The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air (1990)

Fresh and innovative as a 90’s-iconic TV sitcom with richly-developed characters, hilarious situational comedy, precocious social-commentary on important black cultural topics/themes, and star-making rapper-turned-actor: Will Smith. 9.4/10.

Plot Synopsis: Will Smith plays himself in this NBC sitcom where fictional Will’s mom sends him away from his rough Philadelphia neighborhood to live with wealthy Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian in Bel-Air. Will often has fun at the expense of stuck-up cousins Carlton and Hilary.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

S1 – 7.5/10 / S2 – 9.5/10 / S3 – 8.7/10 / S4 – 9.4/10 / S5 – 6.2/10 / S6 – 8/10

CLC’s Best Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Episodes: 1. Papa’s Got A Brand New Excuse, 2. Will Goes A Courtin’, 3. Whoops, There It Is!, 4. Not, I Barbecue, 5. My Brother’s Keeper, 6. Day Damn One, 7. Def Poet’s Society, 8. Sleepless In Bel-Air, 9. Just Say Yo, 10. Those Were The Days, 11. Will Is From Mars, 12. Fresh Prince After Dark, 13. Mistaken Identity, 14. The Ethnic Tip, 15. Courting Disaster, 16. Robbing The Banks, 17. You Bet Your Life, 18. The Mother Of All Battles, 19. The Philadelphia Story, 20. Eye Tooth, 21. Guess Who’s Coming To Marry?, 22. Cased Up, 23. Six Degrees Of Graduation. 24. I, Done, 25. The Fresh Prince Project

Official CLC Review

Bel Air, California; 1990

A Young Man From Philadeplphia Crowned ‘The Fresh Prince’ Pulls Up To His Uncle’s Mansion – And Nothing Was The Same

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

Bel Air, California; 1990. A young man from Philadelphia nicknaming himself ‘The Fresh Prince’ pulls up to the White House-looking mansion of his Uncle Phil and starts knocking to the tune of Soul II Soul’s ‘Back To Life’. A sarcastic butler named Geoffrey opens the door, and nothing was the same. One of the most iconic pieces of ’90’s pop culture, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ deserves its place amongst the greats of sitcoms – reimaging and innovating the comparatively-white and stock subgenre into a culturally-rich and diverse one – with endless laughs and production-value. Fresh and tremendously innovative with richly-developed characters, hilarious situational comedy, intricacy writing-in social commentary on important cultural topics/themes, & a star-making charismatic lead in Will Smith, it is easy to see why this series is so universally beloved and talked about even to this day ~30 years later – and why it catapulted Will Smith into superstardom becoming one of Hollywood’s most famous celebrities. The Fresh Prince has taken L.A.

The Characters & Cast

Lifetime Performances By Every Member Of The (Black Representation-Innovative) Banks Family – And A Surprise Patriarch: Will Smith

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

First, the characters. The balance of characters is simply sublime, from warm father-figure power-lawyer Uncle Phil to strong black woman Aunt Vivian to preppy and odd nerd Carlton to spoiled rich-kid/daddy’s girl Hillary to (not-so) innocent young Ashley to wise-cracking sarcastic butler Geoffrey to comic relief best friend Jazz to its titular royalty-star. One of the series’ biggest hallmarks and importances is how it showed the full gamut of black experiences at the time (as well as upper-class ones that were tremendously-important representationally), blending together all walks of life both in the have’s by way of the fabulously wealthy (aptly-named) Banks, and have-not’s in Smith’s on canvas. The performances are absolutely sensational – each actor and actress owns their role magnificently and parlays it into a lifetime/career character – especially James Avery as perhaps the ultimate TV father (R.I.P. Uncle Phil), Karyn Parsons’ breathtakingly-gorgeous and perfectly-authentic daddy’s girl/spoiled Bel-Air socialite princess (even further realistic by how she becomes a famous talk show host despite no talent or IQ) Hillary, and Alfonso Ribiero’s Carlton – perhaps THE best performance and character in the whole show (yes, even over Will in CLC’s vote) and just as nuanced, hilarious, and once-in-a-lifetime special as his now world-famous Carlton Dance. These are all in conjunction with the series’ man of the hour, whom would take Hollywood by storm and become one of its biggest stars: Will Smith.

