December 23, 2004
Who they are: Will Smith plays a street-savvy teen from the wrong side of the tracks in West Philly who gets sent to live with his rich Uncle Phil Banks, played by James Avery, and Aunt Viv, played by Janet Hubert-Whitten and Daphne Maxwell Reid. Also in the family are Will's cousins, Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), Hilary (Karyn Parsons), Ashley (Tatyana Ali) and eventually little Nicky (Ross Bagley), as well as the butler Geoffrey, played by Joseph Marcell. The show was nominated for two Golden Globes.
What the kids like: The chance to hear rap music on prime-time television when the genre was relatively young. The fish-out-of-water clashes between cool rapper Will and his Beverly Hills relatives, not to mention Will's penchant for slapstick physical comedy, made for plenty of laughs. Also, knowing Will Smith's lyrics to "The Fresh Prince" theme song gave suburban kids some playground cred.
What the parents can't get enough of: Sure, "Fresh Prince" grafted urban rap culture into a posh suburban home, but the resulting quandaries were often settled in ways that increased mutual understanding. The show tackled social and generation differences without taking sides. Over the course of the series, both Will and his family underwent character and attitude transformations.