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DVD Review: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The Complete Fifth Season

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On May 11, Warner Brothers Entertainment released the three-disk DVD set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The Complete Fifth Season. Already being the proud owner of the DVD sets for the show's first four seasons. I was really looking forward to owning this one as well.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran for six seasons between 1990 to 1996. It starred Will Smith as a street-smart high school student from a tough West Philadelphia neighborhood who was shipped off to live with his rich West Coast family in their Bel-Air mansion: aunt Vivian (Daphne Maxwell Reid), uncle Phil (James Avery) and three cousins, Hilary (Karyn Parsons), Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), and Ashley (Tatyana Ali). We never quite find out the specifics of why Will was sent to California, although the show's now classic theme songs tell us the transfer happened after a "couple of guys who were up to no good started making trouble in the neighborhood." 

The main source of tension in the show comes from the differences between their lifestyles. In this season, the Banks and Will clash with regard to the way he and his cousin Carlton (who are the same age) are planning for their future. The clash is enhanced by Will's determination to marry his girlfriend Lisa at an age his family considers way too young. On top of that, the Banks' butler, Geoffrey (Joseph Marcell), always has a way of further stirring the pot with well timed one-liners.

The show's fifth season is the one many consider to be the point at which it jumped the shark; between little Nicky suddenly growing a couple of years in the span of a couple of months, the show sometimes awkwardly tackling much more serious topics (such as Will being shot), and Will marrying Lisa, the show had come a long way from its simple season one plot lines. I don't agree with these critics; after all, the show just grew with its characters. It was only for so long Will could carry on with his antics. However I do admit that I still miss the original Vivian Banks (sorry, Daphne Maxwell-Reid) and that the whole Nicky plotline was a little too much.

After receiving our copy of the DVD set, my family and I settled for a wonderful Fresh Prince of Bel-Air season five marathon last weekend. It was great, going back to episodes of a TV show we had watched together when we were little kids. It was also interesting to finally understand some of the jokes and to laugh hysterically over what we thought was going on back in the day when counters were at eye level.

Unfortunately, that was the end of the trip down memory lane. Other than the 25 episodes of the season, which were just as great to watch as they were the first time around, there was nothing extra available on the DVD set: no interviews, no bloopers, no gag reels, not even downloadable screensavers or desktop backgrounds. There are some moments that were an integral part of the first airing of the season. Fans will no doubt recall the most memorable one: Carlton running around the entire studio where The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was filmed in front of a live audience, screaming at the top of his lungs, only to collapse in Will's arms (Episode 6). However, this was aired as part of the original episode, and is nothing new for long-time, hardcore fans. This set is going to have to sell on the merit of the episodes alone.

It seems rather odd and is quite disappointing to have a DVD set of a hilarious TV show released with nothing extra available on it. There is only one season left to be released on DVD, and I hope the people at Warner Brothers seriously look into providing long time fans of the show with much more than only the episodes. The bloopers alone would probably count for hours of laughter, let alone various interviews and behind-the-scenes moments.

You can check out the official website for more information.

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