STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $29.98
RUNNING TIME: 554 Minutes
Best of the Upper Bel-Air Crust: season 3 highlights
Bel-Air bloopers

The Pitch

It’s Diff’rent Strokes with hip hop, no annoying little kid with a catch phrase and most importantly, no honkies.

I’m no expert, but isn’t this some sort of blaxploitation or something?

The Humans

Big Willie (Smith), James Avery, Janet Hubert-Whitten, Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons, Tatyana Ali, Joseph Marcell.

The Nutshell

I believe that Mr. Jada Pinkett nutshelled it best:

In West Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground where I spent most of my days
Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool
And all shooting some b-ball outside of the school
When a couple of guys said “we’re up in no good,”
Started making trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
And said “you’re moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air.”

What that basically boils down to is that Smith, a streetwise kid from Philly moves in with his rich aunt, uncle and cousins in Bel-Air, CA and shakes up their Ozzie (Smith) and Harriet (Tubman) lives with his ghetto-fabulous flavor.

"No, it used to be "You’re the DJ and I’m the Rapper…now it’s ‘I’m the Multi-millionaire Action Movie Star and Former Oscar Nominee and you’re the Night Shift Manager at Denny’s’…"

The Package

Dolby Digital, TV standard aspect ratio, with two features, Best of Upper Bel-Air Crust: Season 3 Highlights, which is an eight-minute behind-the-scenes with pop up trivia about the cast; and Bel-Air Bloopers, which is all of the bloopers from the season which were shown during the end credits of every show. The cover art is reminiscent of the times, when lime green and every other garish color was the norm, and…hey is that Will Smith circa 1993 carrying an Ipod?

The Lowdown

I’ve said before that I’m pretty much done with sitcoms, especially family sitcoms, have been for a long time. Can’t take the inane sitcom situations, the family lectures, the canned laughs, etc. Family sitcoms are of course the worst because of all of the life lessons, the first times, don’t do drugs, blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t really matter if the sitcom is about a white family or a black family, it’s generally all the same: sickening family values tripe. I look at reruns of The Cosby Show or Diff’rent Strokes now and I almost vomit with just how cute they are. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air pretty much falls into every above situation. It’s got the family lessons, the messages, the silly situations. That being said, however, it was also funny as hell.

"Jacko hasn’t forgotten about me…Jacko hasn’t forgotten about me…Jacko hasn’t forgotten about me…"

Unlike others shows where their may have been throwaway characters (the three kids in Home Improvement come to mind), all of the characters in Fresh Prince were distinctive and fun and none more so than Will Smith himself. This is the show where Smith cut his acting teeth to go on to become Mr. $20-Million-Dollar-A-Flick action star. It was a good choice for him because the producers surrounded him with a cast that he was able to play off of very well. I always liked Smith’s rapport with both James Avery and Alfonso Ribeiro. Avery was also good as Smith’s long-suffering rich uncle, Philip Banks. Ribeiro was classic as his black Alex P. Keaton cousin, Carlton. (The luscious) Karyn Parsons was also funny as Hilary, who was essentially a black Paris Hilton ten years before Paris Hilton was Paris Hilton. Joseph Marcell also nicely rounded out the cast as the wise-cracking British butler, Geoffrey, even if, a
s a character, Geoffrey was a direct copy (ripoff) of Florence from The Jeffersons, except that he was a British and wasn’t a woman. The writing, although very much similar to other family sitcoms in terms of content, was nonetheless acerbic and made use of the cast’s chemistry nicely.

It was more than little disturbing when Smith was looking for some Fresh Pooch of Bel-Air…

If there’s one major downside to the show however, it’s that it’s now incredibly dated, both in pop culture references and fashion. When you’re getting Kris Kross, Studs, and Dan Quayle references, along with frizzy box cut flat tops, Malcolm X clothing, and Africa pendants, the show just screams early-‘90s. By the end of the first season, many of the jokes on that show were so one-note, including Will’s fat jokes on Uncle Phil, short and white jokes on Carlton and rich ditz jokes on Hilary, that it amazes me it went on for six seasons. I don’t know why, though, but this show just worked for me and is still funny to watch 10+ years later. Carlton doing the white boy dance, screaming when he was accidentally ogling his younger sister, Will getting tossed out of houses, clubs, etc., it all comes back to me. I actually get nostalgic when I see some of the stuff going on in this show as it’s a long time ago, but not that long. If you like Will Smith, then you probably loved this show when it was on and if you can’t stand Will Smith then this show was about the best example of why you can’t stand him. I generally count myself in the former category and this show is a fun watch.

7.1 out of 10