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In Movies & TV Commentary

James Avery and Alfonso Ribeiro appear in the BET press room for the BET Awards on June 28, 2005. (PHOTO:

Avery left mark on TV generation

"Now this is a story all about how,
my life got twisted, upside down.
And I'd like to take a minute, so sit right there,
I'll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air."

It is a simple rap, to introduce the main character of a sit-com that defined a generation. When rapper Will Smith teamed up with legendary producer Quincy Jones, a team put together a cast of actors to work with the unproven actor, Smith, in a production called "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

At the helm of the family was James Avery, a veteran writer and character and voice actor who took on the role of judge Philip Banks. He was the father figure who had to give his relocated nephew a stable environment.

On Dec. 31, Avery passed away following complications from heart surgery. Earlier on Sunday, Smith posted on Facebook his page some thoughts of having the opportunity to work with the man.

"Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery. Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace," Smith posted, along with a photo of the two of them together with co-stars Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons and Tatyana Ali.

Sometimes the characters are written so well, that an actor cannot help but be influential in the role. But, like most sitcoms, most of the parts in the show are there only to move the plot along. But with Avery, you could tell there was something a bit more. That the actor knew how to play the character in a way that would resonate with others. He played Uncle Phil in a way that people could identify with him.

"We're feeling his loss very deeply. He'll always be a part of me," Ali shared on Twitter of her TV dad.

Speaking of TV dads, Avery landed on the "TV Guide" list of "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time." Philip Banks came in at No. 34.

"He was a second father to me," Ribeiro Tweeted. "I will miss him greatly."

If you know more than Avery's work on TV dramas and sitcoms, you may also be familiar with his voice work on cartoons. His most notable role would have been for arch nemesis Shredder on the 1980s cartoon version of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

HUGE GAME: Even though the Packers didn't come out on the winning end of Sunday's playoff game with the 49ers, the team did well enough to earn the biggest Wildcard game ever watched in Milwaukee. The broadcast on WITI-TV Fox 6 recorded a 58.0 rating, appearing on 535,000 households in the market.

MASTERPIECE RATINGS: PBS announced on Monday that the first airing of "Downton Abbey, Season 4" on "MASTERPIECE" enchanted viewers as 10.2 million tuned in for Sunday's premiere.

The fourth season premiere of the Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award-winning series, a Carnival Films/MASTERPIECE co-production, improved upon the average rating of the third season premiere of "Downton Abbey" by 22 percent.

"As this captivating drama continues, our audiences have been eagerly awaiting this new season to see what's next for these beloved characters," said PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger. "I'm so pleased that millions of viewers have returned to 'Downton Abbey' on their local PBS stations for what has become a post-holiday tradition."


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