It's a show about what happens when a young black man moves out of the inner city and finds himself surrounded by the kind of culture and neighborhood traditionally associated with white America.
If Smith wants to bring the show up to date, he'll have plenty of material. In the 25 years since "The Fresh Prince" first aired, hundreds of thousands of families of color have moved out of the city and into the suburbs over the past two decades, especially in the Sun Belt.
Many of them wouldn't have it quite so good as the Banks family, though. Too often, these families found themselves in new neighborhoods but dealing with old problems. Poverty followed them into the suburbs. Today, there are more black residents and people living in poverty in the suburbs than in the central cities of the country's 100 largest metropolitan areas. Other classics of late 20th-century hip hop anticipated this grim reality, such as N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton," set in a distressed suburb on the other side of Los Angeles from Bel-Air. Dr. Dre's biopic by the same title appeared in theaters on Friday.
Smith, as TV Line's Michael Ausiello reports, is a producer in the revival of the show that began his acting career. The project is still a long way from television screens. Though the new version will have new characters and a new plot, according to Ausiello, it will share the theme of the original, which made comedy out of the tension between the Prince's background and his affluent surroundings.
"The Fresh Prince" captured the displacement experienced not just by the title character but also by the other members of an upwardly mobile black family.
"Somewhere between Princeton or the office, you got soft," His Royal Freshness tells his Uncle Phil in the show's first episode. "You forgot who you are and where you came from."
"I grew up on the streets just like you," rejoins Uncle Phil, a wealthy lawyer. "Believe me, I know where I come from."
As the show was airing, many black urban residents were, like Uncle Phil, leaving the streets behind. A rollicking economy gave many of them a chance to escape the frustrations of life in the inner city. And housing discrimination, which had long kept African Americans out of suburban communities, was easing.
In 1990, only 37 percent of African Americans living in major metropolitan areas were in the suburbs. By 2000, that figure had increased to 44 percent. By the time of the most recent census in 2010, it stood at 51 percent, according to data compiled by researchers at the Brookings Institution. Latino and Asian families were moving into the suburbs as well.
Bel-Air has more in common — its high homeownership rate, its spacious single-family homes — with the nearby city of Beverly Hills than with much of Los Angeles. Though technically a neighborhood within the boundaries of of the city, Bel-Air is quintessentially suburban.
"Moving to the suburbs has a kind of image that you've made it in America," said Brookings demographer William Frey. "Now, it's not as true any more as it used to be."
Unlike Uncle Phil, many of the suburbs' new residents were not rich, but middle or lower-middle class. Their reality was somewhere in between "The Fresh Prince" and "Straight Outta Compton."
Not all suburbs offered the kinds of resources that would help them make economic progress, such as job centers and good schools — and getting to those places in the suburbs often meant having a car. Many suburbs, without the dense development that makes public transit work, have poor bus service at best.
Research by Harvard University economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues suggests that access to transportation is among the most important factors in determining whether children who are brought up poor can get ahead in life. Poor kids in sprawling areas with long commute times have worse prospects than their peers in more densely populated cities.
Getting around by bus and rail is particularly difficult in Los Angeles. Within the metropolitan area, less than six percent of commuters get to work by public transit. Perhaps the new Fresh Prince will take the bus to work because his family can't afford an auto loan as well as a mortgage payment.
Even if the remake is set somewhere other than Los Angeles, that character would still be true to life in many cities. Consider Atlanta, a metropolitan area with a burgeoning suburban black population and infamously bad public transit.
The Banks's neighbors are mostly wealthy and white. If Smith decided to make a new show about a middle-class black family taking in a nephew in suburban Atlanta, their neighbors would be more likely to be black and middle-class.
Between 2000 and 2010, Atlanta's suburbs have swelled with roughly half a million new black residents. And that suburban population has increased at all levels of income. The numbers of black homeowners and high-income black households in the metropolitan area roughly tripled in that decade, according to the Census.
Many less well-heeled families have moved to the suburbs as well. There are now 197 Census tracts in suburban Atlanta where at least one in five residents lives in poverty. In 2000, there were just 32.
"You have pockets of prosperity,"said Brookings researcher Elizabeth Kneebone, "and then pockets of concentrated poverty."
Modest-income families often cannot afford to move into the kinds of suburban neighborhoods that have the best schools. There is also evidence that landlords continue to discriminate against people of color, making it likely that poverty will cluster in the suburbs, as it historically has in cities. Since 2000, in fact, the number of people living in extremely poor neighborhoods has been rising faster in suburban America than in central cities, Kneebone has found.
Predatory lending that disproportionately victimized black suburban neighborhoods made these problems worse. And the foreclosures that resulted, which helped drag down surrounding property values, meant there was less tax revenue available for public services.
Meanwhile, wealthier families who could afford to leave these places moved elsewhere, just as earlier generations left the city. As a result, property values only fell further.
"People with money and the ability to move are moving further out, or they're moving back into the city," Kneebone said.
All these trends suggest provocative possibilities for Smith's remake: Maybe an upwardly mobile black family has bought a nice house with a mortgage they can barely afford in a suburb where the bus runs every 45 minutes and the rich neighbors are starting to move out.