The Man Of The Hour

A Lead That Changed The Trajectory Of Hollywood, Launching A Rapper With No TV Experience To Stardom – Easy To See Why

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

The man of the hour and whom it is impossible not to instantly-get how he skyrocketed into one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars after this TV show: Will Smith. The Fresh Prince is absolutely sensational, bringing a suave demeanor, endless charm, efficacious comedy, and urban experience to the screen that was truly groundbreaking – especially in the context of the fact that he had no prior acting experience. The pop cultural influence must’ve sold like hot-cakes, being that Smith was already a famous Grammy-winning rap star before being called in by exec producers Quincy Jones and Barry Medina (whose life-story is that of Will’s and the premise of the series itself), only taking the role out of lifestyle-debt but ending up using it as a springboard canvas into the stratosphere of media recognition. FPOBA is so special in that regard, we see a rough first-time actor mature into a top-tier one right before our very eyes – going from goofball and often-poorly acted S1 antics to the All-Time legendary pedigree scenes in Papa’s Got A Brand New Excuse and Just Say Yo. The characters are masterfully, richly-developed over the six 23-episode seasons going through a multitude of different character and coming-of-age/self-revelation arcs and whose sheer difference in black representation unlike anything else before it alone justifies its status as one of the culture’s most groundbreaking TV wins – while still wildly-fun for other cultures with one of the best rewatch values I’ve seen, probably 2nd to NBC’s The Office.

The Comedy

One Of The Funniest TV Series To-Date – Giving Phenomenal Representation To The Black Community’s Entertainment Prowess

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

The situational comedy is absolutely top-notch. Truly hilarious plots like dual-legal stories of cases, street-kids in prep schools, preppy-kids trying to play basketball, butlers winning the lottery and telling off their employers, pool-hall hustlings, chaotically renting-a-house for music videos, and even a blooper episode are explored with never-a-dull moment and very few – if any – skippable episodes; downright impressive achievement for any sitcom. The cameos by ’90’s Hollywood/Music/Athlete/Overall-Celebrity A-listers also add to this landscape of comedy and entertainment, from William Shatner to Queen Latifah to Don Cheadle to Bo Jackson to Heavy D to Quincy Jones to Boyz II Men to Al B. Sure to Donald Trump to Hugh Hefner to Jay Leno to Ken Griffey Jr. to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Don Cornelius to Chris Rock to Isiah Thomas to Evander Holyfield to Bell Biv Devoe to Sherman Hemsley to Tom jones to Oprah Winfrey. FPOBA is easily one of – if not the funniest sitcom of All-Time and consistently delivers in innovative, inventive comedic writing. There’s also a ton of meta comedy, even cleverly referencing things like recasts [“Mrs. Banks, ever since you had that baby.. there’s something different about you” (stares directly into camera) / “He’s the dude that be spinning me over his head in the opening credits” / “yeah right, and I’m a rap star with his own TV show” / etc.] and direction-changes with subtle-yet-obvious winks at the crowd by the writers’ room.

The Social Commentary

Loads Of Precocious Writing On Vital Themes & Topics – From Police Brutality To Drug-Abuse To Father-Absence To Class Differences

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

The social commentary on important themes/cultural topics. Beyond all the comedy though, there is so emotional weight and levity to be had as well – a brilliant addition by the screenwriters to give the series some substance too. Tackling incredibly discussion-worthy and even at-times controversial society points like absent fathers, drug abuse, gold-digging, suicidal tendencies, teen pregnancy, police-racism/brutality, class differences, gun control, gender stereotypes, and the nature of the entertainment industry is easily one of the series’ biggest positives and ballsy decisions not always seen or taken-on in shows and sitcoms for worry it will turn off disagreeing viewers, but here tackled with such skill and balance it doesn’t turn you off as too-political or preachy – even if you don’t agree. At times, there are scenes that even coalesce or change genres to drama or Greek tragedy like the All-Time great and still-talked-about diatribe by Will against his father for leaving him and Carlton in the hospital for drugs and Will after being shot it seriously invokes thought or emotion at. Sensational.


