, so they end the relationship.
Freddie organizes a mentorship program for teenagers detained at juvenile hall. They can receive parole by completing a week-long project. Dwayne is assigned two young gang members, who continually fight after learning that they are from rival sets. Much of the tension stems from the fact that members of one boy's gang killed the other's cousin. Dwayne tries to get the boys to turn away from violence and set some goals, but they don't think they have anything to live for. He tries to talk to their parents, with disastrous results. Billy's proud but violent father does not appreciate Dwayne's interference; he shoves him around and threatens him. Dwayne again emphasizes the fact that the boys can have futures; he tells them that they should not place limits on themselves because of the environment around them. Dwayne eventually gets through to them, as they perform a rap song that preaches for an end to violence. Billy's father listens to his son's performance and seems somewhat impresse
While Dwayne is out of town, Whitley buys a $700 business suit for a job interview. She fails to get the job, and accidentally stains the suit, which she had planned to return the next day. Freddie recommends that Whitley file for unemployment. Whitley irritates a claims officer with her self-important attitude and ignorance about the workings of the unemployment office. Whitley grows tired of being given the run-around and decides to get the money on her own. She sells several appliances and takes a phone sales job. The girls discuss Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale in their women's literature group. Dorian impresses Lena when he crashes the group meeting with Terrell. Charmaine constantly brags about her relationship with Lance and mocks her friends for not having boyfriends. However, Lena comforts Charmaine after Lance chickens out of a visit and breaks up with her over the phone. Ron and Freddie struggle to find time alone together.
Freddie's free-spirited mother visits, and annoys her daughter by spending all of her time counseling Freddie's friends. She exposes the bitterness that Kim is harboring over Freddie's relationship with Ron. Joni's appearance leaves Freddie confused about her life and stirs old feelings in Shazza. Ron spies Shazza kissing Freddie outside the Pit. Whitley takes a job at the International Cottage of Flapjacks to earn money for Dwayne's Christmas present. She finds herself completely overwhelmed, and gets no help from the owner's lazy daughter. Freddie confronts her mother at ICOF and demands advice. Joni explains that she lets her daughter make her own choices because she does not want to follow in the footsteps of Freddie's grandmother, who condemned Joni for having an interracial relationship. Ron appears and asks Freddie to make up her mind. She runs into his arms, as Whitley loudly launches into ""Joy to the World."" Whitley gets fired on her first day, but Dwayne consoles her with a p
Whitley takes a job substitute teaching for an unruly remedial class at a run-down junior high school. The students are completely out of control the first day, then suddenly behave themselves perfectly. Whitley discovers that they all purposely failed their tests. She considers giving up, but instead challenges the students to prove their intelligence. At the principal's suggestion, she uses her own background to cover the material left out of the outdated textbooks. Dorian finally asks Lena on a date. He stuns her by revealing that he does not believe in pre-marital sex. She decides that she is still interested in having a relationship with him.
Dwayne discovers that Whitley has goaded Kim into letting her assist in the planning of her own surprise birthday party. Dwayne takes Whitley to a cheap dinner and tells her that he scrapped the party. She feels that she deserves a nice birthday after her rough year, while he insists that she should have trusted him to plan the party on his own. Dwayne sends Whitley into the kitchen, then sneaks all of their friends into the living room to surprise her. Charmaine and Terrell struggle badly in French class. They refuse to accept help from prize pupil Gina, and all other tutors dismiss them as a lost cause. Terrified at the prospect of having their perfect grade point averages ruined, they hide a baby monitor in Gina's bag in an attempt to learn the contents of the oral midterm. Charmaine and Terrell get caught and automatically fail the midterm, leaving Charmaine humiliated. She admits that she wouldn't have been so desperate to get a good grade if Gina hadn't taunted her about her str
Ron convinces Mr. Gaines to purchase a club with him. Ron has maxed out his credit cards to cover the down payment, but believes he can make back all the money on opening night. The band he had booked backs out at the last minute. Mr. Gaines calls upon his grandnieces, four awkward young women from the country who have never sung outside of the church choir. Ron cannot bring himself to tell Mr. Gaines that they would make a terrible headlining act. Whitley and Ron storm out in frustration after trying to choreograph the girls. Lena, Gina and Charmaine manage to convince the girls to loosen up and add some flash to their act. Although still clumsy, the foursome manages to deliver a fine performance.
Whitley has trouble getting through to a pupil that she is tutoring. Dwayne brainstorms about a video game that would get kids more interested in grammar. Ron suggests a game that combines grammar with the elements of baseball. Dwayne designs a computer program based entirely on this idea and pitches it to Kinishewa. Ron is furious when Dwayne refuses to share the credit (and money) with him. Dwayne accuses Ron of being a moocher always trying to profit from his accomplishments. Ron fires back that Dwayne resents his success as a club owner; and suspects that he feels inadequate after having to turn to Ron for money. Whitley suffers from chronic illness, and Kim forces her to confront the fact that she might be pregnant. A panicked Whitley refuses to accept the truth until she has taken a half-dozen home pregnancy tests. Kim assures Whitley that she will be a terrific mother, but Whitley doesn't know how she and Dwayne will come up with the money to care for a child. Dwayne reveals tha
Marion and Adele arrive to help Dwayne and Whitley pack for the move to Tokyo. After learning of Whitley's pregnancy, they try to dissuade the couple from leaving. Whitley grows tired of listening to Dwayne argue with the women; she storms out. She finds solace with Ron, who has gotten into a major fight with Freddie over his plans to sue Dwayne. Dwayne convinces Whitley that they need to move on and make a life away from Hillman. Marion and Adele overcome their anxiety about being separated from their grandchild by getting very drunk. Dwayne and Whitley's friends throw them a going-away party at the Pit. Freddie comes over to Ron's apartment to share the news that she made law review. They make up, but she cannot convince him to come to the party. Everyone shares favorite stories about the Waynes and wishes them luck. Whitley and Dwayne return the favor by thanking their friends for all their love and support. Dwayne has very kind words for Ron, who hears about the speech from Freddie
Col. Taylor recommends that Dwayne apply for a summer job with Kinishewa. Dwayne follows Col. Taylor's suggestion by inviting the company vice president over for dinner (for an interview in a less formal setting). Dwayne and Whitley are stunned when the man's assistant, Kinu, arrives in his place. Although Kinu seems friendly and gracious, Whitley warns Dwayne that she is out for revenge. Dwayne comes to agree with Whitley after Kinu informs him that another applicant received the job. Kinu angrily points out that she is also married, and outlines the qualifications of the man who was hired. Dwayne realizes that he was not the best candidate for the job, and has a very hard time dealing with the disappointment. Whitley assures him that she still believes in him.
