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In fall 1990, a new sitcom made its network debut on NBC. Will Smith, a successful hip-hop musician, saw his film and TV career kick-started with the launch of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The day of the premiere, Sept. 10, The Hollywood Reporter reviewed the comedy:
In the point of view of NBC, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air arrives as the network’s great primetime hope. For as expressed by NBC heads, this new sitcom promises to be on a par with the Second Coming for the expected “rap”-ture.
In point of fact, Prince (a work in progress was viewed) is tolerable television, far from a revelatory experience.
Cast as the Prince is rap star Will Smith, here operating in a premise not exactly new to television, e.g. our old friend the fish-outta-water set-up. For Prince, who originally hails from a rough-and-tumble part of Philly, has come to Bel-Air to reside with preppified, wealthy relations.
And the jarring culture shock of this street-smart (“def,” which means two different things, depending on who’s doing the listening) kid in the monied Bel-Air neighborhood generates the purported comedy, the attempted reconciliation of two different worlds’ confusing business.
For instance, Prince’s inaugural airing (opening with a music video intro that actually tells you all you need to know) presents the Prince having to make his way through such conventions as getting to know a stuffy butler, materialistic cousins and, as pertains to the central plot of Prince’s debut, attending a formal dinner party for his uncle’s law associates.
In coming episodes the Prince will rap and roll his way through his new environs. But this is bubble gum rap, a sticky confection that runs out of flavor faster than you can rhyme “flat” with “rap.” — Miles Beller
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