The Breakdown: The “Different World” Step Show

by James Hill

May 5, 2017

This is “The Breakdown” where we look at some of the biggest moments in our lives (and by “our lives,” we mean stuff that was happening on TV) and get at the heart of what makes these scenes and characters so unforgettable with five thoughts.

In celebration of 30th year anniversary of Different World, we’re taking a look at the pure celebration of Black college life that was the step show episode featuring the ladies of Gilbert Hall getting it IN!


1. First off, we think we just found our group Halloween costume — yellow cut-off sweat shirts, matching socks, black tights and headbands. Can you imagine stomping through the neighborhood like “A-B-C-D, E-F-Geeee!” 

2. Let’s be clear, before 1988 mainstream America’s knowledge of Historically Black Colleges/Universities was on par Bigfoot. They may have heard of it but no one  they knew had ever seen one. And then in ONE YEAR, Spike Lee dropped School Daze and A Different World hit with seismic impact — not only giving white audiences a peek at our heritage but drove many of us to consider schools like Hampton, Howard and Spelman (in record numbers, too).

3. And what says Black College like a step show? It’s actually surprising that it took the show an entire season (and the loss of Lisa Bonet) to strap on their boots. But when they did — LAWD, it was priceless. What we love is how these actresses seem to have stepping in their genes because their moves are flawless. We’re guessing rehearsals lasted like three minutes before the choreographer was like “ya’ll got this.”

4. We’d be remiss not mentioning that Jasmine Guy and Kadeem Hardison were both School Daze alums which is why this portrayal of HBCU culture seems so reminiscent of Spike’s movie. Is it us or do you keep thinking about the “Good and Bad Hair” dance-off, especially when the Gilbert Hall girls say “We don’t wear hair weaves, we know how to dress!” — a noted reversal for Jasmine who was definitely pro-weave in “Daze.” Times change, we get it.

5. And don’t think we didn’t notice everybody’s favorite “Fly Girl,” Lisa Marie Todd filling out the Gilbert Hall ranks on the far right. Amazingly, it would still be another two years before “In Living Color” would hit the air. DAMN! The last 80s/early 90s were SO GOOD for Black TV, can we get back to that?!?

Got a TV moment you’d love to see us break down? Leave a comment below or hit us up @tvonetv!

Want more Breakdowns?

1. “A Different World’s” Wedding Scene

2. “Good Times” Damn, Damn, Damn Moment

3. Max and Kyle Sleep Together on “Living Single”

4. The opening to “What’s Happening!!”

5. Penny Gets Burned on “Good Times”

6. When Dwayne Put Whitley in Check on “A Different World”

7. Sista Sledge on “The Jeffersons”

8. Synclaire and Shemar Moore Kiss on “Living Single”

9. Tupac Steals our Heart on “A Different World”

10. Joan’s “Bootyful” Moment on “Girlfriends