Recently, Debbie Allen [the producer-director of A Different World] tweeted about bringing the show back to life, which STILL has the Black community buzzing at the idea of actually getting some honourable, intellectual and hilarious TV back on the air to combat the ratchetness of reality TV and the overall lack of positive Black imagery on mainstream television. As much as I WANT to believe in this idea, the reality is “A Different World” can NOT and will NOT be the magnificent, inspirational program it ONCE was because the time period we live in today is NOT built to support that program.
The first question we all must ask ourselves is what do we EXPECT and demand of this ADW ’12? My guess is, we will want it to be a major program, on a major network with a great time slot, as opposed to a web series with a small budget, in a far-corner on Youtube. Well, if we truly desire the latter [which I believe a program of ADW’s legendary-calibre DESERVES] then we have to take into account the importance of ratings, budget concerns, advertising dollars and mass appeal. So basically this show CAN’T just be for the populous of people [like me] who use to love and watch ADW every week and knew every character’s back story by heart. The fact is, this show would NEED to attract some new viewers just as much as it would need to bring back all the old viewers. And therein lies the problem: The mentality of the new urban audience [and some of the old audience] is NOT sufficiently intellectually interested or significantly substantial enough to support a show like “A Different World.”
One of my favourite current TV shows is The Newsroom on HBO, and as much as I LOVE that show, the premise of the program is off. The assertion the show attempts to make is that people are STUPID these days because we are not significantly and properly informed – but my argument is that the REAL issue is that our society has become intellectually lazy, socially apathetic, and highly interested in stupid sh*t. We don’t watch Jersey Shore, Flava of Love, Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta, Meet the Browns, Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire and Who Wants To Marry A Midget because of a LACK of proper programming - it’s because we have become a society that PREFERS that.
When ADW was created by Bill Cosby in ’87, the public line between ratchet/hood sh*t and intellectual creativity just started to get tested. We enjoyed programs like The Cosby Show and Amen and dancing to Ll Cool J, BDP, Run-Dmc, Eric B. and Rakim and Public Enemy. But on the horizon lured a beast of guilty pleasures like we’ve never seen before: Music was getting raunchier and more gangsta and every other form of media was getting slacker and more explicit. Our community was presented with an overt choice between positivity and negativity – and we chose negativity for the most part and redefined it as positivity [hell, I STILL feel no ways about shouting violent lyrics, watching misogynistic videos and degrading shows because it’s just part of my current entertainment].
Fast forward 20+ years, and we as people have changed just as much, if not more, than our entertainment. Our current community can’t sustain a program predicated on examining the young, Black college experience WITHOUT any College-Hill type badness. And if there’s one thing I DON’T want to see happen to ADW, it’s seeing it get brought back to horrible ratings because WE are unable to devote a block of time to a show where someone isn’t threatening to put “dem paws” on someone else.
The thing is, I actually don’t mind reality TV, the same way I don’t mind Souljah Boy [I can find the entertainment value in both], but what troubles me is when WE the CONSUMERS become so interested in one form of entertainment, we shut ourselves down to anything else – and that’s what our TV is going through right now. Would I love to see ADW on TV again? OF COURSE. Do I think there’s a realistic way it can be presented that wouldn’t compromise the values of the original show and STILL achieve mass support and acclaim? Unfortunately, no.
But, this is definitely one time where I would LOVE to be proven wrong.
This Is Your Conscience