The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is an American sitcom television series created by Andy and Susan Borowitz, inspired by the life of Will Smith. It originally aired on NBC from September 10, 1990, to May 20, 1996. The series stars Will Smith as Will, a street-smart teenager born and raised in West Philadelphia who is sent to move in with his wealthy uncle and aunt in their Bel-Air mansion after getting bullied at the local playground in his neighborhood. However, his lifestyle often clashes with that of his upper-class relatives.
|The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air|
|Theme music composer||The Fresh Prince in association with A Touch of Jazz, Inc.|
|Opening theme||"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" performed by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince|
|Ending theme||"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (instrumental)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||148 (list of episodes)|
|Camera setup||Videotape; Multi-camera|
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
HBO Max (reunion special)
|Original release||September 10, 1990 –|
May 20, 1996
Known as Smith's star vehicle into television and later his film career, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a top hit for NBC, running for 148 episodes over six seasons. A reunion special/retrospective reuniting the original cast debuted on HBO Max in November 2020. A more dramatic reboot based on the fan film Bel-Air is in active development, with a two-season order for Peacock.
The theme song and opening sequence set the premise of the show. Will Smith is a street-smart teenager, West Philadelphia-"born and raised". While playing street basketball, Will misses a shot and the ball hits a group of gang members, causing a confrontation that frightens his mother, who sends him to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle in the opulent neighborhood of Bel Air, Los Angeles.
Will's working class background ends up clashing in various humorous ways with the upper class world of the Banks family – Will's uncle Phil and aunt Vivian and their children, Will's cousins: spoiled Hilary, pompous Carlton, impressionable Ashley and baby Nicky, (introduced at Season 3, Episode 20)
Cast and charactersEdit
|Will Smith||Will Smith||Main|
|James Avery||Philip Banks||Main|
|Janet Hubert||Vivian Banks||Main|
|Daphne Maxwell Reid||Main|
|Alfonso Ribeiro||Carlton Banks||Main|
|Karyn Parsons||Hilary Banks||Main|
|Tatyana M. Ali||Ashley Banks||Main|
|Joseph Marcell||Geoffrey Butler||Main|
|Ross Bagley[a]||Nicky Banks||Recurring||Main|
- Various actors portrayed Nicky Banks throughout Seasons 3 and 4.
|DJ Jazzy Jeff||Jazz||Recurring|
|Vernee Watson-Johnson[a]||Viola "Vy" Smith||Recurring|
|Michael Weiner||Kellogg "Cornflake" Lieberbaum||Recurring|
|Jenifer Lewis||Helen Smith||Recurring||Recurring|
|Charlayne Woodard||Janice Smith||Recurring|
|Perry Moore||Tyriq "Ty" Johnson||Recurring|
|Brian Stokes Mitchell||Trevor Collins-Newsworthy||Recurring|
|Tyra Banks||Jacqueline "Jackie" Ames||Recurring|
|Nia Long||Beullah "Lisa" Wilkes||Recurring|
- A different unidentified actress portrayed Will's mother in the opening title sequence.
Celebrity guest starsEdit
The show is notable for having a heavy celebrity guest presence with more than forty celebrities guest starring throughout the series. Seasons 1 and 6 had the highest celebrity participation with over 10 celebrity guest stars each.
|Richard Roundtree||Season 1, Episode 3||Dr Mumford, father of Will's love interest. Also played Rev. Sims in Season 6.|||
|Don Cheadle||Season 1, Episode 5||Ice Tray, Will's best friend from Philadelphia.|||
|Bo Jackson||Season 1, Episode 9||Himself.|||
|Malcolm Jamal Warner|
|Al B. Sure|
|Naomi Campbell||Season 1, Episode 10||Helen, Geoffrey's date.|||
|Isiah Thomas||Season 1, Episode 11||Himself.|||
|Evander Holyfield||Season 1, Episode 15||Himself.|||
|Vivica A. Fox||Season 1, Episode 19||Janet, Jazz's sister and Will's date.|||
|Jasmine Guy||Season 1, Episode 21||Kayla Samuels, Will's girlfriend.|||
|Tevin Campbell||Season 1, Episode 24||Little T, Teen idol.|||
|Queen Latifah||Season 1, Episode 25||Marissa Redman, Hilary's Boss. Also played "Dee Dee" in season 2.|||
