If the pandemic has given us anything to be thankful for, it's the nearly endless cast reunions.
Dozens of TV shows and movies have brought their casts together for events ranging from informal virtual hang outs to fully scripted virtual episodes to professionally produced in-person productions. They've all been fun—remember when we were losing our minds over that Parks and Recreation episode?—but none have been quite as emotional or as healing or as necessary as the reunion of the cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
The show turned 30 this year and celebrated by having the cast—Will Smith, Alfonso Ribeiro, Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Daphne Maxwell Reid and Joseph Marcell—meet up on the recreated set to share memories, watch old audition tapes and do an awful lot of cathartic crying. We cried, and not just during the segment dedicated to the late James Avery, who played Uncle Phil.
The special was a celebration that somehow also felt like an hour and 15 minutes of therapy, both for the cast and for those of us who spent much of our childhoods (and much of our adulthoods, if we're honest) rapping that theme song.
The biggest headline-grabbing moment from the special involved Will sitting down with Janet Hubert, the original Aunt Viv, after a 27-year feud that had them both publicly speaking out about each other in some really ugly ways. As they explained as they talked it out, Janet was pregnant at the time she left the show and felt poorly treated. She felt like she had been banished by the cast and was told it was all Will's fault.
Will didn't deny this, and acknowledged that he had screwed up. He was 21 years old at the time and had felt threatened by everything and everyone around him, and he was sorry. We got to watch one of the most powerful men in Hollywood admit fault, apologize, and cry as he brought the two Aunt Vivs together for the first time ever.
If we thought Patrick Dempsey would never return to Grey's Anatomy after five years of shade, we certainly never in a million years thought Will Smith and Janet Hubert would ever be hugging and crying together after 27 years of resentment.
It was clear that everyone on this show really did consider each other family, even if they had grown apart over the years. The way they all spoke of Uncle Phil was reminiscent of a real family mourning the loss of their real patriarch, and even as they reflected on the significance of a show in the early '90s about a wealthy, loving Black family, it didn't feel like they were talking about just a TV show.
As we teared up over those more emotional moments, we also cried with laughter as Alfonso relived that time he, as Carlton, ran around the entire set and even into the audience in a scene, breaking the fourth and fifth and maybe even sixth walls on the way. The entire thing also ended with Alfonso trying, still after nearly 30 years, to teach Will how to do the Carlton dance.
Moments of joy are hard to come by these days, and it's even more rare to find such public moments of healing, but the Fresh Prince reunion had it all and other reunions should take note. HBO Max's Friends special—whenever, if ever it happens—now has a whole lot to live up to.
You can now watch the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion on HBO Max.