The producers of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air weren't about to tinker with a successful format as the series entered its third season. Although West Philadelphia teenager Will Smith (played, of course, by Will Smith) has been living with his wealthy relatives in Bel-Air for three years now, he still hasn't lost his streetwise flippancy, though he does begin evincing signs of burgeoning maturity and responsibility. In the same fashion, Will's host, the Banks family, continues putting on airs and currying favor with the Bel-Air elite, though they generally get their heads out of the clouds and return to earth at the end of each episode. The most signifcant change from seasons past is the pregnancy of Will's Aunt Vivian, a plot development created to accommodate the real-life pregnancy of actress Janet Hubert-Whitten. By the end of season three, Vivian has given birth to a son named Nicholas -- whereupon she virtually disappears from view, reportedly because of creative differences between Janet Hubert-Whitten and Will Smith.
The actress left the show at the end of the year and would be replaced by Daphne Reed Maxwell for the 1994-1995 season. In this season's opener, Will returns from a summer visit to his mom in West Philly with a new haircut and flamboyant wardrobe that appalls his stuffy lawyer uncle Philip Banks (James Avery), leading to the first of several obligatory "Let's stop arguing and compromise" moments. Later highlights included Philip and Vivian's not-so-sentimental journey to their old neighborhood, which had been all but levelled during the L.A. riots; the matriculation of the Banks' youngest daughter Ashley (Tatyana M. Ali) into the newly co-ed Bel-Air Prep School; older daughter Hilary's (Karyn Parsons) new job as a TV weather girl; former Jeffersons star Sherman Hemsley's appearance as Judge Carl Robertson, against whom Philip Banks would enter into a bitterly fought political battle; another guest-star turn, this one by no less than Oprah Winfrey; and the ongoing romantic tribulations of Will's prissy, preppy cousin Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro). In one of the season's final episodes, Will gets the opportunity to perform at a comedy club -- where among the other participants is future sitcom leading man D.L. Hughley. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air enjoyed its highest-ever ratings during season three, ending up the 16th most watched program on network television. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi