Remembering The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air not so subtlety left us 20 years ago today. It’s final image, Will Smith turning off the lights of his now empty former home still resonates with many. Unlike Martin, which for all intents and purposes ended the day Tisha Campbell-Martin and Martin Lawrence couldn’t be in the same room with one another, The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air felt like closure, the same scary, yet appropriate feeling you have when you realize you’ve outgrown something.

Even if The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was originally a serendipitous moment for Will Smith to fight near bankruptcy, it still offered far more lessons about life than not. It became the premier African-American sit-com of the ’90s and maybe more than Martin, it underscored the idea of a man’s passage through adulthood more than any other show in its class. It’s more of a fact that the more interesting aspects of transitioning from childhood to the trials and tribulations of being an adult are the scariest yet more fascinating things in regards to telling a story.

You remember the moments that made you gasp just as hard as they made you laugh. Trevor’s Proposal to Hilary gone awry, Will being shot, the duality of being black yet not black enough and the greatest scene in show history with Will breaks down over his father’s abandonment. As often as we laughed at Will delivering awkward lines to women or brushing off the latest pair of Jordans, you realized that all he wanted to do was grow in his own way. Eventually, he did. Even if love never found him how he thought it would with Jackie (Tyra Banks). Or Lisa (Nia Long). Or Kathleen (Tisha Campbell-Martin). Or Kayla (Jasmine Guy). Or … you get the point, Will Smith arguably had the greatest roster of girlfriends who ever existed.

What got Will Smith through his awkward years as a teenager to his eventual last days in Bel-Air, was his family. His support system and most important of all, his uncle Phil. Carlton was the brother who kept him grounded, even if he attempted to shine on him at the worst of times. So much of Will’s growth and in particular, Fresh Prince‘s ascent into being a definitive television show occurred in that living room.

Twenty years ago today, Will Smith cut the lights off on the first important stage of his life. The next one was just about to begin.