The Stuffed Dog Company Quincy Jones Productions (seasons 1-3) Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment (seasons 4–6) NBC Productions</small>
<tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Distributor</th>
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Warner Bros. Television Distribution</td></tr><tr><th colspan="2" class="navbox-title" style="text-align:center; ">Broadcast</th></tr><tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Original channel</th>
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NBC</td></tr><tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Picture format</th>
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480i (SDTV)</td></tr><tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Original run</th>
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10, 1990 (1990-09-10) – 20, 1996 (1996-05-20)</td></tr>
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is an American television sitcom that originally aired on NBC from September 10, 1990, to May 20, 1996. The show stars Will Smith as a fictionalized version of himself, a street-smart teenager from West Philadelphia who is sent to move in with his aunt and uncle in their wealthy Bel Air mansion, where his lifestyle often clashes with that of his relatives. The 148 episodes were broadcast over six seasons.
Will Smith was a popular and successful rapper during the late 1980s, but he spent his money uncontrollably and grossly underpaid his income taxes. The IRS eventually assessed him a penalty of $2.8 million, seizing many of his belongings and garnishing his income. This almost caused Smith to go bankrupt when, in 1989, he was approached by the television network NBC, who signed him on to a contract and created a sitcom focused on him.
The theme song and opening sequence set the premise of the show. Will Smith is a street-smart teenager, born and raised in West Philadelphia, who was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Bel Air, Los Angeles after getting in a fight.
The theme song was written and performed by Smith, as "The Fresh Prince". The music was composed by Quincy Jones, who is credited with Smith at the end of each episode. The music often used to bridge scenes together during the show is based on a similar chord structure. The full version of the theme song was used unedited on some early episodes. The full-length version, which is 2:52, was included on Will Smith's Greatest Hits album and attributed to him only. A 3:23 version was released in the Netherlands in 1992, and reached #3 on the charts.
For the first few episodes of the show stanzas one to three and stanzas six and seven were used. Beginning with Episode #4 (titled "Not With My Pig, You Don't"), only the first two and the last two stanzas of the song were used. The change to the theme song allowed for longer episodes to be created.
Seasons 1, 5, and 6 featured an instrumental version of the theme and still photographs from the episode for the closing credits. In Seasons 2, 3, and 4, the music and stills were dropped and closing credits would almost always appear over bloopers and outtakes from the episode.
The mansion is where the Banks family, as well as Will, live; the address was revealed in the fourth season's "For Sale By Owner" as 805 Saint Cloud Road (Script error
). The real address of the mansion however is 251 North Bristol Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90049, which was built in 1937. Most of the show's scenes take place in the mansion. Originally, most of the family scenes took place in the living room, with less prominence given to the kitchen. The living room set had archways at either end to hallways, and two doorways at the back of the set to the side yard. The right-side hallway was occasionally shot in, and had a staircase upstairs, and the front door. The kitchen set was not attached to the rest of the downstairs set, and was unconventionally laid out compared to many sitcoms: The left side had counters that continued along the fourth wall (where the audience would be), and had a lot of depth (from the audience perspective), with camera angles frequently shooting almost parallel to the fourth wall. The set had two interior doors; one of which, at the right side of the set, led to the hallway left of the living room (though was not attached on set), and an exterior door to the unseen back yard. There was a dining room also off the hallway left of the living room. The upper floor hallway was shown in Season 1, until the mansion sets were completely rebuilt after the season.
In the second season, the kitchen and living room sets were rebuilt much larger with a more contemporary style (as opposed to the much more formal style of the first season), and were connected directly by an archway, allowing scenes to be shot continuously between the sets, which is where most scenes were shot. The staircase upstairs was incorporated into the back of the living room, with only one rarely-used exit to the side yard beside it. An actual television prop was added at the fourth wall, whereas there had only been one implicitly in the first season. The archway to the right still led to a hallway with the front door. The only element that remained from the original set was the kitchen's left-hand wall and island which were rotated ninety degrees to become the back wall at the right of the kitchen, with some modification to the cosmetics. The archway was the only way into the room, other than the exit at the left to the backyard patio, which was now an existing part of the main house set.
