Recently, the internet went will when it realized that an episode of the Will Smith starred Fresh Prince of Bel Air turned 25 years old.
Will Smith is a two-time Oscar nominee and one of the most popular actors (and genies) of his generation. But before all that, he was a sitcom star, someone who, it would not have been foolhardy to assume, couldn’t handle more dramatic material. That changed with “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse,” the season four episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that aired 25 years ago today. You know the episode, and you definitely know THE scene.
“How come he don’t want me, man?”
Directed by Shelley Jensen with a script from David Zuckerman and Bill Boulware, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse” is about Will’s father, played by Ben Vereen, returning to his son’s life after 14 years. They plan a cross-country trip together, but Uncle Phil (James Avery) warns Will that he shouldn’t get his hopes up; this is the man who abandoned him, after all. Will believes that Uncle Phil is jealous and tells him that he’s not his real dad. But he’s a better parental figure than his actual dad, who lets his son down again. Then, the waterworks.
The story behind the episode is almost as good as the episode itself. While the legend that Smith ad-libbed much of the scene based on his troubled relationship with his actual father is probably false, the sobbing was not.
Check this out: Did you know that wasn’t the only memorable episode of the show?
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air has had some had some memorable cameos: Current U.S. President, Donald Trump, Evander Holyfield, Heavy D, Tevin Campbell, Riddick Bowe, Ken Griffey Jr and Kareem Abdul Jabbar to name a few. Hey, how about that episode when Will Smith went one-on-one with Isiah Thomas?
Bombarded with a ton of coursework and a star role on the Bel Air Academy basketball team, Will Smith fell asleep in class and went toe to toe with the Detroit Pistons legend.
Wow, Will even blocked one of Thomas’ shots!
“That was great,” Thomas told me on Scoop B Radio.
“Not only was it great, what was real cool, Will, at the time, was a basketball fan, so he could play a little bit. So, being on the Fresh Prince and then hanging with Will, that was awesome. I mean it was…I guess he was in the dream, and I was in too.”