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A Different World - Season 1


TITLE: A DIFFERENT WORLD - SEASON 1


Info:

DVD Release Date: November 8, 2005 (UrbanWorks)
Color
MSRP: $39.99
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 22 (23 including the "lost" episode)
Running Time: 575 minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: approx. 51 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; No Subtitles; Closed Captioned.
Special Features: The "Lost" Episode: "Homie Don't Ya Know Me" featuring TuPac Shakur and Jada Pinkett-Smith; E! Entertainment's "I Was a Network TV Star" retrospective look at "A Different World", Bloopers and a "The Cosby Show" trailer.


Introduction:

"A Different World" made it's debut on NBC in 1987 and instantly became the #2 hit that season as a part of NBC's "Must-See" Thursday lineup. The popular series was a spin-off of "The Cosby Show" and followed Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable in her sophomore year at Hillman College. Hillman is a placed steeped in tradition and Denise feels compelled to do the best that she can, but as you will see, that's not always possible. Along with her roomates, 26-year-old divorcee Jalessa Vinson (Dawnn Lewis) and the talkative Maggie Lauten (Marissa Tomei), Denise has money trouble, joins the track team, wears a pig nose, has man troubles and develops long-lasting friendships, even with snooty Southern Belle, Whitley Gilbert, played by Jasmine Guy, who would take the lead in the series' second season after Bonet departs. And a character that would have the most development, geeky and smart Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison), who serves as the leading man as well as love-interest to both Denise and later Whitley.

Also involved this season are brief recurring appearances by future regulars, Darryl Bell as girl-crazy schemer Ron Johnson and Sinbad as the hip and fun dorm director Walter Oakes. It really is a different world after all in this 4 disc set, making A DIFFERENT WORLD available on DVD for the very first time!


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

In reviewing the sets that I do, it appears, to me at least, that there are a lot of memorable episodes from the first seasons, so here's a short list of what episodes I consider to be memorable. Episodes include "Reconcilable Differences" in which Denise immediately clashes with the very different Jalessa. "Pilot" in which Marissa Tomei's character, Maggie Lauten, is introduced. "Pork De Bergerac" in which Denise is forced to wear a pig nose after leaving litter in the dorm. "Those Who Can't…Tutor" in which Dwayne tutors Denise late at night, but when rumors fly, they involve Whitley! "Rudy and the Snow Queen," in which we see Denise has little time for her sister, Rudy, so she spends all of her time with Whitley. "Sometimes You Get the Bear, Sometimes the Bear Gets You" in which Russell's visit dampens Denise's plans to help steal the rival school's mascot. "The Prime of Miss Lettie Bostic" in which a power hungry Jalessa leads a revolt against the new dorm director, Lettie Bostic, as Mary Alice joins the cast. "The Show Must Go On" in which Denise and Whitley are both convinced their leading man in a school play, Rick, has fallen for her. "Mr. Hillman," in which we see Dwayne participate in a female beauty pageant. "Speech Therapy" in which we see Jalessa must overcome her phobia of stage fright. "Clair's Last Stand" in which Clair visits and hotly protests Denise's plans to go to Greece for the summer. Finally "If Only for One Night" in which Denise and Dwayne go on an official date and even share a lingering kiss afterwards.

Memorable guest starts this season include Loretta Devine as brief series regular, Stevie Rallen. After Devine exits the series, Mary Alice joins the cast in the series regular role of Lettie Bostic. Also appearing this season in recurring roles are Kim Wayans (sister of the Wayans brothers), daytime soap star Marie-Alise Recasner as Whitley's insufferable "assistant" Millie. In continuing with the trend of cast members from the parent show, Bill Cosby ("Cliff Huxtable"), Keshia Knight Pulliam ("Rudy Huxtable"), Phylicia Rashad ("Clair Huxtable") and Malcolm Jamal Warner ("Theo Huxtable") all appear as their "The Cosby Show" characters throughout the season. Earle Hyman also reprised his role as Cliff's father in "The Cosby Show," Russell Huxtable. As for guest appearances, we were treated to Keenen Ivory Wayans (as Professor Lawrence) and Damon Wayans (as Marvin Haven) in the episode "War of Words." David Allan Grier (as Byron Walcott) in the episode "Romancing Mr. Stone", daytime-star Kristoff St. John (as E.Z. Brooks) in the episode "Advise and Descent", Ron O'Neal (as the Dean) in the episode "The Prime of Miss Lettie Bostic". It's interesting to note that Kristoff St. John appeared as Denise's boyfriend in a 1984 episode of "The Cosby Show" (different characters) while Ron O'Neal would go on in future seasons to portray Mercer Gilbert, Whitley's doting father.