|Malcolm-Jamal Warner||Season 2, Episode 9||Eric, Hilary's love interest.|||
|Zsa Zsa Gabor||Season 2, Episode 10||Sonya Lamor, Uncle Phil's celebrity client.|||
|Bell Biv DeVoe||Season 2, Episode 11||Themselves.|||
|Brandon Quintin||Season 2, Episode 12||Ramon, Ashley's friend. He returns as Bryan in season 4.|||
|Allen Payne||Season 2, Episode 15||Marcus, Will's basketball rival.|||
|Milton Berle||Season 2, Episode 18||Max Jakey, Will's hospital roommate.|||
|Riddick Bowe||Season 3, Episode 21||A bully that confronts Carlton, but fights Will instead.|||
|Lark Voorhies||Season 3, Episode 5||Carlton's ex-girlfriend|
|Sherman Hemsley||Season 3, Episode 6||Judge Robertson, Uncle Phil's rival. Also George Jefferson in seasons 5 and 6.|||
|Oprah Winfrey||Season 3, Episode 9||Herself.|||
|Vanessa Williams||Season 3, Episode 11||Danny Mitchell, Will's idol.|||
|Naya Rivera||Season 3, Episode 16||Cindy, Hilary's imagined ideal baby sister.|||
|Kim Fields||Season 3, Episode 17||Monique, Will's girlfriend.|||
|Tom Jones||Season 3, Episode 18||Himself.|||
|DL Hughley||Season 3, Episode 22||Keith Campbell, Will's comedian friend from Philly.|||
|Hugh Hefner||Season 4, Episode 9||Himself.|||
|Robin Quivers||Season 4, Episode 12||Judith, one of the ghosts playing cards.|||
|Boyz II Men||Season 4, Episode 13||Themselves.|||
|Sullivan Walker||Reverend Boyd.|
|Branford Marsalis||Season 4, Episode 14||Himself. Also plays "Duane" a repair man in the same season.|||
|Stacey Dash||Season 4, Episode 17||Michelle Michaels, a famous singer/celebrity.|||
|Robert Guillaume||Season 4, Episode 19||Pete Fletcher, Will's boss.|||
|Ben Vereen||Season 4, Episode 24||Lou Smith, Will's father.|||
|Donald Trump||Season 4, Episode 25||Themselves.|||
|Dick Clark||Season 4, Episode 26||Himself. Returned in season 6, episode 20 to co-host bloopers of the show with Will Smith.|||
|Brad Garrett||Season 5, Episode 5||John "Fingers" O'Neill.|||
|Kareem Abdul Jabbar||Season 5, Episode 6||Himself.|||
|Don Cornelius||Season 5, Episode 8||Himself.|||
|Ken Griffey Jr.||Season 5, Episode 9||Himself.|||
|Jay Leno||Season 5, Episode 10||Himself. Also in season 6 episode 5 again playing Himself.|||
|Isabel Sanford||Season 5, Episode 17||Louise Jefferson, couple's therapy member. Returns in season 6.|||
|Isaac Hayes||Season 5, Episode 18||The Minister, who happens to be an Isaac Hayes impersonator, assigned to officiate Will's express wedding.|||
|Robin Givens||Season 5, Episode 23||Denise, Will's love interest.|||
|Chris Rock||Season 6, Episode 2||Maurice, a famous actor. Also plays Maurice's sister in the same episode.|||
|B. B. King||Season 6, Episode 4||Pappy, the bar's blues player.|||
|Jaleel White||Season 6, Episode 7||Derek, Ashley's boyfriend.|||
|Wayne Newton||Season 6, Episode 8||Himself.|||
|Dick Clark||Season 6, Episode 20||Himself.|||
|Regis Philbin||Season 6, Episode 21||Himself.|||
|William Shatner||Season 6, Episode 22||Himself.|||
|Conrad Bain||Season 6, Episode 24||Phillip Drummond, open house attendee.|||
|Gary Coleman||Arnold Jackson-Drummond, open house attendee.|||
|Marla Gibbs||Florence Johnston, open house attendee.|||
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||25||September 10, 1990||May 6, 1991||41||12.9|
|2||24||September 9, 1991||May 4, 1992||18||14.5|
|3||24||September 14, 1992||May 10, 1993||16||14.6[A]|
|4||26||September 20, 1993||May 23, 1994||21||13.7[B]|
|5||25||September 19, 1994||May 15, 1995||56||10.4|
|6||24||September 18, 1995||May 20, 1996||55||9.6|
In 1990, music manager Benny Medina, along with his business partner, real estate mogul Jeff Pollack, decided to market a TV story based on Medina's life. Medina had grown up poor in East Los Angeles but his life changed when he befriended a rich white teenager, whose family lived in Beverly Hills and allowed Medina to live with them. Medina decided to use this part of his life as the main focus of the show. However, given that by then a black character living with a white family was a concept that had been done multiple times on TV, Medina decided to change the rich white family to a rich black family. "That way we could explore black-on-black prejudice as well as black class differences", Medina said in an interview for Ebony magazine.
