By Dave B.
Ordinarily, a reunion show is not something I would have any interest in. I prefer looking forward to looking back. But, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is one of the few shows that isn’t science-fiction or fantasy, that I have any nostalgia for. Plus I was bored, so I decided to make an exception for this reunion and I’m glad that I did.
Despite fond memories of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, I had forgotten how funny and formative the show truly was. The reunion helped me to remember. More than once, I was literally gasping for air from laughing so hard after being reintroduced to some of the show’s funniest moments. The reunion also has more than a few poignant moments, as the cast recalls some of the social issues that the series tackled and that are still relevant today. The reunion does an excellent job of making the case that The Fresh Prince is one of those timeless shows that will continue to have social relevance in the future. Most moving is the cast’s remembrances of the late James Avery (Uncle Phil) who passed away in 2013. By all indications, he positively and significantly impacted the lives of his fellow castmates and their grief at his loss feels deeply genuine.
Surprisingly, my biggest problem with this reunion is Will Smith. While he’s charming and inoffensive, the power differential that’s an inevitable result of his superstardom, subtly permeates all of the interactions between him and the former cast. This is especially true during his private discussion with a “surprise” guest. I have no doubt that there is genuine love between the former cast members, but too often, the reunion feels like how I would imagine having family dinner with a billionaire sibling would feel: you’re glad to see them, but their success naturally would make things awkward and it would be difficult to hold them to account for anything for which they didn’t want to be held to account.
Overall, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion is an enjoyable walk down memory lane. Fans of the show won’t regret spending time on it, although it falls juuuuuust below something that is a “must see”. It also serves as more evidence that, as far as content is concerned, HBO Max is far and away the best streaming service (it’s user interface and general availability are other issues entirely, however). Have I changed my inclination to avoid reunion shows? Not really. But if more of them are crafted with as much care and respect for the fans as this one is, I might consider giving a few more of them a chance in the future.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.