1 9 9 0 – 1 9 9 6 (USA)
Will, the ‘Fresh Prince’ (Will Smith), a teenager growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, was given a second chance when he was sent by his mother (Viola) from the ghetto of West Philadelphia to live with their well-to-do relatives in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California.
Uncle Philip Banks (James Avery), a conservative and pompous attorney, sensible Aunt Vivian Banks (initially Janet Hubert, who clashed with Will Smith and was replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid), and cousins Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), Hilary (Karyn Parsons), and Ashley (Tatyana M Ali) lived in a preposterously ornate mansion.
They spoke in oh-so-refined language, and even had a liveried butler called Geoffrey (Joseph Marcell) who, in spite of his imperious demeanour, was surprisingly sympathetic to Will, who he called “Master William”.
Storylines revolved around the family and Will and preppy Carlton’s time as students at the exclusive Bel Air Academy, where Will never quite fit in.
Will’s friend Jazz (among others) periodically brought a little soul to the Banks mansion.
Amid the comedy of clashing cultures, viewers were regularly offered morals about the difficulties faced by blacks in a white society.
Aunt Vivian subsequently gave birth to a fourth child, Nicky, who suddenly appeared in the next season as a five-year-old (Ross Bagley).
The 1993-1994 season brought a number of changes. Will and Carlton graduated from prep school and enrolled together at the University of Los Angeles while sharing the pool house as their bachelor pad.
At the same time, Will’s ex-girlfriend from Philadelphia, Jackie (Tyra Banks) showed up to complicate his life. Also in 1994-1995, Ashley became a singer and Will found a new girlfriend, Lisa. After a whirlwind courtship, they were nearly married in 1995.
In the final episode, the Banks put their Bel Air mansion up for sale. The potential buyers, Mr Drummond and Arnold (Conrad Bain and Gary Coleman) from Diff’rent Strokes considered buying the house, but it was ultimately bought by George and Louise Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford), who had formerly been seen on The Jeffersons.
The Jeffersons’ former maid, Florence (Marla Gibbs) also made an appearance on the final show.
Will, the Fresh Prince
Philip Zeke Banks
Janet Hubert (1)
Daphne Maxwell Reid (2)
Tatyana M Ali
Geoffrey the Butler