This Day In Black History, September 10, 1990: 'The Fresh Prince of Bel Air' Debuts On NBC

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
@carolvickifan84 via Instagram

Arguably one of the best sitcoms of the 90s, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air came on the scene on Sept. 10, 1990. The brainchild of Benny Medina starred rapper and first-time actor Will Smith who played a streetwise teen from West Philadelphia. His mother, Viola (Vernee Watson Johnson), sent him to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle in Los Angeles to keep him out of trouble.

Every episode highlighted the stark differences in Black cultural experiences between growing up in the hood and the very privileged lifestyle that the rich are afforded. This backdrop made for side-splitting humor as well as very somber moments born out of the social issues of the times. They explored everything from racism and class to drugs and politics. With NBC as its home for six seasons, it was the first time hip-hop went mainstream on prime time television.

The show's casting was nothing shy of perfection. Will's comedic antics were complimented by Aunt Vivian's class and scholarship as a college English professor; Uncle Phil's love of the law and all-things edible; cousin Hilary's valley girl persona; Carlton's extremely conservative ways, yet nerdy posture; cousin Ashley's evolution from innocent little sister to budding womanhood; and Jeffery, the witty butler. 

Some of the most memorable episodes featured popular celebrities. Everybody seemed to pop up on the show. DJ Jazzy Jeff was best known as Will's best friend and not-so-secret admirer of Hilary which frequently got him thrown out of the house by Uncle Phil. Other guest stars included Queen Latifah, D.L. Hughley, Chris Rock, Nia Long, Tyra Banks, John Amos, and even Donald Trump.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air gave us the Carlton dance (performed by Alphonso Ribeiro), Aunt Viv's (Janet Hubert) return to her dancing roots, and the scene between Will, his biological father Lou (Ben Vereen), and Uncle Phil. These are moments that will be forever etched in our memories.


While there is talk of a Fresh Prince reboot, the death of James Avery in 2013 would complicate the storyline. There is also the seemingly never-ending feud between Janet Hubert and Will Smith. She's argued that Will had her ousted from the show and blackballed her in Hollywood halfway through the show's run. She was replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid with virtually no notice. Many fans would rather see Hubert reprise the role.

All and all, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was loved by its legions of fans. We can only hope that if the Smith-Banks family reunites, they can make that magic all over again.

Click here to get alerts of the latest stories