I have to admit, time and age had all but erased The Fresh Prince of Bel Air from my memory. I mean, yeah, I remember the show because I would watch it every week. It was funny all the time, gut-punched you when you least expected it, and Uncle Phil sounded just like a mellowed-out Shredder. It took this special to remind me, however, that I didn’t just enjoy this show, I loved this show and everyone in it.
Watching this cast of characters come back together, one man short and aged by time, to the genuine warmth that they feel towards one another is touching and brings in all of the feels. Many were hoping that this reunion would be a movie or a new episode of the TV series, but I honestly believe that they handled it perfectly and respectfully… The cast sitting down together, reminiscing, and rejoicing the memory of James Avery.
Not only that but, and keep in mind I haven’t seen this show since I was 17 years old, the reunion was a stark reminder that The Fresh Prince of Bell Air was not just a funny and entertaining television series, but in many ways it was groundbreaking for the black community. Being a young, sheltered white kid I never realized… it never occurred to me what this series meant to others or how it might have affected even my limited world view. Thanks to this show, I saw black families as successful, as stable… I saw black men as role models and fathers. Growing up in rural Texas where the perceptions frequently and unfortunately swing to the other extreme, I must acknowledge that, even as a white kid, this show was important to me as well and could have very well contributed to the man I am today. I’m not about to jump in and speak for the black community about how important that this show should be for them, but I will speak to my experience: The Fresh Prince of Bell Air, even in the smallest measure, made me a better person.
This reunion is a comforting blanket and holds nothing back. The biggest moment is the return of Janet Hubert, the original Aunt Viv, who sits down one on one with Will Smith for an interview. Given the three decades of animosity between them, acknowledged when they both admit that they haven’t spoken to each other in 27 years. Although cordial, Hubert is evenly and brutally honest with her grievances, telling Smith that the rivalry between the two ruined her good name and cost her everything. Smith listens, never interrupts, and allows her to tell her story.
At the end, you can almost tell that a great weight has been lifted and the two reconcile and, although I know it could very well be Hollywood chicanery, it certainly feels genuine, especially when Hubert tells Smith, “I’ve never hated you.”
The other emotional gut punch is the tribute to James Avery in a montage of clips and the cast telling stories about their departed cast member. The love in the room is simply tangible.
This special was heartwarming. You could tell it was done out of love, rather than obligation and, best of all, it made me want to watch the old series again.
This is a reunion done right.