Newest Review: ... detail about each, but I will highlight some of my favourites: --- 'How I Spent My Summer Vacation': The season premiere has Will arrive ... more
The golden years of a classic sitcom!
The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air - The Complete Third Season (DVD)
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The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air - The Complete Third Season (DVD)
Advantages: Hilarious episodes, Will Smith, dramatic moments carried out perfectly.
Disadvantages: Some dated jokes, lack of extra features, Janet Hubert-Whitten less prominent.
'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' was a sitcom that ran for 6 seasons (1990-96). Widely known for starting up Will Smith's acting career (being previously known as a rapper), the show is regarded as a classic and is one of my favourite television shows ever. To this day I always try and catch the reruns whenever possible on whatever cable TV channel is airing them. At Christmas I treated myself to the third season of the show on DVD because, in my opinion, that season has many of the funniest episodes.
I'm pretty sure everybody knows the classic theme song explains the premise of the show, but just to clarify: Will Smith (Will Smith) is a street savvy teenager from West Philadelphia. After getting into a fight with some rough guys his mom sends him to live in Bel Air, California, with his Aunt Vivian (Janet Hubert Whitten) and Uncle Phil(James Avery) to keep out of trouble and have a better living. Will's streetsmart attitude contrasts largely with the Banks's upper-crust lifestyle, particularly putting him at odds with his dominating Uncle Phil, a lawyer (later judge) and his three cousins- snobby eldest daughter Hilary (Karyn Parsons), preppy and short middle child Carlton (Alfonso Riberio) and youngest now-teenager Ashley (Tatiana Ali), who is most influenced by Will's approach to life. The show mainly consists of Will adjusting to life at Bel Air, be it school or home- and wacky hi-jinks ensue!
This season is quite crucial in the 'Fresh Prince' timeline; Aunt Vivian is pregnant with her fourth child (!), Will and Carlton finish high school with the latter looking to go to Princeton, Hilary gets a job as a TV weathergirl and starts up a relationship with news anchor Trevor Collins and Uncle Phil runs for Supreme Court Judge against his former mentor.
There are 24 episodes of 'Fresh Prince' across 4 discs. For the sake of length I'm not going to go into detail about each, but I will highlight some of my favourites:
'How I Spent My Summer Vacation': The season premiere has Will arrive back in Bel-Air for the summer, bringing back his seemingly bad attitude to the Banks' household and ignoring his uncle's authority on more than one occasion. As usual Uncle Phil is disapproving, especially as Ashley is picking up on Will's bad habits. A funny episode, with a good ending where Will tries to justify his attitude and resistance to Uncle Phil's authority, which backfires in the end!
'Momma's Baby, Carlton's Maybe': Carlton is meeting up with a former girlfriend who brings him a surprise- a baby boy whom she claims is his! Whilst the family tries to get to grips with Carlton being a potential father, Carlton being a guy who "won't even let Barbie and Ken sleep in the same shoebox!" (Ashley), he comes to term with having his own family and one night decides to elope. I enjoy this episode because there is a lot of humour concerning Vivian and Phil learning the news and having to hear about their son's "sex life". Also, the ending is pretty sombre. I won't spoil it for you but Will for once is playing the straight man and delivering the moral.
'Best Laid Plans': Will wants to get "intimate" with his 'girlfriend of the week', but she refuses to have sex before marriage. So what does Will do? With the help of his friend Jazz (Jeffrey A. Townes) he pretends to get married to her so they can have sex with no problems! This does sound ridiculous but it's a perfect example of Will's womanizing, carefree attitude to women and sex. Fortunately Will does cave in and confess, with humorous results!
'A Night at the Oprah': The Banks family are invited to guest-star on 'Oprah'. Unfortunately Will isn't included in the invitation because he isn't immediate family, but he's so excited nobody has the heart to tell him until just before they're about to go on air! This episode features a guest appearance from Oprah Winfrey herself, and she acts really well as if she's naturally presenting her show and not acting in one. The climax in particularly is very funny as Will's disruption causes the Banks family to break down dysfuctionally on air instead of the perfect exterior Phil was trying to present to the world! Plus Carlton's dancing to the Oprah theme tune is to one of the show's funniest moments!
'Just Say Yo': One of the more serious episodes, Will is feeling the pressure of both school and social life as the prom approaches, so a friend of his offers some speed for a pick up. Will puts them in his locker (though not really intending to take them), but on prom night Carlton takes the speed because he mistakes them for vitamin pills which Will also had in there. He has a huge overdose and ends up in hospital. A very sad episode with Will wrestling with whether to tell Uncle Phil that Carlton's overdose was his responsibility, and there's a downer ending to boot. Fortunately this episode has its laugh-out-loud moments and even Carlton on speed has some humour until the effects catch up with him. It is evident here that 'Fresh Prince' could handle drama as well as comedy.
'The Baby Comes Out': The episode where Nicky is born! Vivian spends the first half of the episode having pains but no actual birth happening. When her contractions do start, most of the family are out of the house having got annoyed by Vivian's whinging! This episode is hilarious with the Banks family all unable to get to Vivian when the actual birth begins. Hilary, Carlton, and Vivian's sisters are at the Beauty Salon while Phil and Will are trapped at the elevator at the hospital (Philip had gone earlier for having "pains"). I liked the running gag of Vivian crushing whoever's hand (or object) she's holding onto during her contractions, causing them to go "My Hand!"
All the episodes have their funny moments, although some jokes are dated with 90s and/or American references but they aren't that common. The acting is great as well. Will Smith is perfect as the eponymous lead being more savvy and upbeat than the Banks family and has perfect comic timing. His supporting cast really carry things along too. I love James Avery playing the formidable but well-meaning Philip Banks, who we see is very much a father figure to Will over the course of the series for all the latter's fat jokes. Janet Hubert-Whitten is likewise a brilliant partner to Philip as Vivian Banks. Unfortunately we see less of her over the course of this season (she isn't even in the finale episode) and she is replaced from Season 4 onwards. Hubert-Whitten had a dispute with the producers and Smith regarding her attitude and pregnancy behind the scenes and as a result she refused to come back for the show in the following seasons. This is a shame because I liked her portrayal of Vivian as a no-nonsense mother and former professor who was the foil to Philip's overbearing nature, in contrast to her being a more submissive character when played by Daphne Maxwell-Reid for the rest of the series.
The DVD discs themselves play smoothly and have brightly coloured menus. They are pretty barren of features however, with only an audio commentary available. There are bloopers at the end of each episode but they go hand-in-hand and aren't part of the DVD features per se.
'The Fresh Prince of Bel Air' is a fantastic show and this season encapsulates some of its funniest moments. There are loads of funny moments throughout the episodes and the cast have a great dynamic, even if things weren't as rosy behind the scenes. If you're a fan of the show then by all means get this season first!
As of the date of this review, season 3 of 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' can be found for as little as £8.99 new off base.com, but the price varies from website to website so make sure to shop around.
Summary: An excellent season to a classic 90s sitcom!
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