‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Had More Than 20 Episodes Pulled Off the Air in the UK
The cast of the beloved sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air finally had their long-awaited reunion on HBO Max, and it was full of nostalgia for fans of the show. Will Smith and Janet Hubert-Whitten have buried their hatchet and the whole Banks family came together to celebrate The Fresh Prince‘s legacy.
‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ is back
For fans of the sitcom, the HBO Max reunion is just a taste of what’s to come. Smith announced in September that he had inked a deal for a two-season reboot of The Fresh Prince with NBC’s Peacock streaming service. “I’ve been in this business for 30 years, and that does not happen,” he said at the time.
The HBO Max reunion brought together the whole Banks family, minus their late patriarch James Avery. They discussed everything from their on-screen and off-screen relationships to the cultural impact of the show. There was also a tear-filled tribute to Avery and his beloved character Uncle Phil.
‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ was ahead of its time
While TV shows and pop culture today explore serious topics such as racism and police violence, it wasn’t as common during The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air‘s run in the early 1990s. The Fresh Prince was the first of many Black sitcoms to emerge in the early ’90s, including Martin, In the House, Family Matters, and more.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air tackled issues such as drug abuse, parental neglect, gun violence, and more; what made the show so groundbreaking was that it was the first of its kind at the time that was portraying these stories in a Black family in an honest and emotional way.
Director Debbie Allen directed the first two episodes of The Fresh Prince and left to take over directing duties on the Cosby Show spinoff A Different World. The show then began exploring more serious topics.
Allen reflected on her time as director of A Different World in a recent New York Times story detailing The Fresh Prince‘s legacy on race. “We dealt with everything,” Allen said. “We dealt with date rape, racism, the L.A. riots.”
‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ was censored in the UK
When asked about Allen’s storytelling, Different World actor Cree Summer remarked that she was going against the grain at a time when these stories were being censored, cut out of episodes, or pulled off the air entirely. “[There] was a time where the censorship went very deep on these sitcoms,” Summer said.
As the precursor to many of these norm-shattering shows, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has been no stranger to censorship. In the UK, the BBC has pulled various episodes of The Fresh Prince from the air many times, either for an episode’s content or its context in current events.
A wiki dedicated entirely to censorship details all the instances where the BBC pulled a Fresh Prince episode off the air, and whether or not they began airing it again years later.
For example, the season 3 episode “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” was taken off the air on BBC One in 1995 due to the episode’s storyline dealing with pregnancy. BBC eventually started broadcasting the episode again a decade later in 2005.
Another season 3 episode, “Just Say Yo,” was pulled off the air after it premiered in 1993 because of the episode’s storyline dealing with drugs, and the perceived message that it was encouraging young people to do drugs. BBC eventually began re-airing the episode in 2006.
Other times, episodes were pulled off the air depending on recent events. The episode where Uncle Phil has a heart attack was pulled from the airwaves after Avery’s sad death from a heart attack in 2013. And one of the show’s heavier episodes, “Bullets Over Bel-Air,” has been taken off the air in the wave of mass shootings such as in Columbine and Parkland.