A Shaky, Borderline-Bad S1, Infamous Aunt Viv Switch, Late Complacency, & ~Anticlimactic S6 Finale Arc For The Prince

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

Flaws in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air include a shaky, borderline-bad start in the tremendously-uneven and poorly-acted Season 1 (mostly by Smith whom you can sense his novelty to acting) before it finally gets its legs towards the end of S1 into the magnificent S2. Beyond that, there are a slew of continuity errors and plot-holes from S3-onward – by selectively-lazy writing that does start to decline or even just a forgetting of the characters. The infamous Aunt Viv switch in S4 makes makes for a bad new version in Daphne Maxwell-Reid, Hubert being a 10x better actress and strong black woman in the series whom was amongst its greatest pros early-on (before she started acting erratically, forced the series into a ham-fisted S3 pregnancy arc, and foremost got into a heated rivalry with Will Smith that obviously wrote her own ticket out.), copout of the Fresh Prince of Philadelphia angle a disappointment, and entire S5 buildup to Will’s marriage only to be thrown away without explanation one of the most bizarre plot choices ever. Going hand-in-hand, while the finale gives fantastic character-development and send-offs to each of its other characters, Will’s final arc is pretty ~anticlimactic – S5’s marriage arc or a college-graduation arc would’ve been a far better royal-goodbye the Prince deserved, highlighting his growth instead of being treated like a pauper’s afterthought by the writing room.

A TV Sitcom That Changed Everything

A Fresh And Innovative ’90’s-Benchmark With Richly-Developed Characters, A1-Comedy, Vivid Social Commentary, & Star-Made Lead

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

Overall, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a fresh and innovative 90’s-iconic sitcom with richly-developed characters, hilarious situational comedy, meta comedy, intricacy writing-in social commentary on important cultural topics/themes, & a star-making charismatic lead in Will Smith that holds a special place in the hearts of ’90’s kids and comedic history books. Its legacy cannot be understated – before it, the rap culture and idea of MC’s/music-stars on TV and pop media was a far dream, now culminating in everything from Boyz N The Hood to Atlanta to HBO’s Insecure to endless rap biopics like Notorious, Straight Outta Compton, & All Eyez On Me. It showed the black experience in a representationally-fresh way unlike anything before it, while bravely and capably tackling/articulating controversial yet important topics in a way all cultures could understand and appreciate. I would argue it also skyrocketed the profile and screen-iconography of Hollywood even further, and certainly did so for its star-made lead. Live-on, Fresh Prince.

FPOBA: Season by Season Reviews

Season 1

A Funky-Fresh New TV Series

Despite A Poor Start & Shaky Acting/Writing Early-On, A Good Introduction Loaded With Rap Stylism, Groundbreaking Black Representation, & A Potential-Filled Lead

