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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that two of the main characters of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air are teenage boys and that some of their jokes can border on offensive and sexist. But taken in context and with a grain of salt, they're nothing worse than what kids hear at school or on the playground.
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What's the story?
THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR is a feel-good sitcom about a streetwise teenager from Philadelphia who throws the serene life of his well-off relatives for a loop when he goes to live with them in Bel-Air. Will Smith -- back in the days when he was half of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince rather than a blockbusting action hero -- plays Will, an outspoken inner-city Philly teen whose mother sends him to live with his Aunt Vivian (first played Janet Hubert-Whitten and later by Daphne Maxwell Reid) and Uncle Philip Banks (James Avery) and their three spoiled kids: Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), Hilary (Karyn Parsons), and Ashley (Tatyana Ali). As Will assimilates into his new surroundings, he learns about the good life and adapts to the Banks' carefree lifestyle -- and also teaches his rich relatives that life isn't all about how much money you have in the bank.
Is it any good?
Parents can feel good about letting older tweens and young teens tune in to this sitcom. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air originally ran on NBC for six seasons in the mid-'90s and is now available on DVD and in syndication. Although there's some bawdy humor -- in the episode in which Will and Carlton start high school, for example, it's evident that their hormones have gone into overdrive, and they're not afraid to hit on every girl who walks by -- each episode leaves viewers with a powerful lesson on how to live life with dignity and grace. What's more, the Banks family is intact and portrayed positively.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how to handle situations you're not used to. How does Will deal with being a fish out of water in his new environment in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?
Questions about coping with high school are also relevant. What kind of peer pressure can teens expect to encounter? What should they expect when they start dating?
- Premiere date: September 10, 1990
- Cast: Alfonso Ribeiro, James Avery, Will Smith
- Networks: Nickelodeon, Syndicated, TeenNick
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models
- Character strengths: Compassion, Humility
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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