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Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down and I'd like to take a minute just sit right there, I'll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The: Season One
Yes, it’s the first verse of the theme tune to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air starring the ‘fresh prince’ himself, Will Smith. Before I even started to watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air first season DVD, I began to write down all the lyrics to the theme with a degree of clarity that is deeply, deeply disturbing.

I don’t remember watching this show religiously, I don’t even remember watching a complete season of the show, but I remember that darn theme song like my life depended on it. WHY? Well, it's catchy and stupid and no matter how hard I try to fill my head with important things like my ATM pin number and the names of my parents, stuff like the fresh prince theme song and other useless pop culture jargon just keeps filling up my head until there is barely any room left. I am working on being more practical, but for now, the jargon comes in handy.

Series
As The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song attests, Will is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Bel Air, California after getting in trouble at home in Philadelphia. As soon as Will arrives at his relatives large mansion, it’s clear what the series is going to capitalise on. Namely the class differences between the wealthy, refined Banks family and the streetwise Will. Uncle Phil (James Avery) is a lawyer and his wife Vivian (Janet Hubert-Whitten) a college professor. They have three children, nerdy Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), spoilt eldest daughter Hillary (Karyn Parsons) and the baby of the family, Ashley (Tatyana Ali), who immediately forms a strong relationship with Will. The ensemble is rounded out by the family’s British butler Geoffrey (Joseph Marcell), who is the most charming character of the group.

The idea of a sitcom built around one standout personality is not new, with a comedian usually being the star. Seinfeld, Home Improvement, and Everybody Loves Raymond were all created around their respective male leads. But The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was created around then rap star Will Smith, part of the duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince.

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The: Season One
Pretty much anything Will does results in laughs, but the series success is also due to the cast allowing Will to dominate scenes while also providing subtle comical support. The exception to this is Alfonso Riberio's portrayal of the dorky Carlton. With his insane dance routines and snobbish attitude, Carlton often outshines Will by providing some of the most memorable moments in many episodes. Will and Carlton are a hilarious duo whose antics are without a doubt THE highlight of the series, alongside the infectious theme song.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a delightful cheesefest. I am embarrassed by how much I laughed at this show, not to mention knowing the theme song word for word. It's a silly show, but it revels in it's silliness, not trying to be an inventive or clever sitcom, just delivering sure fire fun and entertainment.

Video
Presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio 1.33:1 Fullscreen, the show looks almost the same as originally broadcast and thankfully, the print has aged very well. Skin tones are realistic, colour saturation excellent. Colour depth is excellent, especially important with all of Smith’s fluorescent fashion ensembles front and centre every episode. There is a slight softness to the overall image and occasional visible grain, but otherwise there are no other defects or problems.

Audio
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is very average, which is a shame for a show that features so much music. Dialogue is always clear and audible and the memorable theme song comes through the front and centre channels for jazzy ambience. This is a solid, if unremarkable, audio package that adequately serves the show.

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The: Season One
Extras
The lone extra on this first season release is a 20 minute featurette, Back at Bel-Air: A Fresh Look. Only select members of the cast are featured in this retrospective with Will Smith being the most notably absent. There are a few entertaining comments about making the show, but overall this is a very weak featurette.

Overall
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air may not be considered a prestigious release, but the show deserves much better treatment on DVD. Will Smith's absence from the featurette is a major disappointment and surely a Will and Carlton commentary would have been comedy gold. However, with 25 cheese filled episodes to sink your teeth into, there can't be too much complaining. Just dive in and sacrifice a piece of your brain to the infectious theme song.


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