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

S1 – The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. The very mention of the name evokes symbology of that graffiti-riddled throne room and circular-pan introduction to one of the most iconic theme songs in TV history. Will Smith has now ascended to a new crown of one of the world’s biggest and most famous movie stars: a filmography as flexed in box-office billions in A-list franchises like DC Comics, Bad Boys, Disney’s Aladdin, Independence Day, & Men In Black as prestigious [Academy Award-winning] critical pedigree from Pursuit Of Happyness to Concussion to King Richard. Almost unfathomable today is the notion he was once just another Philadelphia kid with a high-top fade in the ’90’s – one who never even attemped acting but instead found solace in boom-bap rap, that is until a network exec saw something in him and invited him to become a lead actor on a network TV show (unheard of with zero credits or experience to his name in the field; nothing besides unbridled enthusiasm and charisma). And what a show it is: TFPOBA is one of the Greatest TV Sitcoms Of All-Time, as well as one of the most groundbreaking x revolutionary. CLC would definitely argue Fresh Prince is the most quintessential black television show ever made; thoroughly established from the very opening flickers of S1, the show celebrates its demographic’s artistry and creativity the most vividly and unforgettably of any pop culture project – from the fashion to funky-fresh beats to rap verses to production design, a masterpiece of audiovisual entertainment that also encapsulates the zeitgeist of the ’90’s we were born and grew up in amongst the purest of any media. Not only does the series wear its culture’s aesthetics and eye for design as a heart on its sleeve, it also does so with themes – many of them amongst the most game-changing we’ve ever seen on television. The very family of the Banks changed the trajectory of black representation in cinema – it marked the first major time the general populace had ever seen afroamerican wealth on par with billionaires and upper class echelons they were here equals with instead of stereotypicized under or inferior to: ironically, mostly characterized as Will > The Banks as the show metaphorically leads a change to incorporate him into them, a new way and expanded horizon of black experience. The characters and cast/performances of The Banks remain the secret sauce of TFPOBA – flawlessly-cast archetypes from the spoiled daddy’s girl princess of Hillary to odd preppy nerd Carlton to (not-so) innocent Ashley to wise-cracking butler Geoffrey to power-lawyer father figure Uncle Phil and strong black woman x professor Aunt Viv, brought to life by career performances.. even if they (everyone except Avery and Hubert, particularly Carlton and Geoffrey) were a bit rough around the edges early on, needing time to acclimate and ease into their roles which they did to become amongst the best [or in Carlton’s case: the best] later on. Most jaw-droppingly brave and revolutionary is the fact the show is every bit as serious and dark as it is funny and light-hearted: sneaking in many of the most controversial and wildly-debated black conversations and topics of the age (police brutality, racism, stereotypes, black history, slavery, civil rights, the artistry/poetry behind rap music, class dynamics, etc.) into broadcast network television in a way that works and tells their culture’s side – educating w/o offending mass audiences. The only flaw, ironically (besides a Carlton, Hillary, and Geoffrey suffering a similar problem due somewhat to an oversell performance but majorly to a writer’s room over-caricaturizing their roles), of S1 is Will: his star-power presence and bursting charisma can be felt in every scene (potential paralleled thematically bt the pilot’s ending scene of Will dropping the goofy homeboy rap charade and playing perfect Beethoven’s Für Elise when nobody’s looking), but his performance and line-delivery is – predictably by his nescience but worse than you can imagine (he even said in recent interview he can’t even watch S1 because even he admits his acting was atrocious – shaky, cringeworthy, and bad.. yet even that’s not enough to ruin an otherwise-gamechanging, important, funny, and thought-provocative introduction that manages to pull off an Office U.S.-level rise to perfection from the very first episode of S2. 7.5/10.

Season 2

One Of The Best S2’s In TV Comedy

A Brilliant Correction Of Every Flaw From S1 & Greatest Comedic Heights + Social-Activism Of Any Season. The Best Season Of FPOBA.

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

S2 – Boasting one of the best first halves of as season and turnarounds I’ve ever seen in comedic-sitcom history, Fresh Prince’s S2 instantaneously corrects nearly everything plaguing the royalty in S1 – with an infusion of energy and youthful-vivacity from its opening shot. Most striking is how its star became a 10x-better actor seemingly-overnight, able to flip the switch into a thespianism now matching his superstar-charisma so that W.S. can be properly-articulate his punchlines for max, glorious efficacy. The black cultural themes are equally as resonant as S1’s, perhaps even more universally-applicable here in ones like interracial marriages, following your dreams, morality parables, gold-diggers, status and class dynamics, racial justice/protests, community service, and superficiality vs. love-connection. Don’t get it twisted though, the series doesn’t lose a single bit of its comedic skill and pure-90‘s entertainment value in the landmine-field, navigating it to deliver countless All-Time classic episodes like Did The Earth Move For You?, The Mother Of All Battles, PSAT Pstory, The Big Four-Oh, Guess Who’s Coming To Marry?, Cased Up, The Butler Did It, My Brother’s Keeper, Those Were The Days, and Striptease For Two – literally almost every episode in the season (besides a brief stint of lethargy mid-season) being sitcom gold. The best season of FPOBA, S2 proved The Prince was here to stay and one of the best comedic series of its era. 9.5/10.

