In west Philadelphia born and raised…. If you watched any number of episodes from the series you will know the song. I am sad enough to know all the words. I used to watch this on BBC2 most days as a kid and recently revisited the series on Netflix and managed to do what I couldn’t do as a teenager, watch all six seasons.
The story is about Will Smith getting into trouble in his home city of Philadelphia. “I got in one little fight and my Mom got scared” to help him get on the straight narrow his mum sends him to live with his aunt and uncle in Bel Air. They live a life of luxury in a huge house, with a butler to wait on them, lots of money, private schooling and ambition to get to the top.
This is a series about a black American family. The show looks at many issues, one being how badly black people were and still are treated in America. The show looks at how the family have come from humble beginnings and worked hard to become rich and successful. It is less wholesome than the Cosby Show and it definitely tries to break away from the Traditional black family show.
Uncle Phil is the head of the family although Auntie Viv is the boss. Him and Will have a love hate relationship because Will gets himself and everyone else in trouble. Phil starts off as a lawyer and works his way up as a judge. His position is compromised on a regular basis by Will and we see many arguments Beneath all that is a strong bond, respect, love and a lot of lessons learnt.
Viv the matriarch lays down the rules. Phil thinks he is in charge, but this is clearly not the case. She is the voice of reason when Phil blows his top. Her part in the show got smaller as the seasons went on, particularly when the character was recast. This was a real shame.
Phil and Viv have three children, two daughters and a son. Hillary the oldest is Ditsy, Vain, money obsessed, lazy, stylish, but does have a good heart. Carlton is a real geek and is the extreme opposite to Will in every way. He loves his prep school jumpers, Tom Jones, dreams of Princeton, has no luck with the ladies, dances with gusto and loves money. Ashley the youngest grows up over the years and we see her grow into a woman. We see the many problems that she faces as she grows into a teenager, including sex, boys, bullying and wanting to fit in. They are a very close knit family despite Will disrupting everything they do.
Geoffrey is the butler, but he is more than just the staff. He plays a major role in all their lives and is a confident for many of their issues without much support himself. He has a wild past which often turns up to bite him on the arse. He is a very well spoken englishmen in contrast to his American hosts.
I loved this program as a kid, but a lot of the sex stuff went well over my head back then. I was surprised at how much sex is talked about in the show. Will Smith is basically himself and is left to go wild with the part. This is particularly true when he meets the ladies. Will is obsessed with women, doesnt take anything seriously and has become lazy. I wonder how true the character was to the real Will Smith? He was already in the money when the show started and this kicked started his acting career.Despite the carnage there is a clear moral to each episode.
Phil is my favourite character and he made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions Carltons dance is a highlight of the show although it is clear the actor that plays him is a very talented dancer. The whole cast work perfectly together and it makes for a great show.