In the opening credits of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air there is a credit that says:

Based on a format by Benny Medina & Jeff Pollack

I've never seen this credit before.

Q: What is a format? And what format is the show based on?


Medina [a music producer] and his partner Pollack were the creators, who first pitched the idea to Quincy Jones. Jones was the one who took it to the network. The show was then basically taken out of the hands of the creators, leaving that credit.

Medina was indeed the original 'fresh prince' - it was his own life story.

Wikipedia - The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Reddit - What does the "based on a format by" credit mean in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?


In Hollywood, the term "based on a format" means the show (or movie) follows a specific chain of events. For instance, The Taken film franchise featuring Liam Neeson is based on a format where the main character's loved one gets kidnapped, he kills a bunch of bad guys, he meets the "big boss" and retrieves his loved one. The "format" in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is always the same; Will gets in trouble, Will gets redeemed (there is more minutia than that, but it's been a while since I watched it). That's what "based on a format" means in Hollywood.

  • 2
    That may be a generally correct definition of "format", but it doesn't seem to apply to this situation. Medina and Pollack didn't create the idea of a sitcom where the main character gets in trouble and then gets redeemed. – GendoIkari Feb 8 at 19:14
  • But they likely created the format where a former boy from out of state gets into trouble while living in a rich uncle's house. In other words, it's very likely it was pitched as, "Look, we have this hot rapper who wants to do a TV show. So, we're going to say he's from Philly and he's being relocated to Bel Air, CA. He's going to get into situations where he does X, and in the end he finds redemption." That's essentially a "format", and they may have had a pilot script written and they may not have. They sell the format and have the studio hire their own writers. And yes, that happens. – Johnny Bones Feb 8 at 19:33
  • Your comment has convinced me, but I can't retract my downvote unless there is an edit to the post... – GendoIkari Feb 8 at 19:36

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