Season 3

A Graduation

Though An Erratic-Start & Lazily-Scripted Continuity Errors Take Some Buzz, A Funny & Resonant Season Loaded With Top Cameo’s

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

S3 – Though the season starts as erratically/messily as Will’s new hairstyle and Aunt Vivian’s ham-fisted (real-life forced, tragic since it marked the doom-spiral pre-recast of what was one f FPOBA’s best characters/performances and strongest black women ever on TV by Hubert) pregnancy arc S3 of FPOBA may stumble out the gate with some perplexingly unfocused episodes and lazily-scripted continuity errors (how does Carlton just forgive Will for stealing his girlfriend? Why did Lester/Helen get divorced after an ep specifically devoted to them working it out in S2? Same thing with Vy/Robert after Will accepted and they chimed wedding bells? Why the recasted Frank?). However, it settles into a nice groove shortly after – bringing some fantastic cameo’s of the highest star-power like Sherman Hemsley’s absolutely sensational old/crass/senile Judge Robertson (one of my favorite cameo roles ever.. too funny and everything he brought from The Jeffersons, reinvented), Bo Jackson, and even Oprah Winfrey. The season also tackles more weighty themes like teen pregnancy, gender and criminal stereotypes, gold-digging, the entertainment industry, and even drug abuse – one of the great and most serious episodes of a sitcom and a sign of FPOBA starting to take its craft/platform more seriously. The comedy is balanced yet again, with plenty of fantastic episodes like P.S. I Love You, Winner Takes Off, Just Say Yo, and Robbing the Banks culminating in a spectacular season finale and introduction to the legendary Carlton Dance. 8.7/10.

Season 4

The Fresh Prince Goes To College

Arguably The Best Season Of FPOBA – Filled With Character-Development, Tyra Banks, & Its Two Best Episodes: Will Goes A Courtin’ And The All-Time TV Masterpiece Papa’s Got A Brand New Excuse

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

S4 – The Fresh Prince goes to college in its 4th season – and the result is arguably the best season of the TV series. Though I wish we were able to spend a bit more time in High School (with the majority of its best episodes being Bel Air Prep-centered ones), the campus set-designs were ~basic and uninspired, the Jazz marriage arc is weird and unfunny, and – of course – they didn’t do the infamous Aunt Viv switch: one of the most bizarre and unnecessary [as well as ineffectual] TV-recasts ever subjugating Hubert’s strong black woman into a complacent run-of-the-mill housewife Reid version, S4 is a FPOBA in full control of its craft. Each character in the Banks family is given beautiful development, from Uncle Phil/Aunt Viv and Ashley’s coming-of-age parables to Hillary’s loss of her future-husband in Trevor to biggest of: Will and Carlton embarking on the existential journey of life: college. Themes of classism, underage-drinking, coming-of-age, finding your life’s calling, work ethic, fulfillment, love, health, and self-discovery are juggled brilliantly, all while delivering plenty of laughs and cameos. One of the biggest achievements – and most shocking one at that – is its recurring cameo of Tyra Banks’ Jacqueline: a major joy to watch as a beautiful and strikingly-charismatic female complement to Will Smith’s Prince who oozes chemistry and carries her scenes (before she bizarrely disappears halfway through). One Of The Best Sitcom Episodes In TV History is here: the multi-narrative legal-spoof Will Goes A Courtin’ – and there are multiple Top 5-10 episodes as well, from the nightswept comedy of Sleepless in Bel-Air to Playboy Mansion-cameo in Fresh Prince After Dark to striking health exposition of Home The Heart Attack. That’s not even getting to the big kahuna: Papa’s Got A Brand New Excuse. The Best Episode Of The Fresh Prince & A Top 25 TV Episode Of All-Time, Will’s tragic, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching reunification [& reabandonment] with his father is unfathomably powerful – bringing us (& the world) to tears every single time, critically-analyzing one of the most infamous key themes specifically attributable to its cultural demographic to highest-achieve its crux mission of comedy-coated pure black television, and spotlighting the promised land the execs and showrunners first saw in the potential of Will Smith come to fruition the exact moment he went from blockbuster personality x comedian x rapper to authentic real high-caliber actor. In case all that wasn’t enough, there’s a shocking cliffhanger plot-twist and magnitudinal levels: nuking the status-quo and potentially changing the setting entirely to Philadelphia. Very rarely will we ever see a TV Show as innovative and punching above its weight class x genre as FPOBA S4. 9.4/10.

