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  • Acceptable Targets:
    • Superstitious people, who the characters openly call insane in an early episode.
    • Phil's weight was a common punchline.
    • Carlton was a preppy dork, and a virgin though so was Will, which didn't escape notice. Nor did his diminutive stature.
    • Clarence Thomas was a favorite target of the writing staff.
  • Accidental Aesop: In "Blood Is Thicker Than Mud", Carlton is about to join an upper-class white-dominated fraternity he fits in very well with until Will convinces him to join Phi Beta Gamma because they "look more like him". This is despite the fact the fraternity Carlton was looking at seemed genuinely interested in him and didn't seem to judge him in the slightest for his race. This sends the message that being the same race as someone doesn't assure or prevent fitting in with people, but in the end it's commonalities.
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  • Adorkable: Carlton, a pompous yet lovable geeky goofball, often wearing polo shirts and sweater. And he invented the hilariously dorky Carlton Dance.
  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: "Just Say Yo" has a Drugs Are Bad aesop that shows Will illicitly getting prescription amphetamines to stay awake as a bad thing. It also has Carlton mistaking the bottle of said amphetamines for vitamins, leading to another aesop of "don't take anything for your body unless you are 100% sure of what it is".
  • Anvilicious: "Kiss My Butler" uses this to a humorous effect. 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 got the number, 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.
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  • Artistic License – Law: The second season episode "Cased Up" is full of conflicts of interest in the courtroom.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: "The Harder They Fall" has a moment where a student asks for a book at The Peacock and the cashier reminding her to pay for it before she leaves, which she does. This is especially odd as both characters never appear before or after this.
  • Critical Research Failure: In "Just Say Yo", Carlton taking amphetamines is meant to symbolize the dangers of medical drug overdose. However, amphetamines are rarely fatal even in really bad situations. Sure, the show is trying to make a point that even medical drugs can be deadly, but amphetamines being lethal really does not square with the facts.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • "Asses to Ashes":
      • Judge Robertson's death. A man having a stroke and dying? Terrifying. A major asshole having a stroke and dying, mere moments after being told to "drop dead" and Will's horrified reaction? Hilarious.
      • 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 feels responsible for his death, as he had been yelling at Robertson for playing dirty in the Superior Court election seconds before he died, says to the people in attendance "I'm the dude that killed him," everyone applauds him:
        Will: Tough room.
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    • In "The Alma Matter", 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. This 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!
    • "Where There's a Will, There's a Way (Part 2)":
      • 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.
      • After the funeral, Hilary returns home with Trevor's ashes in hand... only for Will to reveal that he wasn't cremated:
        Hilary: Eww! Then who's this?! (hands urn to Will)
        Geoffrey: I'll see him to the door, Miss Hilary.
    • In "Take My Cousin, Please", Phil and Carlton assemble a new crib for Nicky in the B-plot, only for Ashley to tell them that it had been recalled due to launching infants 50 feet. Geoffrey's response? "We can beat that." Then during the Dragnet-style narration at the end of the episode, it concludes with a shot of the empty crib and declares, "Baby Nicky only made it to 42 feet."
    • In "Hare Today...", Phil accidentally kills 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. What really seals the deal though is his surprisingly accepting response of "That's okay, Dad. Death is a natural part of life... but what a way to go."
      • The death itself is morbidly hilarious through having a couple of fake-outs to build up to the deed before it's done.
    • In "M is For the Many Things She Gave Me", Phil's former flame Janice visits and seduces Will for a one-night stand even as he's dating her daughter. The next day, Will confesses the incident to Phil and Janice is quickly shown the door for her lecherous behavior. When Phil pulls Will aside we get this delightfully awkward exchange:
    Will: Now Uncle Phil, I'm 19 years old and I have made some mistakes.
    Phil: I'm 45 and I make them too. The secret is to learn from them.
    Will: Yeah, I learned my lesson. From now on I'm only dating girls with ugly moms.
    • In "Home is Where the Heart Attack Is", the doctor who tends to Uncle Phil after his heart attack is named Dr. Kevarkian; With an "A", not an "O". The family is appropriately spooked upon hearing that name until he makes that very differentiation. note 
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Aunt Helen is a pretty memorable character due to her always Chewing the Scenery and having great one-liners. Jenifer Lewis' portrayal of her helps a great deal.
  • The Generation Gap: Particulary noticeable on the topics of race and civil rights between the three generations of the Banks-Smith family:
    • Hattie is deeply hurt when Philip appears ashamed of his rural Southern roots, and this isn't so odd, but it's more impactful when one realizes that she and Joe were likely the grandchildren of slaves and, in a deeply segregated South, would have had few opportunities available apart from farming, labour, or housework. They would have been doing the very best they could to provide for their child, only for him to grow up embarrassed by it.
