The theme song was written and performed by The Fresh Prince (Will Smith). Contrary to popular belief, DJ Jazzy Jeff did not compose the music for the opening credits. The music was composed by Quincy Jones III, who is credited at the end of each episode. An additional credit at the end of episodes also reads "Theme song written by Will Smith", in regard to the lyrics, with no reference to DJ Jazzy Jeff. The music often used to bridge scenes together during the show is also based on a similar chord structure as the theme song. This too is the work of Quincy Jones III. The full version of the theme song, telling how he went on a plane to Bel-Air, was only used on the first three episodes of the show, although Will Smith did record it as an unreleased B-side. The full-length version, which is 2:52", was included on Will Smith's Greatest Hits album and attributed to himself only. A 3:23" version was released in the Netherlands in 1992, and reached #3 on the charts.
For the first few episodes of the show stanzas one to three and stanzas six and seven were used. Beginning with Episode #9 (titled "Someday Your Prince Will Be in Effect (2)"), only the first two and the last two stanzas of the song were used. The change to the theme song allowed for longer episodes to be created.
Seasons 1, 5, and 6 featured an instrumental version of the theme and still photographs from the episode for the closing credits. In Season 2, the music and stills were dropped and closing credits would almost always appear over bloopers and outtakes from the episode. This continued until the end of Season 4. The closing theme over episode clips returned for Season 5, due to NBC's change from traditional credits to the split screen credits that are currently employed by the network.
William "Will" Smith (played by Will Smith) was born on July 3, 1973 in West Philadelphia. He often has disagreements with his cousin Carlton, whom he sees as not quite "black." Despite their differences, Will grows extremely close to the Banks family, even turning down his mother when she offers to let him move back in with her again in Philadelphia. At the conclusion of the story's run, he remains in Los Angeles to finish his last year of university.
Hilary Violet Banks (played by Karyn Parsons), born August 18, 1972, is Will's attractive, but dull-witted, eldest cousin, known for her notable lack of intelligence, her pretentious attitude, for being "spoiled", and her dependence on Geoffrey. In earlier seasons, Hilary's snobbishness is emphasized, as well as her shallow trendy environmental activism. During this time, she often claimed to hobnob with celebrities and loves being mistaken by people for Whitney Houston. Later on, Hilary is written as a self-centered airhead; she looks down on Will's upbringing and is obsessed with shopping and money. However, despite her apparent shallow personality, she has a strong sense of integrity and shows obvious affection to her family members. It is revealed that Hilary was conceived while Phil and Vivian were waiting for a Sly Stone concert to begin.
Carlton Banks (played by Alfonso Ribeiro), born August 4, 1974, is Will's pedantic and preppy cousin. Carlton is a firmly conservative Republican, and proves both friend and foe for Will. Although Carlton and Will often trade insults, Carlton obviously cares about Will by referring to him as "the brother I've always wanted." His role model is talk show host Bryant Gumbel, and his favorite singer is Tom Jones. His favorite actor is William Shatner, whom he annoys by making lame Star Trek jokes. Carlton also idolizes Macaulay Culkin, whom he once dressed up as for Halloween.
Ashley Banks (played by Tatyana M. Ali), born April 29, 1979, is Will's younger cousin. Ashley was Vivian's baby until her little brother Nicky came along, and always loved being with her mommy. Philip was always trying to control Ashley's life so she didn't become anything like regular teenage girls. Will's devil-may-care approach to life is an exciting alternative, which makes her generally more sympathetic and understanding towards him than other members of the Banks family. It seems that by spending time with Will, Ashley often acts rebelliously as she gets older, for which her father becomes very angry at Will. In the episode "Father Knows Best", Ashley lies and drops out of her private school and goes into a public school. Ashley matures much in the series; she is a one-hit wonder with her brief singing career and strives to become a fashion model.
The mansion is where the Banks family, as well as Will, live; the address was revealed in the fourth season's "For Sale By Owner" as 805 Saint Cloud Road. A majority of the show's scenes take place in the mansion. Originally, most of the family scenes took place in the living room, with less prominence given to the kitchen. The living room set had archways at either end to hallways, and two doorways at the back of the set to the side yard. The right-side hallway was occasionally shot in, and had a staircase upstairs, and the front door. The kitchen set was not attached to the rest of the downstairs set, and was unconventionally laid out compared to many sitcoms: The left side had counters that continued along the fourth wall (where the audience would be), and had a lot of depth (from the audience perspective), with camera angles frequently shooting almost parallel to the fourth wall. The set had two interior doors; one of which, at the right side of the set, led to the hallway left of the living room (though was not attached on set), and an exterior door to the unseen back yard. There was a dining room also off the hallway left of the living room. The upper floor hallway was shown in Season 1, until the mansion sets were completely rebuilt after the season.
