Superstitious people, who the characters openly call insane in an early episode.
Uncle Phil's weight and Carlton's height were common punchlines.
Carlton was a preppy dork and a virgin, which didn't escape notice. Nor did his diminutive stature.
Clarence Thomas was a favorite target of the writing staff.
Anvilicious: The show was usually very good at avoiding this, but one episode, "Kiss My Butler", intentionally used this. After Will learns that he was wrong to make assumptions about Geoffrey and gets his date's number, he tells the audience that it's not important that he impressed her, but that he and Geoffrey have a stronger relationship thanks to understanding him better. He then shoves Geoffrey out of the way to call the girl.
Big Lipped Alligator Moment: "The Harder They Fall" had a moment where a student asked for a book at The Peacock and the cashier reminding her to pay for it before she leaves, which she does. Especially odd as both characters never appeared before or after that.
Bowdlerisation: In some recent airings since 2014, the part in the episode "Community Action" where Jazz comes in with a Bill Cosby cutout is cut, following the rape allegations against him.
Hilary's long-time boyfriend Trevor dying unexpectedly? Tragic and unsettling. Hilary's long-time boyfriend Trevor dying by hitting the ground while bungee jumping as he was proposing to Hilary live on the news channel he worked for with her entire family and presumably hundreds of others watching? One of the most hilarious moments in the show's tenure.
Will: I ain't no bungee expert or nothin', but I don't think he's suppose to be slammin' into the ground like that.
Even better/worse is that you can hear it:
Trevor: Hilary Banks! Will you marry me —*CRUNCH!*
It's even funnier and possibly crosses the line four or five times, considering she didn't even realize that something had gone wrong when he died, and to quote The Other Wiki:
He eventually proposes to Hilary, but she insists that he officially proposes on live television later that day. Trevor then proposes to her on television while bungee jumping, and dies during the stunt when something goes wrong with the jump and he hits the ground. Hilary mourns his death by bringing back what she presumes to be Trevor's ashes in an urn, but later learns that Trevor was not cremated, and that she grabbed a stranger's urn. —> Hillary: "EEW! Then who is this!?" Geoffrey: *grabs the urn* "I'll show him to the door, sir."
The time Phil killed Nicky's bunny rabbit by sitting on it. Even funnier is that when Phil tries to explain death to Nicky by talking about The Lion King, Nicky just looks at his dad and asks if he sat on the rabbit.
"Asses to Ashes", in which at Judge Robertson's funeral not a single person has anything nice to say about him. One guy even says "I'm just here to make sure he dead!" Then, when Will, who felt responsible for his death, as he had been yelling at Robertson for playing dirty in the Superior Court election seconds before he died, said to the people in attendance "I'm the dude that killed him," everyone applauds him.
Will: Tough crowd.
In "The Alma Matters", Carlton tries to impress a Princeton official by behaving like Will who managed to impress him with his usual hijinks, but is quickly written off as a nutcase which causes Carlton to threaten to kill the man when he still refuses to hear him out, and he gets suspended for his troubles. The school phones Uncle Phil and he demands to know if Carlton made this threat. When Phil asks him this, you can actually hear the audience laughing!
In a Season 2 episode, Jazz shows up with a life size cardboard cutout of Bill Cosby, prompting Will to ask what happened to his Whitney Houston cutout. Jazz's response is that she fell apart in the shower. If you live in 2014, you now know why this scene was cut out on BBC Two. Jazz viewing Cosby as a role model also falls into this with the rape allegations that came out against the latter in 2014.
In the episode where Philip and Vivian renew their wedding vows, Philip loses his ring. When it's time for the ceremony, and the ring still has yet to show up, Philip says if worse comes to worse he'll fake a heart attack. Not only does he have a real one in Season 4, but James Avery would die from complications of open heart surgery on December 31, 2013.
One episode from season 4 has a Cold Open with Will impressing a date by playing the saxophone. We later learn that it wasn't him playing, of course, but Branford Marsalis, who was playing the sax from outside. After he leaves, Will then looks at the camera and proclaims, "It's great to work for NBC!" Fifteen years later, however...
Some of the shows more powerful episodes came after a related joke in the prior episode:
In "Fresh Prince After Dark" Will quips that Uncle Phil won't have much time left after Hilary's Playboys are released. The next episode was "Home Is Where The Heart Attack Is" where Uncle Phil has a heart attack, though it had nothing to do with the Playboy.
In "It's A Wonderful Lie" Lisa's friend said Will should be shot after he tries to keep up the lie he told Lisa. The next episode was "Bullets Over Bel-Air" where will was shot by a mugger.
