5:35 pm - 01/03/2014

Five (4) reasons James Avery was one of the greatest TV dads

James Avery was a prolific and versatile actor during his 68 years, but he's best known to several as Uncle Phil.

A classically trained thespian, Avery filled the role of the tough but caring head of the Banks' household on the '90s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" for six years. Along the way, he crafted a character that stands apart as one of the greatest fictional dads on TV.

His costar Joseph Marcell, who portrayed the family butler Geoffrey, had it right when he said that Avery "strove to present an Uncle Phil that everybody wishes was their uncle." As a result, his death this week has left a lot of fans feeling as though they've lost a family member.

Every "Fresh Prince" fan probably has his or her own reasons why Uncle Phil was at the heart of the memorable comedy. Here are our top five (actually four):

1. He was there for you in a jam.
In case you missed "Fresh Prince" during its run from 1990 to 1996, or somehow have escaped the endless repeats on basic cable in the years since, here's a recap of the premise: Now-famous blockbuster actor Will Smith portrayed a mischievous Philadelphia teen who was sent to live with his rich relatives in Bel-Air. Cue the culture clash as free-spirited Will had to adjust to his Uncle Phil's rigorous rules.

Most of the humor came from that dynamic, but when Will -- and, often, Phil's son Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) -- really needed him, he didn't hesitate to help them out. That was established clearly with an episode in season one, when Phil came to Will's rescue at a pool hall after the kid lost money and a car to a hustler.

2. Underneath his grizzly exterior was a sensitive role model.
Although Uncle Phil and Will had their fights, the lawyer and eventual judge became a father figure for Smith's character.
This was shown in one heartbreaking season four episode, when Will's biological father re-enters the picture only to leave his son once again. A distraught Will turned to his uncle, who readily embraced him. No matter how many times we watch this, we always get misty.

3. He was not a man to be trifled with.
Every so often we saw glimpses of Uncle Phil's soft side, but it was his stern parenting style that always left us in stitches. Take, for example, the way he handled one of Carlton and Will's failed schemes in season two:

Or how he completely shut down this guy's attempt to smoke in an elevator ... and then took his phone:

And how could we forget his confrontation at a police station in season one?

4. He had a go-to move for kicking people out of his house.
Whenever you saw Will Smith's real-life friend and recording partner DJ Jazzy Jeff on-screen in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," you knew he wasn't going to be around for long. The running gag on the sitcom was that Jazzy Jeff's character, Jazz, was always getting thrown out of Uncle Phil's mansion. It happened so often it became a patented move.

5th at Source
forever too many emotions for number 2.
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champagnexdream 3rd-Jan-2014 06:12 pm (UTC)
Ugh RIP. :[
beatlesluv 3rd-Jan-2014 06:50 pm (UTC)
:( Mte
cricketgrl 3rd-Jan-2014 07:43 pm (UTC)
I liked him alot but Cliff Huxtable was better
champagnexdream 3rd-Jan-2014 07:53 pm (UTC)
OK? How is that related?
moon_river_315 3rd-Jan-2014 06:14 pm (UTC)
Has will smith commented on his death?
hpennhills 3rd-Jan-2014 06:17 pm (UTC)
I don't think so.
adorealire 3rd-Jan-2014 06:26 pm (UTC)
No, Jada has commented though
idunnotbh 3rd-Jan-2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
he's in Dubai with Tyrese chillin... As of yet there's no comment from him personally.
ljubavirakija 3rd-Jan-2014 06:14 pm (UTC)
So sad. RIP :'[

Has any of the cast tweeted condolences?
hpennhills 3rd-Jan-2014 06:16 pm (UTC)
Just Alfonso that I saw.
qween_frostine 3rd-Jan-2014 06:19 pm (UTC)
Tatyana Ali did, I believe.
neemah 3rd-Jan-2014 08:37 pm (UTC)
Janet Hubert (the 1st mom) put out a statement.
andie_pants 3rd-Jan-2014 11:04 pm (UTC)
only mom tbqh
xxxquothxxx 3rd-Jan-2014 06:15 pm (UTC)

jesus_in_canada 3rd-Jan-2014 06:17 pm (UTC)
this scene always had me dying. will smith was so fucking funny on this show.
idunnotbh 3rd-Jan-2014 06:21 pm (UTC)
I swear I only watched this a few days before James Avery died, but lmao best scene!
queenmvh 3rd-Jan-2014 06:26 pm (UTC)
The amount of times I reenact this, lmfao.
gonexforgotten 3rd-Jan-2014 06:43 pm (UTC)
DWL every. single. time.
russ94 3rd-Jan-2014 07:08 pm (UTC)
lmfao I love how he slowly leaves. This and the "Ashley no!" are the outlandish reactions I think of most from this show
beatlesluv 3rd-Jan-2014 07:08 pm (UTC)

One of the best shows ever made.
treradical 3rd-Jan-2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
how were they not laughing lmfao
arielazul_22 4th-Jan-2014 08:05 am (UTC)
never seen this...wow
invisible_cunt 3rd-Jan-2014 06:16 pm (UTC)
i was literally watching fresh prince wednesday afternoon (uk time) doing my nails and found out at a bar that night that uncle phil died

i feel like i jinxed it :(
freshoffthefarm 3rd-Jan-2014 06:17 pm (UTC)
That scene with Will's dad and that 'how come he don't want me'?

