In the late '80s, Willard 'Will' Smith, Jr. had achieved critical acclaim and awards success as part of a hip-hop trio - dubbing himself the Fresh Prince, Smith teamed with childhood friend Jeffrey Townes (DJ Jazzy Jeff) and human beat box Clarence Holmes (Ready Rock C) and won a Grammy with his unique brand of fun, radio-friendly rap.
But success went to Smith's head a little - spending cash quicker than he could make it and underpaying his taxes, the young star was faced with a $2.8 million tax debt, the loss of many of his possessions and a reduced income. The spectre of bankruptcy was looming when Smith was approached by NBC to star in a sitcom, based around him...
This new series may have been created partly out of neccessity, but it turned out to be a turning point in Smith's career - the one thing that would launch him into the stratosphere.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: September 10, 1990 to May 20, 1996
In West Philadelphia, born and raised, on the playground was where Will spent most of his days... we'll spare you the entire premise of The Fresh Prince since it's already been ingrained into most people's minds by the show's insanely catchy theme song - composed by music legend Quincy Jones and officially titled 'Yo Home to Bel-Air', fact fans!
In brief, Will is sent away from his dangerous hood by his mother to stay with well-to-do relatives in Bel-Air. There would be no more "chilling out", no more "maxing" and certainly no "relaxing all cool" - instead, Will was faced with a grouchy uncle, his fiery wife and a short, nerdy cousin that he initially appears to have nothing in common with.
Let's be clear - The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a massive success. The show ran for six years on NBC - boosting the network in a time before big hits like Friends and ER - and has been syndicated all across the world ever since. During its original run, the series was also nominated for several awards, including two prestigious Golden Globes.
Much of the sitcom's appeal has to be credited to the man himself, Will Smith - the effortless charm and charisma that later made him an international movie star in such films as Independence Day and Men In Black first captured viewers' hearts here.
But the contribution of the show's supporting cast should not be overlooked. James Avery - a noted character actor who'd previously voiced the villainous Shredder in the iconic Teenage Mutant Ninja / Hero Turtles cartoon - was terrific as the imposing Uncle Phil. Patriarch of the Banks clan, Philip gradually evolved from Will's scowling nemesis into a more gentle giant as the show went on.
Then there was the no-nonsense Aunt Viv - played first by Janet Hubert-Whitten and then by Daphne Maxwell Reid from season four onwards - who was named one of our 'Greatest TV Mums' back in March.
There were plenty of laughs to be had too from Joseph Marcell's snooty butler Geoffrey and Karyn Parsons's air-headed Hilary. And while Will's long-time musical partner DJ Jazzy Jeff may not be the strongest actor, just try and suppress a chuckle as he's tossed out of the Banks home by Uncle Phil, over and over again.
But if there's one character - besides Will - who is most commonly associated with The Fresh Prince, it is surely Carlton. 5' 5" Alfonso Ribeiro was so perfect as Will's arrogant yet loveable cousin that he became forever typecast and the 'Carlton Dance' - usually performed to Tom Jones's 1965 hit 'It's Not Unusual' - has become an iconic piece of TV comedy.
Now there's no two ways about it, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a very silly show indeed. But, crucially, it worked because it was knowingly silly. Smith and cast broke the fourth wall countless times throughout the show's run, most memorably when a panicked Carlton ran off the set and straight into the studio audience at the climax of season five episode 'Will's Misery'.
The fact that the show knew how absurd it was meant that we were able to forgive it the occasional hiccup - such as the Aunt Viv headswap or the sudden ageing of Will's cousin Nicky from an infant to a 6-year-old (Ross Bagley).
Yes, looking back, it's easy to pick holes in The Fresh Prince, but we love the series despite its flaws. And we're not alone. "I have done so many movies but in every country in the world, [The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air] is the thing I am most known for," Will Smith admitted on a recent edition of BBC One's The Graham Norton Show.