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Standing the Test of Time: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

April 11, 2012

Have you ever tried to watch a television show years later and wondered why you like it so much? A lot of shows don’t stand the test of time, and I’m going to find out which ones.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that I realized butlers were not a normal household presence. Not because we had one, but because the best families on television had one. They had a butler, a maid, or a live-in aunt who was basically a maid, but with a friendlier title. And these household dwellers were often awesome and hilarious. What’s not to love about having a sarcastic butler around who will say what everyone else is thinking?

But then having a butler or maid went out of style around the turn of the century and everyone wanted to watch television that was closer to reality. Get rid of the laughing audience, the maid, and any semblance of escapism. Sure, they couldn’t afford that apartment, but who am I to judge? Why should I care that their house only has three walls and no one ever sits on the back side of the kitchen table? I don’t watch TV for reality; I watch TV so I can pretend I live in a mansion with a British butler.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was the height of this phase in American television history. It was what everyone dreams about as a kid—you get to go from the ghetto to the mansion. Rags to riches, plus a really cool theme song.

Every single bit of this show screams IT’S THE NINETIES MY FRIENDS. From the bright colors, bad dancing, and “very special episodes.”

For a lot of shows, being so dated is a death sentence and results in being unwatchable soon after it stops airing. Thankfully, for fans of the 90s, this is not the case for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Its silliness and fun is exactly why it still works more than 20 years after it began airing.

I think what makes this show work the best is that it didn’t stick to the same formula that a lot of 90s shows did. Each time you tuned into Full House, you knew someone was going to learn a valuable lesson and have a heart-to-heart conversation while music played in the background. In the Fresh Prince, someone may have been learning a lesson, but they didn’t need to sit down and have an awkward, emotional talk to sum up the lesson.

Not to mention, you get to see Will Smith dance like a fool before he became “to cool to dance like an idiot” Hitch:


In my opinion, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has stood the test of time. It wasn’t breaking new ground, and it didn’t need to. It was around before every network had to come up with the next ridiculous thing to spike ratings, so it worked with something everyone loves—a funny rags-to-riches story and likeable characters. It also had this:

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