Despite all of the warnings about family gatherings due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one family is for sure getting together for a celebration. The cast of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunited for a 30th anniversary special of the show.
Airing on HBO Max starting this week, actor Will Smith got most of the principal cast from the TV show from its six year run. The whole Banks family and a couple family friends gathered on the show’s set that was brought back in studio in place for the setting of the special.
In West Philadelphia, born and raised, is where star of the show in both real life and character, hails from. The rap career for Will Smith, also known as the Fresh Prince, was just beginning to take off. He and his partner, DJ Jazzy Jeff, had a couple hits under their belt and one major hit that found some commercial success outside of the hip-hop world, Parents Just Don’t Understand. It wasn’t hard to see why people would take a liking to this persona, style and charm in any direction his career would take him. Fortunately, with a little help, music mega-producer Quincy Jones, took his career to NBC.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air showcased its star’s portrayal of a clash of styles with Will coming from the inner city to live his aunt and uncle in the of Bel-Air in Los Angeles. From there it plays off comedic clashes with the Banks family and the upscale lifestyle.
Each of the main stars of the show took turns telling stories of favorite scenes, auditions and working life on the sitcom. While the special initially included Will Smith, Daphne Maxwell Reid as Aunt Viv, Alfonso Ribeiro as entitled but immature Carlton, Karyn Parsons spoiled Hilary, Tatyana Ali as the young and impressionable Ashley, Jazzy Jeff as Will’s Philly friend Jazz and Joseph Marcell as English butler Geoffrey, however there were two people noticeably missing, mainly the shows original matriarch and patriarch Ant Viv and Uncle Phil. Unfortunately we lost James Avery who played the head of the family Uncle Phil, so naturally a chunk of the special was dedicated with personal thoughts and memories of the late actor.
However, halfway through the show, Will Smith addressed the elephant in the room; or not in the room. Janet Hubert, who played Aunt Viv for the first three seasons of the show has been ostracized by many in regards to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air since her abrupt departure that caused her role to be recast. Throughout the span of well over two decades there was well documented bad blood between her and either the showrunners and/or Will Smith himself. Filmed prior to the gathering, Smith spoke one-on-one with Hubert to air out any dirty laundry and misconceivings between the two. It was a 27 year makeup session that ended with smiles and hugs before Hubert joined the rest of the cast on the set.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a monumental show in our culture, coming in at the height of sitcom popularity of the mid 1990s. It easily helped launch Will Smith to one of the biggest entertainers in history and played a part in how we view comedy and the American family. And lets not forget one of the most catchy-ess theme songs that every fan knows and usually sings along with every lyric. But for those of you unfamiliar (practically no one)…
Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down, and I’d like to take a minute to sit right there I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air.
In west Philadelphia born and raised, on the playground was where I spent most of my days. Chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool and all shootin some b-ball outside of the school, when a couple of guys who were up to no good started making trouble in my neighborhood. I got in one little fight and my mom got scared, she said ‘You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air’.
I whistled for a cab and when it came near the license plate said “fresh” and it had dice in the mirror. If anything I could say that this cab was rare but I thought ‘Nah, forget it’ – ‘Yo, holmes to Bel Air’.
I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8 and I yelled to the cabbie ‘Yo holmes smell ya later’. I looked at my kingdom, I was finally there, to sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air.