Will Smith (played by Will Smith) is a street-smart teenager, born and brought up on the mean streets of Philadelphia. On getting into a fight with a bully, his mother sends him to her sister's house in luxurious Bel-Air. There, he turns the lives of his posh upper-class relatives upside down.
The humour came from both physical comedy, as well as put-downs and other witticisms. Carlton's height, in particular, is often singled out by Will for frequent put-downs. Hilary is an extremely stupid, stuck-up girl - a role which is pulled off surprisingly well by Karyn Parsons, considered how frequently such characters have been used.
While largely a comedy show, this show brought up poverty and African American issues in a number of episodes. In the very first episode, for instance, Will accuses his uncle of having forgotten "where he came from", to have forgotten that he is black. His uncle is furious, and points out that though Will is a believer in the philosophy of Malcolm X, "I have heard the Brother talk". In a later episode, Will and one of his old school friends, Ice Tray, reminisce about how Ice Tray would frequently have to save Will from bullies who attacked him because he tried to be a good student.
While Will went on to star in a number of movies, the other characters were largely never heard from again.