The guest appearance of Donald Trump in 1994. During it, he said, "Everybody's always blaming me for everything". It's now a terrifyingly accurate description of his life after he became President of the United States, where he's literally the most attacked U.S. president in the digital media age, and one of the most divisive political figures on record. There's also the matter of all his interactions with Marla Maples on the show, considering their marriage soon went south and collapsed in 1997.
Genius Bonus: In "The Aunt Who Came to Dinner", Carlton describes a woman as "Beautiful, sexy, and she measures everything in centimeters."note It makes everything seem bigger.
The series is very popular in Brazil and it still gets reruns in public television in the 2010s.
The series was huge also in Spain, where it gets reruns even today as well. It was pretty popular too for the spectacular amounts of Woolseyism in the dub script (although some argue it went too far in later seasons) and the uncanny symbiosis between Will Smith's appearance and his voice actor, Iván Muelas. Even if his voice was higher pitched than Smith's. Thanks to that, Muelas has been Will Smith's most recurrent voice actor in Spain ever since. Bonus points for the opening theme, which was also translated and dubbed by Muelas himself. And it worked surprisingly well! It became such a big hit among kids and teenagers of the early-to-mid '90s that many of them could sing it by heart.
It can be a bit difficult to watch scenes with Aunt Vivian and Will, especially heartwarming moments, due to the Real Life animosity Janet Hubert has towards Will Smith.
In the early seasons, several jokes were made at the expense of Penn State. They can be hard to listen to in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
In the episode where Jazz gets married, his wife, Jewel, expresses fear that their marriage will not work out and tries to flee the proceedings. After being assured by Will things will work out, she and Jazz carry out the ceremony and are wed. And, a season or two later, they're divorced and on bad terms.
The episode "Home Is Where the Heart Attack Is", in which Uncle Phil ends up in the hospital with a heart attack brought on by his overeating, can be quite painful to watch after James Avery's death, due to complications from open heart surgery. Making matters worse is how Carlton is adamant that Uncle Phil will outlive the entire family — in reality, Avery was the first to go.
"Here Comes the Judge" has Jazz being upset because Will is going to leave for college and he feels that Will is to forget all about him. Will tells him they'll always be friends. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince split up in real life during Season 4 (though both remain good friends and have done one-off reunions since then) due to Smith deciding to focus on his acting career and Jeff focusing on his solo career, and no doubt as a result, Jazz started to appear less and less starting in this season, the same season Will goes off to college.
Judge Robertson's death became actually sad after the death of Sherman Hemsley.
Jazz carrying around a cutout of Bill Cosby during his stay at the Banks' house, who he considers his idol whenever he's in a jam. These moments may be considerably less endearing in the wake of Cosby's ongoing sex scandal. And Jazz himself has been known to play the field a lot.
The episode that featured Donald Trump. During it, he said, "Everybody's always blaming me for everything". Come 2016 when he got elected President of the United States and fathered a lot of unpopular decisions and ideas, it turned into the most disturbingly accurate and providential statement one could possibly imagine. Also of note- when he appeared on the show in 1994, it was with his then-second wife, Marla Maples, when the marriage was still relatively fresh (no pun intended). The two divorced in 1997.
Will Smith in several episodes, most notably "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse".
Alfonso Ribeiro. It's rather telling that the Tear Jerker page is almost entirely filled with examples provided by either Smith or Ribeiro.
Heartwarming in Hindsight: In a Season 1 episode, Geoffrey says one regret he has is that he never fathered a son. In the last season, it turns out he does have a long lost son in England, and he moves back home to be with him in the series finale.
In the graduation episode, Will is in danger of failing music class. He makes the remark to Geoffrey, "It ain't like I got a career in music!" Over a decade later, Will left the music industry to work full-time in the film industry.
In one episode, Will does a very good impression of Muhammad Ali ("I'm the greatest! I'm a baaaaad man!"). That skill would eventually lead to an Oscar-nominated portrayal of Ali.
In one episode, Will claims that he didn't find Kool Moe Dee convincing as a cowboy in the song "Wild Wild West". Six years later, Will Smith has his own version of that song, for the movieWild Wild West, featuring Kool Moe Dee. As an added bonus, Carlton attempts to join in with an enthusiastic "I used to live downtown...!" Alfonso Ribeiro went on to make an appearance in Will Smith's "Wild Wild West" music video.
In an early episode, one-shot character "Dr. No" was played by Richard Roundtree. You know, the lead actor in Shaft. The character who Will later idolizes. Roundtree would even go on to make one further appearance as another character in the final season.
