The Good

The Bad

Will Smith plays William “Will” Smith, a young man who is sent to live in California with his well-to-do relatives so that he can escape the rough city life of Philadelphia. While this show tried at times to deal with “social issues,” on the whole it is an enjoyable fish out of water story in which Smith clashes with the Banks family who are putting him up. As this show did run for 6 years, it isn’t surprising because the characters, while not given that much depth, are funny and the show seemed to tap into something that spoke to many different types of audiences. As everyone knows, in the world of network TV it is sink or swim and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” definitely swam.

Watching this show, I don’t know that I would have been able to tell right off that Smith was going to go on and become the superstar he became. Sure, he was funny on this show and the fact that he moved so easily from a rap artist to a TV and movie star, seemed to pave the way for a lot of other rappers that would come after him. He just has a natural charisma and charm that I think genuinely appeals to people. Which leads me to wonder why didn’t Alfonso Ribeiro follow in his footsteps a little more? Okay, I know that for every Harrison Ford there has to be a Mark Hamill, but you would think that Smith, with his stature, would get his friend some type of roles in his movies? These guys have a lot of chemistry and I think it’s a shame that they don’t tap into it.

Features

”Bloopers” and the “Best Bits of Bel Air”

Bloopers are always funny and when Will Smith messes up he doesn’t hide it. Having been an extra for two weeks on the movie Ali, he never broke character, but you could also tell he wasn’t afraid to have a good time. The same could be said for seeing him on this DVD. The “Best Bits of Bel Air” is a making of that has montages, trivia and other things that let us know what life was like on the set of this show. It’s funny to me how imminently watchable sitcoms are. I know that they are written to be this way, but still, I really think that there is an art to their accessibility.

Video

1.33:1 - Full Frame. This show looks like a standard situation comedy from the 1990s. It is bright, quick and never dwells on one area or subject for too long. It is always moving yet always seems to somehow resolve itself inside of 30 minutes. The compression on these DVDs is very good as well. The characters sometimes wear really colorful (or “loud”) clothing but done of this effects the picture. In fact, I am constantly amazed at how the compression of the DVDs really bumps up the quality of the image. It just looks tighter and brighter, which adds to the overall “lightness” of this show.

Audio

Mono Audio. I am actually somewhat surprised that this show was done in mono. Not that it sounds that bad (and considering I was watching it on a one speaker TV, it probably doesn’t matter), but man, you would think this would be in stereo. Mono was what they used for shows up until the early 1980s. It just seems like they would have made the leap by the time this show was made? Also, Will Smith wasn’t an unknown. He had a sizable fanbase because of his rap career. This is interesting and I would be curious to hear the studio’s explanation for why this is. However, it doesn’t sound bad and since I have almost no hearing in one ear, it could have been remastered in High Definition and it really wouldn’t matter, no would it?

Package

Will Smith is wearing a very “safari-like” button shirt and overalls. He is Photoshopped against an interesting mix of aqua, pink, yellow and green. His hairstyle and clothing (even the expression he is making with his face and hands) scream 1990s!! The back features some pictures from the show, a description of where Will is at in this season, a Special Features listing and some technical specs. All of the discs are nicely housed inside this vinyl cardboard cover. Inside the packaging are more pictures from the show, an episode index, and a description of the 24 episodes that make up this second season. Not a bad bit of packaging with the high quality we’ve come to expect from the folks at Warner Bros..

Final Word

A big part of this shows success was that it didn’t dwell on or try to explain things too much. It made the “Black Experience” a universal one, so that when people watched the show, much like when they watched “The Cosby Show,” they didn’t see color. They saw families going through things that every family goes through, regardless of social class or status. In doing this, I think they broke new ground and certainly paved the way for more stories like this to be told for all cultures. I was in college at the time that this show aired, and I didn’t really watch it. Although, looking back on it now, it plays the same way for me as a show like “Saved By The Bell” does. Now, this comparison might not make the creators of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” happy, simply because “Saved” is sort of seen as not as serious, but I don’t see it that way at all. I think both of these shows illuminate a very important experience in ANY color.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air - The Complete Second Season is good, comforting TV. It’s not gonna change the world but it certainly won’t hurt it either.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was released .