In addition, Will's and occasionally other family members', rooms were shown (sometimes changing looks between appearances) during the series. The pool house was shown in one episode of season 3. A different set was used when it became a main location in season 4 until the end of the series, after Will and Carlton moved in.
Despite the changes, the exterior shot of the Banks house was constant throughout the series, usually featured in still shots. Contrary to popular belief the house used for the exterior shots is not located in Bel-Air, Los Angeles, California, but is in fact located in Brentwood, at 251 North Bristol Ave, Los Angeles, CA, United States. A running gag, however, featured Jazz being physically thrown out of the front door using the exterior of the house. Every time he is thrown out of the house, he is shown wearing the same shirt although he does not always wear it when he is thrown out (the producers never shot a second sequence with Jazz being thrown out of the house, only adjusting the original scene for time purposes; an exception is in the episodes "Where There's a Will, There's a Way: Part One" and "Community Action". In "Community Action" Jazz was thrown out along with a lifesize cardboard cut-out of Bill Cosby, complete with a blooper showing Jeff Townes reshooting his flying off the house several times).
Bel-Air Academy is the private high school that Will and Carlton attend in the show's first three seasons. Ashley starts attending the school as a freshman the same year Will and Carlton graduate from Bel-Air Academy in the show's third season.
This setting was seen throughout Season 3 because Hilary was hired as a weather girl, and fell in love with Trevor Collins who also worked at the station. After Trevor died in a bungee accident, the setting was written off toward the end of the fourth season. The setting returned in Season 6 however, because Hilary's own talk show was produced there.
The University Los Angeles Store (also known as "The Peacock Stop", for the school's mascot, and a nod to the logo of NBC) is where Carlton, and Will's friend Jackie Ames worked. In Season 4, Jackie is the manager, Carlton is the assistant manager, and Will is the cashier. When Jackie leaves ULA in the middle of Season 4, Carlton takes over as manager and Will becomes assistant manager and cashier until Season 5. Carlton took the power that he had as manager to his head and started trying to control Will and over priced everything in the store. After an argument between Will and Carlton, Will leaves and the Peacock Stop begins to go out of business. Although ULA is a fictional school, its colors (blue and white) and mascot (peacock) belong to Upper Iowa University and thus the producers approached the school to request permission before using them in the scenes.
During the fall 1991-92 season, NBC gained two hit television shows to anchor their Monday night line-up (Blossom aired immediately after The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). To gain popularity between the two shows, Will Smith appeared in an episode as himself under the rap persona of The Fresh Prince. Several episodes later, Karyn Parsons showed up in an episode of Blossom as Hilary Banks. Parsons also appeared in the Patti LaBelle sitcom, Out All Night as her Fresh Prince character.
In the House and Fresh Prince were both executive produced by Winifred Hervey, David Salzman and Quincy Jones. During the second season's first episode, Alfonso Ribeiro and Tatyana Ali appeared as their Fresh Prince characters (Carlton and Ashley Banks) in the crossover episode "Dog Catchers". Later that season, James Avery (Phillip Banks) appeared as a mediator in the episode "Love on a One-Way Street". In the Season 4 episode "My Pest Friend's Wedding", James Avery and Daphne Maxwell Reid (Vivian Banks) guest starred as Dr. Maxwell Stanton's parents. Both Avery and Reid portrayed the parents of Ribeiro's Fresh Prince character. Joseph Marcell, who played the wisecracking Geoffrey Butler on Fresh Prince, also appeared as an officiating minister in the same episode.
The series was originally an NBC production in association with The Stuffed Dog Company and Quincy Jones Entertainment. After the show was released to syndication in 1994, the series distributed with Warner Bros. Television Distribution, which continues to distribute the show worldwide (although NBCUniversal does own the series' copyright). WGN America was the first cable channel to acquire the series in 1997, TBS acquired the series a year later in 1998; both channels carried the series until the fall of 2003, though TBS reacquired the series in 2007. The theme song was shown in the original TBS run, but after TBS re-acquired Fresh Prince in 2007, the opening credits were truncated and the theme song removed and replaced with the instrumental version used as the show's closing theme; these versions also re-added portions of scenes cut from the original syndicated prints for some episodes, particularly those from seasons 3-6. TBS continues to air the series today, early in the morning. Reruns also aired on WPIX-TV on weeknights from 1994 until 1996, and as a weekday basis, sometimes on
weekends until 2004.