Packaging:

The cover art is white with purple polka dots and features Dwayne, Whitley and Denise on the cover (in that order). On top of the cover is the rest of the cast, with their names above their pictures. Lisa Bonet and Marisa Tomei are kept obviously separate from the rest of the regular cast. On the back is the general listing of special features as well as a good summary of what the show is about as well as three color pictures from episodes. Inside the main box is a pull out case (with the exact same cover art as the main box, but the inside cover features Jalessa, Maggie and Denise and the back features Dwayne and Ron) that holds the four overlapping discs (the same design used for "The Golden Girls," for example). Included inside is a miniature black and white colored school journal (like most kids use at school) and inside the journal features a description of the show as well as summaries of each episode and little facts underneath the episode as well as original airdates. Disc One, with Dwayne on the cover, contains episodes 1-8. Disc Two, with Whitley on the cover, contains episodes 9-15. Disc 3, with Denise on the cover, contains episodes 16-22. Disc Four, with Maggie, Ron, Walter and Jalessa on the cover, contains all of the special features included in this set.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The main menu is very nice. It features a sort of movie reel slide show of some scenes from the episodes this season as well as the pictures of each main cast member (when one fades out, another appears, which is neat). The main menu has the same design as the box art. The theme song from the first season plays continuously in the background. You can choose the popular "Play All" feature or choose "Episodes" and you get a list of the episodes you can choose from. That menu has actual clips from each episode next to the episode title. Disc 4, with the special features, presents virtually the same design, although it's a little different because there are no episodes to choose from (and what's nice is they include a "Play All" option).


Video and Audio Quality:

The video quality, despite being syndicated cuts, is outstanding. Crisp and clear. The color is bright and vibrant, although sometimes you'll encounter some dust or some fuzziness in the video. But there are basically no issues to be concerned with that I could see. The audio is also very good. It is nice and audible--unlike other older series releases. It's also hard to believe that this show is over 18 years old from the premiere date! So it was a great restoration. It will be even better with uncut episodes. Yep, the episodes are NOT uncut this go-around. Nevertheless, the good thing is that there are chapter skips during each episode but the bad thing is that each episode is syndicated. Yes, that means each episode only runs about 22 minutes when they should run about 24 minutes. UrbanWorks has promised Season 2 will feature uncut episodes as has Carsey-Werner, the distributor of the episodes. Also of note, the episodes are presented in original airdate order as they aired on NBC.


Special Features:

It was a nice surprise to have so many special bonus features available on this set. Here's a brief rundown of each and the approximate times they all run (if applicable).

* The Lost Episode "Homie Don't Ya Know Me" (approx. 22 minutes)
First off, although this season 6 episode never did air on NBC, it was aired in local syndication and continues to air on cable on Oxygen (and TBS before that). It's nice they included this episode. It boasts a guest appearance by TuPac Shakur as Lena's (then series regular Jada Pinkett, later Smith after she marries Will Smith) "from the hood" ex-boyfriend and also features regular cast member Ajai Sanders as Gina, a student at Hillman. Also in the cast at that time was Karen Malina White as talktative Charmaine (the character got her start on "The Cosby Show" in one of their later seasons). But in this episode, then series regulars, Darryl M. Bell (Ron), Cree Summer (Freddie) and Glynn Turman (Colonel Taylor) do not appear. The last season had most of the episodes centered on the "new" group of teens (Dorian, Lena, Gina, Charmaine and Terrell) and the former group took an almost backseat to the new crew. And if you're wondering, this episode was indeed only 22 minutes in length—so when season six comes on DVD (if we make it that far…) we might see the full unedited version! That is something to look forward to.

* E! Entertainment & UNCLE Film + Television Presents "I Was a Network TV Star!" (Approx. 22 minutes)
Going into this, I assumed this was an older piece. I have little information about when this was done. Was it for the DVDs or was it an actual piece that aired on E!? (I'm pretty sure it was the latter, and I must have missed it). Anyway, it boasts what looks like fairly recent interviews with Debbie Allen (producer of the series), Jasmine Guy (Whitley), Kadeem Hardison (Dwayne), Darryl M. Bell (Ron), Dawnn Lewis (Jalessa) and Ajai Sanders (Gina). Phylicia Rashad (Clair, of "The Cosby Show") was also included. And the funniest part is? Even though these are newer interviews, NONE of them look a day older than they were. Heh. Overall, it's mostly a summary of the stars of the series as well as an overview of the show itself, how it came together, etc. It's an awesome inclusion and I have to thank UrbanWorks for including it!

* Bloopers (approx. 5 minutes)
This is a nice addition. I've always been a fan of including bloopers in a DVD release. A lot of these are from season 1 but are not confined to just the first season. This is a fun addition to the set.

* The Cosby Show Trailer (approx. 2 minutes)
It's a really well put together trailer that advertises the series itself but also the 2002 "The Cosby Show: A Look Back" special that aired on NBC. It's included in the first season release of "The Cosby Show" and is advertised as such.


Final Comments:

Wow, what a release. I was pleasantly surprised and I think most A Different World fans will be to. We've got bloopers and cast interviews, what more could you want? I would suggest to UrbanWorks they try and get some commentary on future releases. The entire cast seems more than willing to support the show and would more than likely record tracks for episodes. Other than that, the audio and video were great, the design of the set was great and it was just a fun release from UrbanWorks. Unfortunately, as I stated before, the episodes are not uncut and the blame can fall on Carsey-Warner, who distributes the episodes. They, as well as UrbanWorks, have promised Season 2 and up will contain the original episodes. In conclusion, I definitely encourage all fans to go out and get this very informative set. It really does the show justice.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

--Reviewed by TVJunkie101 on 10/26/05

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0009HBPEO/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20


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