Every time, I cry. EVERY TIME. I can't.
ctfobro 3rd-Jan-2014 06:43 pm (UTC)
m2 bby
_xxtom 3rd-Jan-2014 07:11 pm (UTC)
same omg
ohwutevernvm 3rd-Jan-2014 08:03 pm (UTC)
me too
drunken87rabbit 3rd-Jan-2014 09:14 pm (UTC)
Same sometimes I can't watch that episode.
dnttllhrry 3rd-Jan-2014 09:29 pm (UTC)
and at the end when they zoom in on the sculpture...its too much
daddyissues 3rd-Jan-2014 09:37 pm (UTC)
don't even remind me :'(
brucelynn 3rd-Jan-2014 11:29 pm (UTC)
yep , you can tell it was super emotional for them :(
arisma 4th-Jan-2014 02:35 am (UTC)
Breaks my heart. Fresh Prince doesn't get enough credit for the real shit they snuck in with the comedy.
amor143x 3rd-Jan-2014 06:17 pm (UTC)
just reading #2 has me in tears. </3 r.i.p.
jesus_in_canada 3rd-Jan-2014 06:18 pm (UTC)
can we discuss fav episodes? i'll never forget the episode where will was in the church screaming, just thinking about it is making me laugh hysterically.
queenmvh 3rd-Jan-2014 06:31 pm (UTC)
A few of my faves are when Carlton learns about discrimination, Carlton isn't accepted into the fraternity because he's "uppity" (it highlights this whole you talk white/hood mentality black people still have), and when Carlton loses his virginity.
ctfobro 3rd-Jan-2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
do you like carlton... lol
save_me_xenu 3rd-Jan-2014 06:48 pm (UTC)
To Sade, right?
leopard_legs 3rd-Jan-2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
oh man I love that episode :)
justkeepworking 3rd-Jan-2014 06:53 pm (UTC)
When Aunt Viv went into labor with Nicky.
Also just this scene:
russ94 3rd-Jan-2014 07:09 pm (UTC)
When Will and Carlton go to Vegas and have to enter the dance comp to get out
sandstorm 3rd-Jan-2014 07:17 pm (UTC)
the one where they film the music video in the house. "I'm just trying to be in the video" kills me.
neemah 3rd-Jan-2014 08:46 pm (UTC)
The Vegas Dance Competition episode. The moment Will threw Carlton I think that was the biggest laugh I'd ever had in life at that point.

And the episode where Will teaches Ashley how to fight.

massielita 3rd-Jan-2014 09:00 pm (UTC)
Ugh won't embed but it's one of my faves when Uncle Phil punches that guy when he's all 'u mus hav ha confuzd wit YAMAMA'


Edited at 2014-01-03 09:03 pm (UTC)
massielita 3rd-Jan-2014 09:06 pm (UTC)
also OBLIG. And original Aunt Viv is the ONLY Aunt Viv

jediknightmuse 3rd-Jan-2014 11:04 pm (UTC)
I don't remember a lot of the episodes any more but the ones that stand out to me the most are the more serious ones:

1. Will gets shot taking a bullet for Carlton.
2. Carlton almost dies because he takes pills out of Will's locker that end up being Speed.
3. Will's father shows up for a second and then leaves and Uncle Phil is Mr. awesome father figure.
brucelynn 3rd-Jan-2014 11:29 pm (UTC)
When Will gets hustled and Uncle Phil has to come to his aid

misscrystal 4th-Jan-2014 01:05 am (UTC)
The one where he's stuck in the basement with Gina during the earthquake.
leopard_legs 3rd-Jan-2014 06:18 pm (UTC)
Cannot watch the clip for no.2 EVER

he really was the best tv dad, I so wanted an Uncle Phil in my life
dw_10rosefan 3rd-Jan-2014 06:18 pm (UTC)
idunnotbh 3rd-Jan-2014 06:19 pm (UTC)
Blesss <3 <3
qween_frostine 3rd-Jan-2014 06:20 pm (UTC)
RIP :(

Even reading the title of the 2nd clip makes me want to cry. Will Smith really was at his best there.

Edited at 2014-01-03 06:21 pm (UTC)
emmapcz 3rd-Jan-2014 06:24 pm (UTC)
lmao i love that elevator scene

RIP :(
la_petite_singe 3rd-Jan-2014 06:25 pm (UTC)
I'm laughing out loud just thinking about "DO I LOOK LIKE A WHITE GUY NAMED WARD?!?" Bless this show 4ever.
bewitchedxsoul 3rd-Jan-2014 06:26 pm (UTC)
Number 2 gives me ALL THE FEELS because my dad is a deadbeat too.
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