    • Vy's anger at her sister Janice marrying a white man is confusing to Will - but interracial marriage would have been illegal in many states in her lifetime, was extremely controversial and stigmatizing for years after that, and was still uncommon in the early 1990s. To Will, who attends an overwhelmingly white school, has white friends, and sees his relatives socializing and networking with white people, Janice marrying Frank is slightly unusual - to Vy, Janice is signing on for a lifetime of exclusion and judgment from both the Black and white communities.
    • Phil gets very upset with Will for suggesting that he's "forgotten his roots", and Viv gets upset with Will and Carlton for not taking their Black History class seriously - both were active in the Civil Rights Movement and while they're sincerely glad that life is easier for their children than it was for them, they both resent that Will and Carlton take those struggles for granted and don't care to learn about them.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • In "Striptease For Two", Will responds to Carlton's question on whether or not he got the stripper gig with "Does David Duke shop white sales?" Explanation 
    • In "The Aunt Who Came to Dinner", Carlton describes a woman as "Beautiful, sexy, and she measures everything in centimeters." Explanation 
    • A Princeton representative in "The Alma Matter" comments in an unimpressed manner that Will's high school grades "would make an impressive batting average." The average professional batting average is between 0.250 and 0.275, while anything above .310 is considered to be great and enough to qualify a professional player as one of the best. He's basically just saying that Will's GPA is between 2.8 and 3.1, in other words he has a B average (possibly B-), which for the time was slightly above average. note 
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: While still extremely popular in the United States, it is just as big in other countries as well:
    • The series is very popular in Brazil and it still gets reruns in public television in the 2010s.
    • The series was huge in Spain, where it gets reruns even in The New Twenties 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.
    • Pretty much the exact same thing as in Spain happened in Latin America, where Will Smith's Latin American Spansh voice actor, Juan Alfonso Carralero, became Will Smith's most recurrent voice actor ever since, even if his voice was higher pitched than Smith's. And yes, the opening theme was also translated and dubbed by Carralero himself, and it also became a big hit among kids and teenagers of the early-to-mid '90s.
    • It has a strong following in the United Kingdom. note 
  • Growing the Beard: "Mistaken Identity" showed the show can handle heavy topics just as well as they can be funny, about halfway through the first season the family's conceit and stuffiness were toned down just enough so they were more relatable and had a wider plot potential while staying in tune with the "Fish Out of Water" plot.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • "Bang the Drum Ashley" has Will say there might not be enough farmland to support Phil. Though this was obviously a crack at his weight, two episodes later it is revealed Phil grew up on a farm and was secretly ashamed of it.
    • In "Community Action", 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 or beyond, you now know why this scene was cut out on BBC Two.
    • In "The Aunt That Came to Dinner", Will's Uncle Lester, whom Will thought was cheating on his Aunt Helen, tells him that he can let out his anger and aggression over his father with him. Will would do just that two years later after his father lets him down a second time, but with a different uncle.
    • Some of the show's more powerful episodes came after a related joke in the prior episode:
      • In "Fresh Prince After Dark", Will quips that Phil won't have much time left after Hilary's Playboy shoot is released. The next episode was "Home is Where the Heart Attack Is" where Phil has a heart attack, though it had nothing to do with Hilary's shoot.
      • In "It's a Wonderful Lie", Lisa's friend says that Will should be shot after he tries to keep up the lie he told Lisa. The following episode is "Bullets Over Bel-Air" where he's shot by a mugger.
    • 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 Ol' Ball and Chain", 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. A season or two later, they're divorced and on bad terms.
    • "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 DJ Jazzy 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.
    • In "Cased Up", a gag has Jazz holding up his hands on the witness stand and refusing to put them down to swear on the Bible because the white bailiff has a gun and "next thing I know, I have six 'warning shots' on my back". Much like "Mistaken Identity", it's a harsh reminder of how little racist law enforcement in America has changed.
  • He Really Can Act:
    • 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 "She Ain't Heavy", Will's stuck-up date to a school dance orders him to tell Carlton, who's dressed in a gaudy tuxedo, to get lost. He first resists because they're cousins, but after she shows off her cleavage, he obeys her while saying, "It's not like we're brothers or anything!" The dynamic between Will and Carlton is more like brothers instead of merely cousins (and as such, Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro became and remain close friends in working on the show together).
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Jada Pinkett was once turned down for a part as one of Will's girlfriends. Guess who she married?
    • In "Six Degrees of Graduation", 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 Smith left the music industry to work full-time in the film industry.
    • In "Working It Out", Will keeps accusing Hilary of "going Hollywood" for being Marissa Redman's assistant. Will Smith would successfully transition into an actor thanks to the show.