In an early Very Special Episode, Will & Carlton are pulled over & arrested by some racist cops because they're two young black men who happen to driving a Mercedes, which therefore must be stolen. Fast forward to 2012, and Men in Black 3 features Agent J (also played by Will Smith) travelling back to 1969 & being pulled over because he's a black man driving a car, only he calls the cops out on pulling him over for assuming he stole the car because he's black, before admitting that he did in fact steal the car.
In "The Butler's Son Did It", two Beast Wars Transformers toys are featured - one of which is identified as Razorbeast, a character didn't appear in the show and had no real prominence in the franchise other than having an action figure. Then the IDW comics came along and he's the main protagonist.
In "The Baby Comes Out", Hilary is angry with her Aunt Vy, Will's mom, for forcing her to leave in the middle of a session at the beauty salon and quips to her, "I'm young; I can still get a husband!" Come the fifth season finale, Aunt Vy and Will's then-fiancée's father end up marrying at the end of the episode.
In "Bang the Drum Ashley", Carlton is upset Will's influence on Ashley is ruining their family traditions and asks "What's next, Christmas?". Later that same season, Will does take over the family's Christmas tradition.
Vivica A. Fox plays Will's extremely controlling girlfriend Janet in the Season 1 episode "It Had to Be You", making her appearance as Will's character's wife five years later in Independence Day all the more hilarious.
Much of the final season features episodes with titles following the I, Noun style, including "I, Clownius", "I, Stank Horse" and the Grand Finale "I, Done". Eight years after the series went off the air came a certain other Will Smith feature, I, Robot.
The season five two-parter "What's Will Got to Do With It?" sees Will managing to snag Ashley a career in singing, which would later happen in real life with Will Smith helping Tatyana Ali land her own musical career.
The above episode also features actor Obba Babatunde playing an Expy of Motown founder Berry Gordy (even going so far as to be named Gordy Berry). Three years later, Babatunde would go on to portray Gordy himself in the miniseries The Temptations.
Will's remix of Uncle Phil's campaign ad almost resembles today's YouTube Poop videos. In fact, this episode aired roughly a decade before YouTube was created.
"Not With My Cousin You Don't" has Ashley contemplating having sex with her boyfriend, who plans to go to Stanford. In 2016, Tatyana Ali married an English professor from Stanford, and announced the two were expecting.
Actress Garcelle Beauvais appeared twice over the series' run, both times as girls Will tried to get with. One of the opening scenes of Will Smith's later movie Wild Wild West has Smith and Beauvais' characters in said film passionately kissing while naked in a water tower, so it looks like Will finally succeeded.
"How I Spent My Summer Vacation" sees Carlton call Will "Buckwheat" in reference to Will's new messy, unkempt hairstyle. Two seasons later, Ross Bagley would join the cast as baby Nicky, with Bagley having already been known for playing Buckwheat in the 1994 Little Rascals film.
The size of Will Smith's ears were a frequent joke in the series, 20 years after the series ended, Will Smith plans to join the live action remake of Dumbo.
One early episode had Will and Hilary at a nightclub, where she pointed out some of the so-called "B-list" people there that included Cher's electrologist, Tom Cruise's pool guy and Heather Locklear. It would not even be three years later that Locklear would experience a Career Resurrection because her role on Melrose Place.
Ho Yay: Will with both Carlton and Jazz. This is not to say that Will (the character) was comfortable with such undertones, as he once had a role on a soap opera, but quit because he was uncomfortable with acting a very close between his character and his character's brother.
Carlton is the stereotypical annoying, arrogant, spoiled rich kid. However, he's constantly upstaged by Will, his cooler cousin who always gets everything he wants, often without even trying, and who spends pretty much all his time insulting him or making fun of his height. Also, in later seasons, he becomes a nerdy Butt Monkey being also the Straw Loser to Will and it seems that everyone, even his own family, except Uncle Phil, likes Will more than him.
Hilary was shallow and self centered, but felt her entire self-identity revolved around being liked by others. It got to the point where to her being in a job where she was treated like crap seemed favorable to her as she was the envy of her friends.
One time character, Edward Haskell qualifies as well. Sure he robbed the Banks residence, but his entire introduction was nothing but him being mistreated by Will and Phil and given Phil's Bad Boss tendencies being shown to the full extent in this episode, you almost can't blame the guy for what he did.
Phil: Well... I guess we've all learned a little something from this. Will: Yeah. Don't work for you.