Medina pitched the idea to Quincy Jones, who had just signed a TV deal with Time-Warner. Jones was impressed by the idea and arranged a meeting with NBC chief Brandon Tartikoff. Will Smith was well known by then as his music career as The Fresh Prince had put him on the mainstream radar, but he had come into debt after failing to pay taxes. At the suggestion of his then-girlfriend, Smith went to a taping of The Arsenio Hall Show where he met Medina by chance. Medina pitched the idea to Smith, but Smith was reluctant, having never acted before. Medina invited Smith to meet Jones at a party that Jones was throwing at his house in December 1989. There, Jones handed Smith a script for a failed Morris Day pilot that he had produced and challenged Smith to audition for Tartikoff on the spot. Smith did so, and the first contract for the show was drawn up that night in a limo outside. Three months later, the pilot was shot.
Andy Borowitz and his wife, Susan, are credited as the series' creators. Andy Borowitz, who was on a contract with NBC, was selected by Tartikoff to write the pilot. He based Will's cousins on Quincy Jones's daughters, and named Carlton after his friend Carlton Cuse. In 2015, he remarked that "It was written and taped in about three weeks, start to finish, and somehow it worked. It was just an explosion of really good luck."
The pilot episode began taping on May 1, 1990. Season 1 first aired in September 1990, and ended in May 1991. The series finale was taped on Thursday, March 21, 1996, and aired on Monday, May 20, 1996.
The theme song "Yo Home to Bel Air" was written and performed by Smith under his stage name, The Fresh Prince. The music was composed by Quincy Jones, who is credited with Smith at the end of each episode. The music often used to bridge scenes together during the show is based on a similar chord structure.
Crossovers and other appearancesEdit
During the fall 1991–1992 season, NBC gained two hit television shows to anchor their Monday night lineup (Blossom aired immediately after The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). To gain popularity between the two shows, Will Smith appeared in the Blossom episode "I'm with the Band" as himself under his rap stage name, The Fresh Prince. That same season, Karyn Parsons appeared in the Blossom episode "Wake Up Little Suzy" as Hilary Banks. Parsons also appeared in the Patti LaBelle sitcom Out All Night as Hilary.
In the House and Fresh Prince were both executive-produced by Winifred Hervey, David Salzman, and Quincy Jones. During the second season's first episode, Alfonso Ribeiro and Tatyana Ali appeared as their Fresh Prince characters (Carlton and Ashley Banks) in the crossover episode "Dog Catchers". Later that season, James Avery (Phillip Banks) appeared as a mediator in the episode "Love on a One-Way Street".
Following Fresh Prince's conclusion, Ribeiro joined the principal cast of In the House from its third season as Dr. Maxwell Stanton. In the Season 4 episode "My Pest Friend's Wedding", Avery and Daphne Maxwell Reid (the second Vivian Banks) guest starred as Stanton's parents. Joseph Marcell, Geoffrey Butler on Fresh Prince, appeared as an officiating minister in the same episode.
The series was produced by NBC Productions in association with the Stuffed Dog Company and Quincy Jones Entertainment (later Quincy Jones-David Salzman Entertainment in 1993). After the show was released to syndication in 1994, the series was distributed by Warner Bros. Television Distribution, which continues to distribute the show worldwide (with NBCUniversal owning the series' copyright).
Currently, reruns of the series are still aired around the world on ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks' MTV2, BET and VH1, having previously been aired on its MTV, Nick at Nite, TeenNick, CMT, and Centric channels. Other past carriers include WGN America, TBS, Walt Disney Television's Disney XD, ABC Family and ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks' Paramount Network.
The series developed significant popularity in the United Kingdom, where it aired on BBC Two between 1991 and 1996 with reruns airing on the network between 1996 and 2004, and was shown alongside The Simpsons and was later repeated on Trouble, Bravo, Channel One, Living, Sky Living Loves, Viva, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Comedy Central Extra and 5Star. In the United Kingdom, all seasons became available on the BBC iPlayer from 1 January 2021, and also currently airs on Sky Comedy and Sky Showcase.
Warner Home Video has released the complete series, seasons 1 to 6, on DVD in Region 1. Seasons 1 to 4 have been released in Regions 2 and 4. Seasons 5 to 6 have been released in Region 2 in Germany, and in the complete series boxset in the United Kingdom.
