On this day in comedy on September 10, 1990 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air premiered on NBC
Based on the real life shenanigans of record producer, Benny Medina while he lived with the Gordy Family (as in Berry Gordy), this sitcom plays on the street kid in the rich environment theme. On the show, Will Smith has the lead role as Will, a Philadelphian who was in a basketball game that got out of hand and the ramifications spooked his mother (Vernee Watson) to the point of relocating him to safe Bel-Air to live out the rest of his youth with his well-off relatives. The question arises of why didn’t his mother horn in on the opulent lifestyle as well, but there was never an episode that answered such a query.
Once Will was nestled securely in the bosom of his uncle Phil (James Avery), Aunt Viv (Janet Hubert-Whitten, who was replaced by Daphne Maxwell-Reid after season 1) and his naïve and street dumb cousins, Hillary (Karyn Parsons), Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) and Ashley (Tatyana M. Ali) he managed to find every way possible to live it up; despite the watchful eye of the wise cracking butler, Geoffrey (Joseph Marcell). The sitcom took his real life rapper sidekick, Jazzy Jeff and made him a recurring character and occasionally had the duo perform. Will Smith had been a Grammy Award winning rapper who blew his first fortune and this show was a comeback vehicle. He wrote the theme song along with QDIII (Quincy Jones’ son) and the show was produced by the senior Jones.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a ratings and awards winner. It won ASCAP’s Film and Television Music Award’s Top TV Series in 1994; Image Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Alfonso Ribeiro in 1996 and for Outstanding Youth Actress for Tatyana M. Ali in 1997 and Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite TV Actress in ’96; the 1994 TP de Oro Award for Best Foreign Series; the Young Artist Awards for Best Performance by an Actor Under Ten won by Ross Bagley two years running in 1995 and ’96 well as that organization’s Best New Family Television Comedy Series in 1991 and the Young Star Award won by Tatyana M. Ali for Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy TV Series in 1997.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
Check out this clip: