Review: The Fresh Prince Reunion

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Courtesy of IMDb

‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion’ (2020), starring Tatyana Ali, James Avery, Ross Bagley.

Leuel Bekele, A&E Editor

To think it’s been 30 years since “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” premiered on NBC back in September of 1990 — a debut that predates my existence on Earth by 10 years.

The Legacy

“The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” was a sitcom that follows the life of a street-wise teenager from West Philadelphia named Will (Will Smith) who’s sent at his mother’s request to live with his aunt Vivian (Janet Hubert/Daphne Maxwell Reid) and her family.

Throughout the show’s six-year run, Will and his family go on various escapades dealing with the trials and tribulations of life and what it means to be a family — all while highlighting Black culture in new ways and becoming a massive influence on pop culture.

The series was wildly successful and left a legacy that’s inspired generations of viewers, including myself and my peers.

Paying Tribute

In the “The Fresh Prince Reunion,” released Nov. 18 on HBO Max, the cast comes together to reminisce over the good times on the show and its legacy, as well as paying homage to actor James Avery, who died in 2013.

Avery played Uncle Phil, the show’s beloved father figure who inspired co-stars and audiences both on set and off. In the original series, he dishes out priceless wisdom and wise words that are widely quoted.

Industry Hardships

Janet Hubert, who played Aunt Vivian until she was recast before the third season, also made an appearance.

During the show’s original run, the recasting was shrouded in vicious rumors of a feud between Hubert and Smith which are reconciled during the reunion.

She describes the expiration of her contract and a less than favorable deal she was presented with. She was forced to decline and instead of renegotiating, they found a replacement: Maxwell Reid.

In tandem with Hubert’s life circumstances, the dynamic on set was damaged by the rumors causing a strain on the atmosphere during her final days in the role. Later on, she had difficulties finding work.

Huebert’s experience reminded me of Dave Chappelle’s feud with Comedy Central over the payment of residual royalties from “The Chappelle Show.” Chappelle recently made light of the situation in a lengthy Instagram video, garnering support for a boycott of his old show.

When Chapelle left Comedy Central, he was labeled a “mad man” — much like Huebert was called “difficult.”

Maxwell Reid had big shoes to fill with Hubert’s departure, but the show continued for four seasons without her. It was a strange situation, but one that’s not all that uncommon in the entertainment business.

Throughout its run, “The Fresh Prince” influenced pop culture in ways originally unimaginable to those involved in the making of the show. The reunion brings the cast back together to trigger the nostalgia of the many who’ve enjoyed it in the 30 years since it aired, and kindle new interest in the show.