The single father of one of Whitley's students convinces her to watch his daughter over the weekend, as he must go away on a business trip. Whitley tries to convince the girl to act more ""ladylike,"" while she would rather play basketball with Dwayne. Dashawn annoys Whitley by rewiring the appliances as a practical joke. Dwayne and Spencer discover that Dashawn is a mathematical genius; her poor performance in school stems from boredom. When Freddie cannot get anyone to show an interest in Amnesty International, Ron offers to host a dance-a-thon to raise money for the cause. However, he angers Freddie by hogging the proceeds and charging the contestants for donated drinks. Dorian and Lena and Terrell and Charmaine become extremely competitive, and wind up as the final two couples. Dorian taunts Terrell about his victory, but feels guilty after Freddie gives a speech about human rights violations. He donates the entire $1000 prize to charity (without consulting Lena).
Dwayne and Whitley decide to rent a cabin in the mountains for a second honeymoon. They cannot afford the trip on their own, and Mr. and Mrs. Gaines are the only couple willing to join them. Mr. Gaines ends up getting them free use of a friend's run-down old cabin. At his wife's urging, he leaves their son Darnell in charge of the Pit. He screws everything up, behaves rudely to customers, and tries to fire Lena and Charmaine. Mr. and Mrs. Gaines get into an argument about his attitude toward their son and refuse to sleep in the same room. Dwayne and Whitley try to sneak outside, only to get sprayed by a skunk. Darnell promises his father that he is going to get himself together.
Dean Davenport gives her students an assignment to write a dialogue detailing what might have been said during the only meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Terrell and Charmaine show up late for an appointment with their friends. They reveal that a pickup truck full of guys harassed Charmaine, then tried to run them off the road after they retaliated. Charmaine files a police report, while Terrell becomes obsessed with proving his manhood. Dean Davenport discovers that Terrell has brought a gun to class with him. She announces that she is expelling him. Dwayne asks her to reconsider because Terrell is such a fine student, but takes him to task for his behavior. Terrell shows up to class so that he and Dorian can complete their assignment. He plays the role of Dr. King and speaks of the need to seek change through education rather than violence. The dean is impressed and decides to let him stay in school, provided that he keeps his grades up and completes a communi
Lena's friends from Baltimore come to visit for the weekend. Lena is disconcerted to discover that Piccolo, her very attractive ex-boyfriend, has tagged along. Piccolo intends to prove that he has changed and win her back. He mocks her for dating Dorian, who tries to be mature about the situation. When Piccolo gets into an argument with Lena while dancing at the club, Dorian steps in to fight him. Lena's friend Yolanda accuses her of selling out by choosing college and her new friends over life in Baltimore. Dwayne tries to help Lena by relating his past experiences. Although Piccolo insists that he has turned away from the street scene, Lena feels he is the same selfish, unreliable person he has always been. She cares about him, but will not allow him to interfere in her life. Lena helps Dorian attend to his black eye and assures him that she is glad to have him in her life.
Legendary singer/actress Lena Horne visits the Hillman campus to dedicate a scholarship named for her grandmother. Whitley becomes very excited and has her students put together a musical tribute to Ms. Horne. She insists on a formal ceremony and refuses to allow Mr. Gaines to cater the event. Kim is mortified that Whitley could be so respectful of Ms. Horne, yet treat Mr. Gaines as though he is too old to contribute anything to society. When Ms. Horne admits that she doesn't like the upper-crust food, Kim takes her to the Pit for a home-cooked Southern meal. She has a good time dancing with Spencer, Kim and Mr. Gaines. Mr. Gaines recalls meeting Ms. Horne during World War II, and Kim is surprised to learn that this actually happened. During the ceremony, Ms. Horne calls Mr. Gaines to the stage and introduces him as an old friend. Whitley sees the error of her ways.
Lena, Gina, Charmaine, Dorian and Terrell decide to rent a house together. While seeing the temperamental landlord about a plumbing problem, Gina, Charmaine and Terrell discover that he is Langston ""Sweet Knuckles"" Paige, a former major league baseball star. He is unsure about what to do with his life, so they encourage him to enroll in college. Langston accompanies Terrell to class to check out the Hillman campus. He finds that the professor is an old flame. Gina's abusive ex-boyfriend Dion violates his probation by contacting her. He finally shows up in person in an attempt to win her back. She repeatedly turns him down, and learns that Dion hasn't really changed at all. Langston steps in and manages to convince Dion to leave Gina alone.