In the second season, the kitchen and living room sets were rebuilt much larger, and were connected directly by an archway, allowing scenes to be shot continuously between the sets, which is where most scenes were shot. The staircase upstairs was incorporated into the back of the living room, with only one rarely-used exit to the side yard beside it. An actual television prop was added at the fourth wall, whereas there had only been one implicitly in the first season. The archway to the right still led to a hallway with the front door. The only element that remained from the original set was the kitchen's left-hand wall and island which were rotated ninety degrees to become the back wall at the right of the kitchen, with some modification to the cosmetics. The archway was the only way into the room, other than the exit at the left to the backyard patio, which was now an existing part of the main house set.
In addition, Will's and occasionally other family members', rooms were shown (sometimes changing looks between appearances) during the series. The pool house was shown in one episode of season 3. A different set was used when it became a main location in season 4 until the end of the series, after Will and Carlton moved in.
Despite the changes, the exterior shot of the Banks house, which is an actual house in Bel-Air, Los Angeles, California, was constant throughout the series, usually featured in still shots. A running gag, however, featured Jazz being thrown out of the front door using the exterior of the house. Every time he is thrown out of the house, he wears the same shirt. So when he wears the shirt, it is known that he will be thrown out of the house.
Bel-Air Prep is the high school that Will and Carlton attend in Seasons 1-3.The 3 main sets are the classroom, a hallway and the auditorium (the auditorium was only shown in three episodes: "Def Poet's Society", "Courting Disaster" and "Just Say Yo").
Jazz lives with a few friends in a run-down apartment complex in Compton, California called the Chalet Towers. This setting was seen in every season except Seasons 2 and 6.
This setting was seen throughout Season 3 because Hilary was hired as a weather girl and fell in love with Trevor Collins, who died in a bungee accident in Season 4. Due to his death, the setting was written off towards the end of the 4th Season. The setting returned in Season 6 because Hilary's own talk show was produced there.
The ULA Student Store, also known as "The Peacock Stop" for the school mascot, is where Will, Carlton, and Will's friend Jackie Ames work. In Season 4, Jackie is the manager, Carlton is the assistant manager, and Will is the cashier. When Jackie leaves ULA in the middle of Season 4, Carlton takes over as manager and Will becomes assistant manager and cashier until Season 5.
|ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards:|
|Top TV Series||Won|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement in Lighting Direction for a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards:|
|Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series - Comedy/Musical||Nominated|
|Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series - Comedy/Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series||Won|
|Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Outstanding Comedy Series||Won|
|Kids' Choice Awards:|
|Favorite Television Actor||Nominated|
|Favorite Television Show||Nominated|
|Favorite TV actor||Won|
|NCLR Bravo Awards:|
|Outstanding Television Series Actor in a Crossover Role||Nominated|
|TP de Oro:|
|Best Foreign Series (Mejor Serie Extranjera)||Nominated|
|Best Foreign Series (Mejor Serie Extranjera)||Won|
|TV Land Awards:|
|Best Broadcast Butler||Nominated|
|Young Artist Awards:|
|Best Performance by an Actor Under Ten - Television||Won|
|Best Performance by an Actor Under Ten in a TV Series||Won|
|Best Youth Comedienne||Nominated|
|Best Young Actor Guest Starring in a Television Series||Nominated|
|Best Young Actor Guest Starring or Recurring Role in a TV Series||Nominated|
|Best New Family Television Comedy Series||Won|
|Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy TV Series||Won|
The series was originally an NBC production in association with The Stuffed Dog Company and Quincy Jones Productions (later QDE, or Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment). After the show was released to syndication, the rights reverted to Warner Bros. Television, which continues to distribute the show worldwide (although NBC Universal does own the series' copyright). Currently, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air airs on TBS, Nick at Nite and The-N as well as My Network TV and was purchased by ABC Family. It is also currently being aired on the UK digital TV channel Virgin 1 and in Canada on YTV, TVtropolis and Crossroads Television.
Warner Home Video has released the first four seasons of the series on DVD. It is currently unknown if Seasons 5 and 6 will be released.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release dates||DVD Extras|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|The Complete 1st Season||25||February 8, 2005||February 21, 2005||April 13, 2005||"Back-to-Bel-Air: A Fresh Look" featurette.|
|The Complete 2nd Season||24||October 11, 2005||November 21, 2005||March 1, 2006||Best Bits of Bel Air and Bloopers from Season 2|
|The Complete 3rd Season||24||February 14, 2006||June 26, 2006||August 9, 2006||Best of the Upper Bel-Air Crust (Season 3 highlights) and Bloopers from Season 3|
|The Complete 4th Season||26||August 8, 2006||January 22, 2007||December 6, 2006||No extras are available in the boxed set of season 4.|
|The Complete 5th Season||25||TBA||TBA||TBA|
|The Complete 6th Season||24||TBA||TBA||TBA|