Minority Show Ghetto: One of the most triumphant aversions. It is revered as one of the best sitcoms of all time among all races.
Moral Event Horizon: Lou, Will's father, crosses this in his only appearance by getting Will's hopes up for reconciliation only to leave him again in favor of a job opportunity (which is heavily implied to be a lie). Notable as this is treated as one In-Universe too.
Nightmare Fuel: In one episode, Uncle Phil accidentally sits on top of a shoe box containing an adorable white pet bunny. Him killing it, looking inside the box and reacting in horror, and then telling the little boy who owned the bunny is all played for laughs. It really shouldn't be though. There is also the bit later where Nicky finds out is meant to be charming, but seeing how disturbingly nonchalant he is about his pet dying and even saying "Death is just a natural part of life" is definitely jarring coming from a 6 year old.
One-Scene Wonder: "Bob" from "Mistaken Identity" is one. At one point, Will and Carlton are arrested and accused of stealing cars. They then up in jail with a white dude with a do-rag and a sleeveless denim jacket. Will, trying to cheer Carlton up, gets him to sing "Let My People Go" at which point Bob starts singing it in a dignified bass voice that would make Paul Robeson proud. He then proceeds to sing show tunes. Bob does it in such an intimidating manner that it just freaks Will and Carlton out even more. He was portrayed by Raymond McLeod.
Replacement Scrappy: Despite the fact that many people in the cast and crew hated Hubert-Whitten, the majority of fans preferred her portrayal of Vivian to Daphne Maxwell-Reid's. What probably didn't help was that Vivian was a more important character when she was played by Janet but was more or less Demoted to Extra when Daphne Maxwell-Reid took over the role.
Tatyana M. Ali (Ashley) is also best known as a pop singer with a top 10 hit to her name, "Daydreamin'".
Debbie Allen directed two episodes, including the pilot episode. Allen is best known for playing Lydia Grant in Fame.
Malcolm-Jamal Warner directed an episode. Warner is best known for playing Theo Huxtable on The Cosby Show.
David Steven Simon wrote nine episodes and served as producer, supervising producer, and co-executive producer. Simon is best known for co-creating The Wayans Bros..
Leslie Ray wrote eight episodes and also served as producer, supervising producer, and co-executive producer. Ray is also best known for co-creating The Wayans Bros..
David Zuckerman also wrote eight episodes and served as co-producer. Zuckerman is best known as co-developer and executive producer of Family Guy.
Eddie Gorodetsky wrote six episodes and also served as co-producer. Gorodetsky is best known for co-creator and co-executive producer of Mom and for creating the Sumner Gleeson character in Batman: The Animated Series.
Winifred Hervey wrote five episodes and served as executive producer. Hervey is best known as creator and executive producer of The Steve Harvey Show.
John Ridley wrote two episodes. Ridley is best known as creator and executive producer of American Crime.
John Bowman wrote an episode. Bowman is best known as co-creator and co-executive producer of Martin.
Dan Cross and David Hoge also wrote an episode. Both are best known as creators and executive producers of Pair of Kings.
Josh Goldstein also wrote an episode. Goldstein is best known for co-developing American Dreams.
Larry Wilmore also wrote an episode and served as co-producer. Wilmore is best known as creator and executive producer of The Bernie Mac Show and for co-creating The PJs and Insecure.
Romantic Plot Tumor: Will and Lisa. Almost the entire fifth season revolves around their relationship. Even episodes in which she doesn't appear, when Will trying to get ready for married life drives the episodes' plots.
Nicky, who was a complete annoying idiot, even for a kid.
Aunt Vivian, for being generally boring and unfunny compared to the other characters. This is especially true for the second Vivian played by Daphne Reid. Averted for Vivian when played by Janet Hubert since fans tend to prefer Hubert's portrayal than Reid's due to her being a more important character in the first three seasons.
Seasonal Rot: The last season is an example of this. The writing was weaker and had more Denser and Wackier plotlines, Will's jokes (especially about Uncle Phil) were less clever and more mean-spirited, both he and Carlton suffered from Flanderization and the chemistry and wit of the previous seasons just wasn't there anymore. That being said, there still were some well-received episodes, such as the episode where Geoffrey meets the son he never knew he had, the bloopers episode with Dick Clark and, of course, the series finale. Luckily, Will Smith acknowledged this and decided to end the show before things got worse
Seinfeld Is Unfunny: The series was considered to be rather "edgy" for its time due to dealing with adult subject matter (at least, compared to other Black Sitcoms). Nowadays, while still well-liked, it's also seen to be very goofy.
