In honor of your election-day hangover, click on my favorite clip from A Different World, the highly political late-eighties spinoff of The Cosby Show. Yes, you doubters, highly political!
Because it was set at a black college, A Different World managed (between zany love plots) to delve into intra-ethnic political divisions, reference African-American artists, and host debates among characters who wore every eighties trend from ridiculous buppie shoulder pads to yards of kente cloth. The show was full of laugh-track guffaws, but it also stood out from the majority of sitcoms of that era, which had dropped the political vibe of seventies series like All in the Family for a cozy family feel.
And in the show’s later seasons, it also occasionally dropped all pretense to realism and got downright experimental. Take this surreal musical episode from 1992, in which Dwayne Wayne, after sneering at a Halloween-party discussion about the “Year of the Woman,” has an elaborately choreographed anxiety dream about an all-black, gender-switched version of that year’s elections. In it, school principal Dean Dorothy Dandridge Davenport (Jenifer Lewis) is “President Georgia Mush”; Dwayne’s girlfriend, Whitley (Jasmine Guy), plays the philandering “Governor Jill Blinton”; and Charmaine (Tyesha Brown) is a huge-eared billionaire spoiler named “Rose Godot.” (There’s also a Dan Quack, a Patty Buchanan, and a Jennifer Flowers character named “Johnny Weed.”) “I can change. We can change,” croons Blinton with seductive falseness. “Change can change. Can we have some change?”
I only wish there were a clip available of the conversation between Governor Blinton and “Billiard,” the first-husband character, who can’t get anyone to take him seriously. Can anyone out there hook me up?
Also, check out the completely delightful credits sequence, with the theme by Aretha Franklin.