|DVD name||Ep #||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|The Complete First Season||25||February 8, 2005||February 21, 2005||April 13, 2005|
|The Complete Second Season||24||October 11, 2005||November 21, 2005||March 1, 2006|
|The Complete Third Season||24||February 14, 2006||June 26, 2006||August 9, 2006|
|The Complete Fourth Season||26||August 8, 2006||January 22, 2007||December 6, 2006|
|The Complete Fifth Season||25||May 11, 2010||June 18, 2010||2018|
|The Complete Sixth & Final Season||24||April 19, 2011||May 6, 2011||2018|
|The Complete Series||148||April 12, 2011||N/A||N/A|
Awards and nominationsEdit
This section needs additional citations for verification. (December 2019)
|ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards:|
|Top TV||Won||Quincy Jones
DJ Jazzy Jeff
|Outstanding Individual Achievement in Lighting Direction for a Comedy Series||Nominated||Art Busch||1996|
|Golden Globe Awards:|
|Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series – Comedy/Musical||Nominated||Will Smith||1994|
|Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series – Comedy/Musical||Nominated||Will Smith||1993|
|NAACP Image Awards:|
|Outstanding Comedy Series||Nominated||1997|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series||Won||Alfonso Ribeiro||1996|
|Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series||Nominated||Will Smith||1997|
|Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress||Won||Tatyana M. Ali||1997|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated||Janet Hubert-Whitten||1991|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated||Nia Long||1996|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated||Daphne Maxwell Reid||1996|
|Kids' Choice Awards:|
|Favorite Television Actor||Nominated||Will Smith||1996|
|Favorite Television Show||Nominated||1996|
|Favorite TV Actress||Nominated||Tatyana M. Ali||1996|
|NCLR Bravo Awards:|
|Outstanding Television Series Actor in a Crossover Role||Nominated||Alfonso Ribeiro||1996|
|TP de Oro:|
|Best Foreign Series (Mejor Serie Extranjera)||Nominated||1996|
|Best Foreign Series (Mejor Serie Extranjera)||Won||1994|
|Teen Choice Awards:|
|Choice TV Show: Throwback||Nominated||2017|
|Choice TV Show: Throwback||Nominated||2018|
|Choice TV Show: Throwback||Nominated||2019|
|TV Land Awards:|
|Best Broadcast Butler||Nominated||Joseph Marcell||2004|
|Favorite "Fish Out of Water"||Nominated||Will Smith||2004|
|Young Artist Awards:|
|Best Performance by an Actor Under Ten – Television||Won||Ross Bagley||1996|
|Best Performance by an Actor Under Ten in a TV Series||Won||Ross Bagley||1995|
|Best Youth Comedienne||Nominated||Tatyana M. Ali||1994|
|Best Young Actor Guest Starring in a Television Series||Nominated||Larenz Tate||1993|
|Best Young Actor Guest Starring or Recurring Role in a TV Series||Nominated||Tevin Campbell||1992|
|Best New Family Television Comedy Series||Won||1991|
|Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy TV Series||Won||Tatyana M. Ali||1997|
On August 13, 2015, it was reported that a reboot of the show was in development by Overbrook Entertainment, with Will Smith serving as a producer. In August 2016, during a promotional interview with the E! television network for his then upcoming film Suicide Squad, Smith denied that a reboot was in development, saying that it would happen "...pretty close to when Hell freezes over".
In 2019, a mock trailer titled Bel-Air was uploaded on YouTube, written and directed by Morgan Cooper, for a darker, more dramatic re-imagining of the sitcom. Will Smith subsequently heavily praised the fan film, commenting that "Morgan did a ridiculous trailer for Bel-Air. Brilliant idea, the dramatic version of The Fresh Prince for the next generation", expressing interest in expanding the idea beyond the short film into a full Bel-Air reboot series.
In August 2020, it was announced that Will Smith and Morgan Cooper would be developing a reboot of the series based on Cooper's Bel-Air. The series had reportedly been in the works for over a year since Cooper posted his Bel-Air trailer on YouTube, with Netflix, Peacock, and HBO Max all currently bidding for the series. On September 8, 2020, Peacock gave Bel-Air a 2-season order. In September 2021, the full cast was announced with newcomer Jabari Banks cast as Will Smith, Adrian Holmes as Philip Banks, Cassandra Freeman as Vivian Banks, Olly Sholotan as Carlton Banks, Coco Jones as Hilary Banks, Akira Akbar as Ashley Banks, Jimmy Akingbola as Geoffrey, Jordan L. Jones as Jazz and Simone Joy Jones as Lisa.
A reunion of the surviving original cast, The Fresh Prince Reunion, aired on HBO Max in November 2020. Among other reminisces, Janet Hubert appeared, also appearing around this time in a joint radio interview with Smith where the two reconcile. More information and context were offered regarding the situation between Smith and Hubert and her exit when the two met for their conversation. Hubert discussed the turmoil in her personal life, her abusive marriage, and that she had not actually been fired by the show. She was offered what she described as a "bad deal" to return for the fourth season and she turned it down. Smith talked about how grappling with his rapidly increasing fame at such a young age led him to make decisions during that time that he now regrets and wishes he had made differently. The reunion show also features a tribute to James Avery, who died in 2013, that was shown to the surviving cast. The tribute brought the entire cast to tears.
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