Case Number 08392

THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON

Warner Bros. // 1990 // 562 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // January 18th, 2006

The Charge

"Now this is a 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."

Opening Statement

Long before he was an alien ass-kicking Man in Black, Will Smith donned his Technicolor dreamcoat as a West Philly homeboy who gets exiled to uncle's home in Bel-Air. It's a basic fish out of water tale that is made oh-so watchable thanks to the go-for-the-gusto comedy of Smith himself. The series ran on NBC for six years and was the vehicle that launched not only Smith's acting career, but helped push rap music (Smith's original claim to fame) into the mainstream. So sit right down in your favorite easy chair we're going to spend some time with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Facts of the Case

Will Smith has what every good Philly homeboy needs: a rich relative. This one happens to live 3,000 miles away in posh Bel-Air, California. Will's mother sees the potential in her son, but she worries about him getting into trouble when he starts hanging with the wrong kind of crowd. To assure that her son will have a future, she ships Will off to California. Will's new family includes Uncle Phillip (James Avery), Aunt Vivian (Janet Hubert-Whitten) and cousins, Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), Hillary (Karyn Parsons), and Ashley (Tatyana Ali). The Banks Family as a whole are well-educated and well-bred, and they enjoy the finer things in life. But even though they live in a mansion and have a British butler (the droll and quick witty Geoffrey played by Joseph Marcell), they manage to come off as likeable people.

You'll find 24 episodes on this DVD which range from the serious (interracial marriage issues in "Guess Who's Coming to Marry?") to the silly ("Strip Tease for Two," where Will and Carlton gets jobs as strippers). You'll also find several famous faces such as Queen Latifah, Milton Berle, and Zsa Zsa Gabor (spoofing her famous cop slapping incident).

The episodes in this set are:

* Did the Earth Move For You?
* The Mother of All Battles
* Will Gets a Job
* PSAT PSTory
* Granny Gets Busy
* Guess Who's Coming to Marry?
* The Big Four-Oh
* She Ain't Heavy
* Cased Up
* Hi-Ho Silver
* The Butler Did it
* Something for Nothing
* Christmas Show
* Hilary Gets a Life
* My Brother's Keeper
* Geoffrey Cleans Up
* Community Action
* Ill Will
* Eyes on the Prize
* Those Were the Days
* Vying for Attention
* The Aunt Who Came to Dinner
* Be My Baby Tonight
* Strip Tease for Two

The Evidence

Like its predecessor The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a black comedy that isn't all about being black. While they do play the race card in several episodes, most of the comedy comes out of the typical troubles of an exuberant teen -- from after school jobs, to passing his PSAT's, to choosing just the right date for a dance. What sets the show apart from other teen comedies such as Boy Meets World is Will Smith's distinctive style. He has a comfortableness on screen that draws you in and no matter how wild this child gets, you can't help but like him and root for him to do well.

In this second season, Will is less of a fish-out-of-water. There are fewer jokes based on cultural misunderstandings and more jokes about every teen's problem of figuring out where they fit in. Throughout the season, you'll see Will becoming more and more comfortable with the Banks' lifestyle, only to fear the loss of his original Philly style. He rebels, he comes back, and it's fun to watch him straddle the fence between cheesesteakes and caviar.

Can we talk about color! The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is like a living cartoon from the moment the theme begins to play to the final credits. Smith's costuming is like Smith himself -- wild, bright, but always stylish. And who knew orange could look so good on a man?

Color is a theme you'll find through out this DVD release, from a vivid and bouncing navigation screen (which totally fits the vibe of the show) through the box art and even into the special features which really aren't all that special.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The Complete Second Season is severely lacking in the extras category. No commentary (nuff said) and only two short features. The lesser of the two, "Bel-Air Bloopers," is a slightly funny look at the show's outtakes (I expected wilder stuff from Will Smith). "Best Bits of Bel-Air" is actually a fun piece to watch. Clips from the show are grouped by theme, then edited together for pure enjoyment. Watch Carlton dance, see Jazz get tossed out the door -- and dig those crazy colors on Will Smith. All in all, that feature was worth the effort.

Closing Statement

The saving grace of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is that it did not evolve into The Will Smith Show. Though the rapper-turned-actor is the central character of the story, the series relies heavily on its ensemble cast. This group dynamic made the show a hit for many years. Though some of the humor is dated, the majority holds up as well now as it did then. Sometimes silly, sometimes poignant, the series is well-written, well-acted, and worth a look if you've never seen it before.

The Verdict

I hereby find The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The Complete Second Season an innocent comedy that will have you smiling for 562 minutes.

Review content copyright © 2006 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 90
Audio: 60
Extras: 25
Acting: 80
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 562 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Best Bits of Bel-Air
* Bel-Air Bloopers

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0098800/combined

* Official Site
http://www.warnerbros.co.uk/television/freshprince/index.htm