In the pilot episode, when Will is in his room and stapling his Malcolm X poster on the wall, the wall itself shakes. Also when Will looks in the mirror and sees himself dressed as Carlton, the image is moving as opposed to being still.
In the Season 3 episode, "That's No Lady, That's My Cousin", after Carlton is turned on by the new student all the other boys are clamoring over and Will informs him that it's Ashley, he delivers a none-too-convincing echoing stock scream over his actual scream.
In the Season 4 episode "Fresh Prince After Dark", once Will, Carlton, and Hilary arrive at the Playboy Mansion, the microphone pack is visible on her back for a few seconds.
In Season 3's "The Baby Comes Out", as Phil is about to run to Vivian, who's now at the hospital in labor, he falls over a gurney. Although based on the sound effects and Hillary and Carlton's reactions, he's supposed to be crashing into various things while running down the hallway, you can see that he's still lying on the ground after initially falling over. The camera even quickly cuts away to support the former's events.
The show wasn't afraid to lampshade this, though. The Stock Footage of Jazz being thrown out of the house isn't covered up at all (to the point where seeing Jazz wear the shirt he had on when he was first thrown out tells you that it's going to happen)—it's likely the showrunners realized it was funnier to have the exact same shot and sound effects every time.
Parodied in one episode where Will sits down on the couch and says "If we so rich, how 'come we ain't got no ceiling?" while the camera pans up to the ceiling of the set with all the spotlights in a magnificent fourth wall break.
Squick: In "Love At First Flight" Will said that age makes no difference back in Philadelphia and teens and adults were in the same boat.
Strawman Has a Point: Will going out with Carlton's ex-girlfriend, Paula, in "The Cold War" only a few days after they broke up was insensitive. He technically had a right to go out with Paula since she was single and accepted Will when he asked her out.
Carlton meets a mail carrier girl one episode, after striking out with a video dating service, and they (apparently) start dating. The next episode, though, she's turned down by him, and she walks out, never to be seen again...
In "She Ain't Heavy...", Will meets a girl named Dee Dee who is perfect for him in every way. She had more personality than all of Will's love interests (bar Jackie) combined, a great dynamic with all the characters, and was pretty funny. Despite Will realizing his feelings for her at the end, she disappeared without a trace like many of Will's love interests.
Unintentionally Unsympathetic: The 2 main homeless tenants in "There's the Rub". Despite already having some sympathy for being homeless, lose it upon their utterly rude treatment of Carlton and Hilary. The episode tries to justify this by having Carlton and Hilary do it for personal gain, but it doesn't work because the ruder of the two never knew that and both of them were being rude because Carlton and Hilary are rich and because they're struggling with work they're unfamiliar with.
Unpopular Popular Character: Jazz and Carlton are both well liked by the fandom. Within the show? Carlton is often the Straw Loser to Will, who's mistreated by his family, while Jazz is constantly kicked out of the Banks' house.
Vague Age: Ashley. Some early episodes show her as nine years old, yet later in the same season, she is seen having a 12th birthday party. Apparently they skipped three years of her life within one season (considering what happened later on to "Baby" Nicky, this actually might not be that much of a stretch).
In "You'd Better Shop Around," Will is tempted to drop out of college and work at a car dealership. While the owner of the dealership is somewhat shady, he never does anything illegal and Will was enjoying his work and was being paid a good amount of money. In a post recession world, this seems like a pretty good idea but at the time getting a higher education was seen as required in order to have a successful future and Will is portrayed as in the wrong for wanting to drop out. Even though the show never really went into Will's major or what he wanted to do with after he graduated.
In the episode where Will's aunt wants to marry a white man, her family's reactions can seem rather dated. The episode does take time to show that they're afraid of how society will treat them, but in a society where interracial marriage is more and more common, their concern seems less relevant today.
Vindicated by History: While certainly not un popular (as the two post script seasons will tell you), the show was never a rating giant, having to compete with the mega-popular Home Improvement on ABC during it's original broadcast. It wasn't until Will Smith became one of the most popular actors in Hollywood that it became one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.
Will Smith manages to do this to himself; the name "Fresh Prince" originally served as his stage name as part of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, but any and all uses of the term as a nickname for him evaporated after Independence Day and his transition as a solo rap artist in the mid 1990s. Nowadays, "Fresh Prince" is universally shorthand for the series, to the point that younger viewers are unaware that it ever meant anything else.
Likewise, the Theme Tune contains several visual shout outs to the music video "Parents Just Don't Understand", which much of the modern audience has never seen.