The series aired on Nick at Nite from 2004 to 2009, as well as sister network (through Nickelodeon) The N (now TeenNick) with portions of scenes that were removed from other syndicated airings, with parts of scenes kept in other syndicated airings removed due to time constraints; the series was dropped from its schedule in September 2009 after Disney/ABC purchased the rights to the show.
In July 2009, Disney XD acquired the rights to the series, though it was quickly moved from prime-time to late night airings, and only episodes from seasons 1-3 are aired, mainly because those episodes are more appropriate for young viewers and does not contain as much mature themes, sexual content and strong language as later episodes. But in August 2010, Disney XD stopped airing the show.
ABC Family acquired the series in September 2008, though airing all 148 episodes; originally airing exclusively on Saturday nights, the series was added to ABC Family's weekday line-up in late 2009, where it currently also airs at midnight.
In Australia, the show was aired on the Nine Network from 1991 until 1996, and was syndicated various times throughout the 2000s. On Foxtel, Australia's cable network, the series was aired on Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite. The show is currently being aired on the Nine Network at irregular time frames on weekends.
In the UK, the show was exclusively aired in 1991 on BBC Two up until the Summer 2004, originally in the DEF II programming block. The channel edited some of the episodes so that, like the pilot, the titles would come before the beginning of the episode; this was indicated by the lack of credits in the first scene. Other episodes were broadcast with the pre-titles teaser intact. It has since aired on digital channels Trouble and Channel One, both of which are now defunct, before moving to Sky Living Loves. Since Summer 2011, it now airs on Viva, MTV UK and Nickelodeon UK, where airings on the latter are heavily edited both for time constraints and suggestive references unsuitable for Nickelodeon's young demographic.
In Ireland, the show aired on Network 2's children's strand The Den until its final number of seasons when it was felt that the series had become too grown up for younger children, RTÉ moved the series to a prime time slot on Friday evenings. In 2011 RTÉ Two began re-runs of the series on their children's strand TRTÉ at 11:30.
In Spain, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a huge success. Originally it arrived in Spain via regional broadcaster TV3 who screened episodes dubbed into Catalan, but the series would go unnoticed until national broadcaster Antena3TV picked up the rights for a national broadcast. Titled El principe de Bel Air, the series would open with a Spanish version of the Fresh Prince rap. The series took the 2pm weekday comedy spot that A3TV had opened, and remained anchored there for years, where the channel rerun the series in loop numerous times. The series would later expand to air two daily episodes, at 2 and 2:30pm seven days a week. A3TV usually aired new episodes once the US had completed the series, and new episodes would usually arrive in time for the Summer months, where they would air in the Monday to Friday 2pm slot. Once these were screened, A3TV would go back to reruns. The Fresh Prince double slot on A3TV usually attracted 2.5 million viewers and the series usually ranked in the Daily Top 10 of Spanish TV.
After many years of rerunning on Antena3TV, El principe de Bel Air would find a second life on Spain's regional channels, where it again went on to enjoy multiple looped reruns. In 2010, Antena3TV recovered the series and placed it in the schedules of its spin off youth skewed digital channel Antena Neox where it continues to air.
In Italy, the show originally aired on Italia Uno between 1992 and 1999 and was known as Willy, il Principe di Bel Air. The Mediaset network, particularly Italia Uno, is renowned for airing dubbed syndicated shows from the U.S. (see Italia Uno for the full list of shows). The show occasionally broadcasts reruns of these series in the morning block. Fresh Prince also briefly aired on one of Italia Uno's sister channels, Boing, a channel marketed at children and teenagers.
Warner Home Video has released the complete series, seasons 1-6 on DVD in Region 1. Seasons 1-4 have been released in regions 2 & 4. Seasons 5-6 have been released in Region 2 in Germany. The shows and DVD menus are in English; only the DVD packaging is in German.