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Originally, this was a Spin-Off of The Cosby Show: Denise Huxtable goes to college.

Two of the supporting cast, Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison) and Whitley Gilbert (Jasmine Guy), proved to be Ensemble Darkhorses. In the second season, Lisa Bonet was let go because she and then husband Lenny Kravitz were having a baby and the producers were concerned about Denise appearing to be an unwed mother. This led to Dwayne and Whitley becoming the new leads. Despite all the odds working against them, this actually changed the show into a hit and altered the formula from being a mere spin-off to an entity of its own. The show also became acclaimed for tackling issues that other shows (especially The Cosby Show) refused to at the time, and became the first prime-time show to actually address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.


Tropes used in A Different World include:
  • Alliterative Name: Dean Dorothy Dandridge Davenport.
  • Ascended Extra: Both Ron and Walter were recurring characters in Season 1, but the Retool in Season 2 saw them promoted to main cast.
  • Back for the Finale: Walter.
  • The "B" Grade: Kimberly, Dwayne.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Walter.
  • Breakout Character: Dwayne Wayne and Whitley.
  • Broke Episode: Whitley, Kimberly.
  • But Not Too Black: Averted. The show featured African-Americans of varying skin tones and despite each person having various flaws, no particular shade was depicted as more desirable/intelligent/successful than the other.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Maggie (Marissa Tomei) and Whitley's sidekick, Millie, along with the first dorm mom Stevie (Loretta Devine) (Season 1), Lettie (Seasons 1-2).
  • Conveyor Belt Video: The Title Sequence from Season 2 on.
  • Cool Big Sis: Jaleesa.
  • Cousin Oliver: Col. Taylor's son Terrance (Season 4), Season 6's new freshman class.
  • Crossover: Unsurprisingly, often with its parent series. Cliff appeared in cameos during phone conversations, while Claire, Theo, Rudy, and Grandpa Russell each visited Hillman. After Denise's departure, Claire still made appearances and Vanessa made one. In a later episode, Dwayne visits Denise (in her final appearance on the series) and meets Olivia. Lance and Charmaine also appeared in Season 5, with the latter joining the cast the next season.
  • Date Rape Averted: Freddie.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Nearly a whole episode was devoted to a discussion on the mammy archetype after Whitley decides to dedicate an art installation to said archetype.
  • Fur and Loathing: Freddie would of course freak out when she saw one.
    • Whitley learned about this the hard way when she started dating a politician and offended one of his potential supporters by wearing a fur.
  • Graduate From the Story: Adverted as once the main cast graduated, the show went on for two more seasons and showed them going to graduate school and/or working.
  • Grand Finale
  • Granola Girl: Freddie.
  • I Drank What: In one episode, Lena is babysitting for Jaleesa's baby while Colonel Taylor has some friends over. They get thirsty and decide to drink the milk in the fridge. Cue several spit takes when Lena comes down to get the breast milk for the baby.
    • Also counts as You'reDrinkingBreastMilk.
  • Long-Lost Uncle Aesop: guest stars, including but not limited to Tisha Campbell (of Martin fame) and Sista Souljah, introduced topics such as date rape, AIDS, the Gulf War and the LA Riots to viewers and then disappeared.
  • Musical Episode: Although several of the actors sang from time to time in the series, "The Little Mister", the episode spoofing the 1992 presidential elections, counts as one of these.
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: Kinu to Whitley.
  • Perky Female Minion: Millie.
  • Pretty in Mink: Whitley owned a few furs. Although she was spoiled and materialistic, they didn't disappear as she got Character Development.
  • The Rashomon: An episode in which Ron and Dwayne get into a brawl with three white students from a rival college is depicted as it really happened (both sets of students saying and doing things to provoke each other, culminating in one of the white students vandalizing Ron's car), then from Ron's point of view (showing himself and Dwayne as completely innocent and depicting the one white student who was trying to stop the incident from escalating as equally aggressive as his friends), then from the white students (claiming that Ron and Dwayne were the aggressors and omitting the damage done to Ron's car).
  • Runaway Bride: Whitley literally leaves fiance Byron at the altar to run down the aisle into Dwayne's arms.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Post-Denise, pretty much all of them, outside of Whitley and Freddy.
  • Sitcom
  • Soapbox Sadie: Usually Freddie, but others had their turns.
  • Special Guest
  • Spin-Off
  • Stern Teacher: Col. Taylor (AKA. "Dr. War").
  • Team Mom: Stevie, Lettie, Dwayne's mom (Patti Labelle).
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Jasmine Guy playing Whitley Gilbert and her cousin Liza in one episode.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: Ron (though he got better as the show went on).
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Dwayne, Whitney, and Kinu.
  • Very Special Episode
  • Wedding Deadline: In "Save the Best for Last", Dwayne interrupts the wedding just before Whitley says "I will" to Byron, only to say "I do" to Dwayne, marrying him instead.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: Dwayne and Whitley, Jaleesa and Walter.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: Whitley.

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