It’s honestly hard to believe that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air made its debut on NBC 30 years ago but, even decades later, the show has remained as popular as ever. Thanks to network reruns and streaming services, new generations are becoming well acquainted with Will Smith and the Banks family. So what makes this show ‘90s-era sitcom so popular among fresh eyes? Well, Daphne Maxwell Reid has provided some keen thoughts on the subject.
Fresh off her appearance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion, Daphne Maxwell took some time to speak with me about her time on the show. We also discussed the show’s legacy and why it remains a fixture in pop culture to this day. While Reid believes the exact context of the original show is difficult to recreate, she believes its universal themes are what have kept it around for so long:
It's really hard to recapture the context of the original show, because it had to do with what people were feeling at that time. A lot of the themes and the stories were universal stories that will live on and have lived on for 30 years already. They were about family, and they were about a fish out of water and family and how so many disparate people with different ways of living, all the different family members had a different way of looking at life, and how they all got together to solve a problem or to move forward towards something. And it's interesting to see it all played out all the different viewpoints to one end. And I think that's what makes the show so iconic, is that it is such a universal theme show.
It's hard to argue with Daphne Maxwell Reid’s sentiments on Fresh Prince. While the show focused on the Banks’ (an upper middle-class Black family), their day-to-day situations were ones that just about any of us could relate to. This helped to keep the characters grounded in reality, which is probably why so many still identify with them to this day.
Now, there’s a chance for this level of relatability to increase even further, as Will Smith has teamed up with filmmaker Morgan Cooper to produce a dramatic reimagining of Fresh Prince. The show, simply titled Bel-Air, is based on Cooper’s viral short film and will revamp the classic story for the modern viewing public. Reid also shared some thoughts on the upcoming show:
It's a very interesting concept and to see a snippet of what [Morgan Cooper] has proposed, and has shot already, that encouraged Will [Smith] to join forces with him. It's very interesting, it's a dramatic version of what The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would be at this time.
Reid’s sentiments about Bel-Air and the staying power of the original show match up with those of her former co-star, Tatyana Ali, who thinks the show is a “dope” idea. The new series certainly has plenty of potential and, if It’s anything like Cooper’s initial trailer, it could really be something special. Still, the original series will continue to hold a special place in fans’ hearts as time goes on. I think I speak for many viewers when I say we’re certainly grateful to Daphne Maxwell Reid and her co-stars for helping to create such a humorous and relatable TV family.
Both The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and its reunion special are currently available to stream on HBO Max.