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One of the most popular sitcoms of its era, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air told the story of West Philly teenager Will Smith as he brought his street-wise hip hop sensibilities to the Banks household, moving in with his aunt and uncle in Bel Air, California.

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  In the middle of a new golden age for black sitcoms, The Fresh Prince, in addition to having a black star and an all black cast, would over its six year run have guest appearances by numerous black stars making their own moves on the career ladder (Tyra Banks, Don Cheadle, and Tevin Campbell immediately come to mind).  How many sitcoms in history have had their theme song rapped by its star?  The defense rests.

Legacy:  Very, very easy to forget with all that’s happened since, but Will Smith was damn near done before this project got greenlit.  Like a lot of young brothers who get money young, he spent freely and the IRS was on him.  The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air gave Will a second career as an actor, and to his credit he’s taken full advantage of the opportunity.

Craft:  With all due respect to TBS, this show was truly very, very funny.  Well cast, well written, and very well performed, the show consistently brought the laughs, which (should be) the goal for any sitcom.

Crossover:  And let’s pass some of that praise on to NBC and its various station managers across the country.  When the show was for all intents and purposes cancelled after three seasons, both fans and affiliates let the powers that be know how popular the show was in spite of it not ever being the number one show in America.  Three more seasons later, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air more than earned its place as a syndication favorite.

Apollo:  Another show where you could pick from many choices.  I’ll go with the running joke that we all know: Jazz (Jazzy Jeff) getting thrown out of the mansion repeatedly for either a) hitting on Hilary, b) pissing off Uncle Phil, or c) usually a combination of both.

Next time on the TV show countdown, something much more serious.  Until then…

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