The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is an American sitcom television series created by Andy and Susan Borowitz that originally aired on NBC from September 10, 1990, to May 20, 1996. The series stars Will Smith as a fictionalized version of himself, 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 into a fight in the local playground in his neighborhood. However, his lifestyle often clashes with the lifestyle 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||23 minutes|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution|
|Original release||September 10, 1990 –|
May 20, 1996
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran for 148 episodes over six seasons. A reunion special is in development with the surviving cast set to reprise their roles, set to release late 2020, around Thanksgiving, on HBO Max in partnership with Westbrook Media, while a 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, entitled Carlton, and impressionable Ashley.
Cast and charactersEdit
|Will Smith||Will Smith||Main|
|James Avery||Philip Banks||Main|
|Janet Hubert-Whitten||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|
|Various actors||Nicky Banks||Recurring||Main|
|DJ Jazzy Jeff||Jazz||Recurring|
|Vernee Watson-Johnson||Viola "Vy" Smith||Recurring|
|Michael Weiner||Kellogg "Cornflake" Lieberbaum||Recurring|
|Jenifer Lewis||Helen Smith||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|
|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".
In the Season 4 episode "My Pest Friend's Wedding", James Avery and Daphne Maxwell Reid (the second Vivian Banks) guest starred as Dr. Maxwell Stanton's parents (Stanton was played by Ribeiro). Both Avery and Reid portrayed the parents of Ribeiro's Fresh Prince character. Joseph Marcell, who played the wisecracking Geoffrey Butler on Fresh Prince, appeared as an officiating minister in the same episode.
The show is notable for having a heavy celebrity guest presence with more than 40 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 Philly.|
|Bo Jackson||Season 1, Episode 9||Himself.|
|Heavy D||Season 1, Episode 9||Himself.|
|Quincy Jones||Season 1, Episode 9||Himself.|
|Al B. Sure||Season 1, Episode 9||Himself.|
|Kadeem Hardison||Season 1, Episode 9||Himself.|
|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 Phill's celebrity client.|
|Bell Biv DeVoe||Season 2, Episode 11||Themselves.|
|Brandon Quintin||Season 2, Episode 12||Bryan, 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 Lakey, Will's hospital roommate.|
|Riddick Bowe||Season 3, Episode 3||Himself.|
|Sherman Hemsley||Season 3, Episode 6||Judge Carl, Uncle Phill'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.|
|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||Himself.|
|Marla Maples||Season 4, Episode 25||Herself.|
|Dick Clark||Season 4, Episode 26||Himself. Returned in season 6 episode 19 I, Whoops, There It Is to host bloopers of the show with Will.|
|Quincy Jones||Season 5, Episode 1||Himself.|
|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
Season 6, Episode 5
|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.|
|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||Season 6, Episode 24||Arnold Jackson-Drummond, open house attendee.|
|Marla Gibbs||Season 6, Episode 24||Florence Johnston, open house attendee.|
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. Domestic Television Distribution, which continues to distribute the show worldwide (although NBCUniversal does own the series' copyright).
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 and currently Comedy Central, Comedy Central Extra, and 5Star. it also aired on CBC in Canada
The series became available to stream on HBO Max on May 27, 2020.
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|
Awards and nominationsEdit
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|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|
|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.
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