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.
I’m sorry in advance for the tears.