Season 5

The Prince & His Princess

One Of The Most Bizarre & Maddening Seasons Of TV I’ve Witnessed, Refusing To Commit To Szn-Long Arc & Wasting A Perfect Marriage

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

S5 – One of the most bizarre seasons of TV I’ve witnessed, S5 of FPOBA is all-over-the-place. A breathtakingly-disappointing start and copout on the potentially-brilliant S4 finale shake-up of a Fresh Prince of Philadelphia angle and plot hole-riddled Ashley-pop-stardom arc paves way for the worst beginning to a season of the show. There are plenty of positives: a fresh addition of a great child actor in Ross Bagley’s cute sass-and-sarcasm Nicky, several classic episodes like Fresh Prince: The Movie, mega throwback Soul Train, and continued social-consciousness on important themes in some classic episodes like gun-control in Bullets Over Bel-Air and gender dynamics in Love Hurts/Will Is From Mars (Sherman Hemsley always FTW!), and the S5’s biggest accomplishment – Nia Long’s fantastic warm-and-delicate Lisa finally giving the Prince his chemistry-full Princess for a perfect marriage.. or so we’d think? Never have I seen more wastage of potential and a bigger cop/fakeout than S5 of FPOBA – literally almost every single damn MINUTE of the entire 25 episode season is building up to Lisa and Will’s marriage, and they don’t even get married. WTF?! Literally what amounts of S5 is a completely pointless season with zero plot progression or story/character payoff, one that should be mandated to reimburse fans the time and energy spent investing in it for no explicable reason if they were never going to commit to it in the first place.. but also what may be for the best considering the limited exposition it does give its other characters. Uncle Phil seems bizzarely colder and money-obsessed, Carlton remains great and the high-point of consistent comedy across the show, Vivian 2.0 is still hyperforgettable, and don’t even get us started on Hillary and Ashley. Ashley has become far too gratingly rebellious and ungrateful of everything the Banks built for her and Hillary looks like she took a few of the crazy-pills Hubert did in S3.. going from one of the most refined performances and funniest characters in the show [perfectly spoofing the socialite princess daddy’s girls of Bel-Air] to a mega-90’s curls, pant-suited, zany, hypocritically-feministy (ignoring the pretty and female privileges engrained into her character and coasting her through life) talk show-host far-goofier & whose angle is vexingly-annoying and does not fit her character at all: being dichotomously ~stupid in many scenes unable to carry out basic conversations.. yet able to make a career/multi-national program built on that very same principle? The season is also ugly visually – we’ve noted a slight degradation of clarity and light over time, but here it feels like the budget has gotten halved.. so grainy and grungy, it’s hard to even watch and makes zero sense comparatively on a show that just got off arguably its best season while Will becomes a bigger movie star and technology is progressing. These are, again, small potato (pies) to the season’s illogical and completely-nonsensical direction o lack there of – a perfect ending or new angle for The Prince with a comprehensively perfect Princess he spends every second of the season doting and screaming love for, yet we never see again or even get an explanation of what happened to afterwards [even more bizarre by the fact their *PARENTS* get married after one day; literally feels like a purposeful troll to the fans even indicated by the title of E18 The Wedding Show (Psyche!)]. The season buoys over the passability line, but just barely – the worst season of FPOBA and one of the biggest messes of a season I’ve ever witnessed on television. It’s no surprise it got a cancel order for next season the minute the execs saw the finale. 6.2/10.

Season 6

I, Done

The Final Season OF FPOBA Ends On An Emotional Bang With Beautiful Culmination Arcs For Everyone.. Except The Prince

Photograph Courtesy Of: NBC Studios

S6 – The final season of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ends with a bang of emotional resonance and maximum closure for every single member of the Banks – except Will. From the beginning, the series returns to its roots: situational comedy. Funny one-liners and hilarious hijinx reign supreme yet again in the kingdom – with a mega-blast of starpower not only of legendary TV cameos like William Shatner, Regis Philbin, Dick Clark, & Tom Jones.. but many black entertainment and television icons the show pays respect to while carrying on the torch [an M.O. of the series]: Jahlil ‘Urkel’ White, George Forman, Sherman Hemsley, B.B. King, etc. The meta is some of the greatest ever put to screen: even taking us beyond the braeks of walls into the actual studio tour behind-the-scenes in one of the funniest and most refreshingly real episodes in history showing us what it takes to make a movie/show and that actors are human too in ‘Whoops There It Is!’ – and there’s many other good to great episodes, especially the blind-date-gone-wrong Not I Barbecue [besides the inexplicably-bizzarre Not/I episode name motif we still haven’t deciphered] amongst the Top 3-4 episodes of the series culminating in a fantastic series finale that does justice to every character (except one). Hillary is likeable again and Karyn’s performance recaptures the clutzy innocent spoiled princess daddy’s girl we all loved yet envied earlier on while even growing her characterizationally and symbolically with her carrying her own final bags out to the car instead of the help, Geoffrey is satisfyingly relieved of duty after all his hard work and sent back first-class with bonus as appreciation to be with his newly-discovered son learning to be in the shoes of a neo-Phil, Ashley is still the wild rebellious teenager ~ungrateful but lightly as she moves with Hillary to NYC so she can go to the School Of Performing Arts and Hillary a national talk show [the trajectories work in conjunction with each character’s personalities and early talents, from the vapid nonintelligence kitsch of talk shows for H and artistic talent of Ash even abck to Bang The Drum], Carlton finally gets into Princeton to become the successful lawyer he always wated paying off one of the show’s earliest threads and best character ubersatisfyingly, Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv move to the East Coast to be closer to the family, and (besides Jazz whom is better w/o Jewel getting in on the fun early-szn bachelor shenanigans but we wished got exposition and a final arc-climax, though he refreshingly gets a classic satisfying door-toss in the finale) Will.. well, there’s the problem. The only problem of the otherwise-magnificent final swan-song, albeit a major one, is that it fails the eponymous patriarch of the show. Though the writers do their darndest to clean up the mess by cleverly pointing out his growth and maturity from that dumb sideways-cap hooligan-nephew who first showed up and caused trouble to fulfilling his mom’s original goal of finishing school and wanting to get his own apartment and being a bonafide member of the family included in the weekly check-ins on Sunday’s, Will’s arc feels.. empty [and the joke dept harks on the point to make it even more unsatisfying]. This is 99% the problem of last season; S5 thoroughly exhausted the marriage/Lisa arc to the point we understand they couldn’t keep on Nia Long and have her do millions of more takes and scenes beating a dead horse for no reason after the show [idiotically] wasted S5 building it up only tor nothing and total dumbfoundingly-inexplicable abandonment of worse cold feet than their wedding (absolutely weird of unfathomable proportions; it’s like they know they f*cked it up by the fact they ignominiously refuse to even MENTION the almost-wife of the show’s main character post-cliffhanger even *once* in shame). God, if you swapped the arcs of Will S5/6 so that he got a happy ending showcasing the exact growth/maturity of maxmimum level in getting married (and maybe having kids and graduating college on-screen) along with everyone else in the finale, you would have a 10/10 perfect finale season amongst the best-ever on television.. but, tragically and although it’s still good and satisfyingly closes the chapter of the most groundbreaking balck sitcom ever made, you don’t. 8/10.

Official CLC Score: 9.4/10