(I'm glad to hear that the DVD of Season one is coming out, but before you gloss over this review, please read on...)
I had made it a point of watching it EVERY DAY on the Oxygen channel and my local station here in Chicago, and the episodes have been aired season to season from one to six chronologically as well! I was addicted to it, and I even sneak-watched it at work. However, whenever I watched it, I saw Lisa Bonet on the screen struggling to be the star of a sitcom in which the entire future of the show sat on her shoulders, and it hurt to see knowing what a dismal future she eventually laid for herself.
We all know that this show was supposed to be a star vehicle of sorts for her, but look what she did - she kinda RUINED the first season... here's why.
If I'm going to keep this review real on ANY level, one thing has to be said, once and for all - Lisa Bonet was (and still is, in my opinion) a bland actress with mediocre talent. Cosby made her a star because he saw something in her at age 9 or 10 on his show, but as she grew she unraveled herself by thinking she was somehow better than the limiting prospects of television (she has said this in subsequent interviews), then she decided to choose more 'daring' but crappy outside projects - does the film ANGEL HEART sound familiar???
Although her lines were well written by the original writers of The Cosby Show, definitely featuring situations in a culturally diverse Hillman College (with roommates to boot), she herself as a character failed miserably and I did not shed a tear when she left the show.
And let's be honest about one other thing - very few of the episodes are worth remembering - can you really remember one all the way through? The only one I can remember is the season finale, when Lisa finally goes out on a date with Dwayne before she 'goes home' to drop out later. It's funny, but it sets up a potential thing between him and Whitley, even though the show ends with Lisa kissing him and dancing with him under the stars.
You also have to remember, she was still a part of the Cosby universe, so during Season One EVERYBODY from the Cosby show visited her, and one at a time just to milk the fame effect just enough to carry us 22 minutes plus commercials. Theo with his crazy weekend, Rudy and pop, her grandfather with the whole bear-stealing thing, and yes, ol Dad Bill wanders about for a few at the beginning.
Ratings? Yes. Was it really worth watching for the QUALITY of the writing and the development? NO. I say again, NO.
By the end of the season there was a change needed, and desperately, even though the show was coming in at the top 5 ONLY BECAUSE OF IT FOLLOWING COSBY. When Bonet learned she and Lenny Kravitz were going to have a child, she walked away - she WALKED AWAY from a top 5 show to be a wife and mother, which is fine down at the local office, but from a MAJOR TV SHOW that was built around you???
This resulted in a severe shake-up, and now who would be the 'star' of the show? (Lisa would return to Cosby in a more background role.) Well, in my opinion, this was the main ingredient of change needed to make season two grow incredibly by the wonderful additions of Charnele Brown as Kim, Cree Summer as Winnie, Glynn Turman as Col. Taylor, Darryl M. Bell as Ron Johnson and comedian Sinbad. This rounded out the ensemble of already future stars Jasmine Guy, Dawnn Lewis and Kadeem Hardison.
Marisa Tomei and other minor characters were simply dropped, and Hillman suddenly went from being a culturally integrated college to an almost predominately black populated one, as it was probably intended to be. No loss there, but you can see the subtle shift from diversity to one of almost inclusion, which is fine, because I think Cosby's original goal was to bring the black experience to America on a higher level (no pimps or gangbangers here!) and to feature a (almost) totally black cast - and to his credit, it worked wonderfully!
You have to know Season One was awful - it really wasn't all that funny!!! The biggest key to the show's survival was the loss of Lisa - who was probably relieved to be walking away anyway - and when the producers hired director/choreographer DEBBIE ALLEN to SAVE THE SHOW from its lack of real "star" power, she then used scripts by writers who could realistically flesh out and bring to life the real trials of college for black people during the 90's with a great deal of intelligence and humor.
Sorry, I digress... this is Season One we're supposed to be talking about.
I don't know if the any of the DVDs of any of the seasons will include the recent June 21, 2005 E! Channel retrospective of A Different World which brought back a few of the main characters, but it would be nice for them to get everyone back to do a commentary of sorts on the disc and let them talk about their experiences on the show, etc. THAT would be worth the price of the disc for the first Season for me.
I love this show, and although I watch it almost every day, I can't get myself to like the first Season, because it looks like "Cosby's A Different World featuring my daughter Lisa Bonet" instead of just a stand alone show. I'll be waiting for the second season DVD a lot more than this one. Sorry if you're offended in any way, but look at for what it is.
Thanks for reading!