To honor the 28th anniversary of the A Different World episode, If I Should Die Before I Wake, which was centered around AIDS, I will give my thoughts on it. I loved this episode! It is one of my second best and iconic episodes of the series next to the wedding episode. Not only is this one more impactful, but it is also one of the most controversial. We’ll get to the behind the scenes moments later.
What is it that made me love the episode the most? The entire premise of the episode where the college students go to a public speaking class and they found out a student named Josie Webb, played by Tisha Campbell has AIDS. I loved the acting in this episode. Both Whoopi Goldberg as Dr. Jordan, and Tisha Campbell gave a wonderful performance as guest stars. The scene where Josie tells the class in her eulogies about her having AIDS was dark and emotional. I enjoyed the humor in this episode. The eulogies of the classmates were hilarious and the ending was funny. Scenes where Freddie tells Dr. Jordan that she’s late, and Jordan saying to her that she has an F, sit down was laughable. Dr. Jordan mispronouncing Whitley’s name, and her saying “yes, I know” after Whitley corrected her name. Dr. Jordan was hilarious in here, sassy, but also a very caring teacher. She showed compassion by hugging Josie when she shared that she had AIDS. Now, a lot of people do not like the naivety of Whitley, or the ignorance of both Gina and Terrance in this episode. I understand the flaws needed for this episode. However, that’s what makes this special even more brilliant, because the ignorance coming from those two is more real. For example, many people say ignorant and heartless things in situations like this. Whitley being naïve about Josie having AIDS is what you expect from her character. Plus, they got what they deserved by Mr. Gains when he told them off in the end. It’s a good message to teach kids about not bullying. The way that the writers tackle the topic of AIDS in this episode was done tremendously well, and a realistic tone in a college setting. Unlike some specials where they treat this issue as a joke. Looking at you Mr. Belvedere.
As I stated before, this special received a lot of controversy before it even premiered. Before it aired, Debbie Allen saw Magic Johnson at her house crying, because he found out that he has AIDS. Because of this, Debbie Allen wanted to do an episode about AIDS, making him a guest star. Unfortunately, NBC executive Warren Littlefield immediately denied the idea. They weren’t allowed to even show a condom in this episode. So, Debbie Allen fought for making this special come to life. Even Bill Cosby chipped in and helped her fight for airing it. Eventually, Littlefield approved of airing this special, and on the opening night, Bill aired the episode with no advertisements.
After the show was released, it had made a massive impact. It got nominated for a primetime Emmy award and became the highest rated episode of the series. It inspired more college students to become more educated and aware of the virus.
Overall, this is an excellent episode that . I give this episode a perfect 10/10. Thank you, Bill Cosby, Debbie Allen, and everyone who have worked on this special.