    • "She Ain't Heavy" has Queen Latifah (again) as a Girl of the Week who pretends to be a Wooly Mammoth. Enter Ice Age.
    • A character played by Will Smith impresses an important person by solving a Rubik's Cube really fast.
    • In "My Brother's Keeper", 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 "All Guts, No Glory", 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 movie Wild 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 "Clubba Hubba", Dr. Mumford 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 "Hare Today..."
    • Will learns self-defense from Pat Morita (as himself). Later, the former remade one of the latter's most famous films.
    • Will has his style of beatboxing used throughout the series, which he reused for Men in Black II. One instance where he did it was in front of a hitman played by Brad Garrett, who's dressed as an Man in Black!
    • 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 5 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. Additionally, this 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 Phil's campaign ad almost resembles 2010s' 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 The Little Rascals film.
    • 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 two years later that Locklear would experience a Career Resurrection because her role on Melrose Place.
    • "Just Infatuation" has the family pondering over a gift for Ashley and Carlton commenting, "Shouldn't she be playing with those ponies with the pink hair?" At the time, the reference was dated as the franchise's popularity had seemingly dying out by then. Nowadays, the reference would make perfect sense.
    • The line "DO I LOOK LIKE A WHITE GUY NAMED WARD?!!" is fairly amusing in light of the fact that Will Smith would later go on to play a racist named Ward in Bright.
    • In "Boyz in the Woods", after he, Will and Carlton get lost on a mountain during a camping trip, Uncle Phil suggests they get out in hitchhike, to which Will immediately shot down saying as three black men on a mountain, that the only people who will be stopping "will be wearing white sheets and yelling, 'Get 'em, Jim Bob!'"
    • Remember the infamous death of Trevor, Hilary's fiancé, via a bungee jump accident? Thankfully, history didn't repeat itself 25 years later.
    • In "All Guts, No Glory", a character played by Jim Meskimen — Professor Jeremy Mansfield — does an imitation of Captain James T. Kirk. Two seasons later, in season six's "Eye, Tooth", a character played by Jim Meskimen — Hilary’s producer Werner — finds himself being chewed out in one scene by the genuine article.
    • In a Season 6 episode, Carlton blasts an "unfunny" comedian's antics as being a "Martin Lawrence wannabe". Said comedian was played by Chris Rock, whose real-life career would not only explode the following year, but his popularity as a comedian eventually surpassed Lawrence's.
    • The mere fact that Carlton and Will's college mascot was a peacock, as well as their college lounge/cafeteria being called The Peacock, becomes this when a reboot was announced for the streaming service Peacock.
  • 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.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: In "She Ain't Heavy", Will has a friendship/almost romance with Dee Dee. But she's too big for him to ask to the dance.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Carlton is the stereotypical snobbish, 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 the 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.
  • Love to Hate: Judge Robertson has absolutely no redeeming qualities, he's sexist, condescending, corrupt, sleazy, and dishonest. However, his antics were often so absurd and hilarious that he was more amusing rather than unlikable. Sherman Hemsley was clearly relishing his role which made him one of the more entertaining antagonists of the show. The episode where he drops dead is a masterwork of Black Comedy.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Pretty much any time someone says "this is a story" or some paraphrasing of such, expect it to be twisted into the first line of the opening theme.
    • Or frequently, telling an unrelated story and suddenly end it with "and then my mom got scared and said..."
      • This part of the theme song specifically saw a resurgence after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, as people either making fun at the moral panic over it or just saw the easy joke realised that Will "got in one little fight" and caused a public brouhaha.
    • The Fresh Prince of X.
    • A couple of dances including the "Carlton Dance" (the strange and rather Adorkable dance Carlton does whenever he listens to Tom Jones) and the dance Carlton and Will perform together to win a contest.
    • Phil's love for "turkey, with pillowy mounds of mashed potatoes."
    • Hey, what do you get when you combine The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time? Uncle Phil Visits the Lost Woods!
    • MOMMA, NO!!!!!!!!
    • If a video game company doesn't have a lot of games out, somebody's gotta ask themselves, "Where the video games?"
    • It's very popular to make remixes of the theme tune and a video game OST, accompanied with a video game picture with Will Smith's face pasted on the character.
    • DO I LOOK LIKE A WHITE GUY NAMED WARD?!!
    • The face Uncle Phil makes in "A Night at the Oprah" when Will tells Oprah about how he wasn't allowed to appear on stage of her show with the rest of the family is also this on a lesser extent.
    • This is a moderately popular source for YouTube Poop. Case in point: The Fesh Pince of Blair, considered to be a Fountain of Memes in its own right.
    • WHO CARES WHAT YOU THINK? YOU'RE NOT MY FATHER!! Explanation 
    • Eeeee~ Explanation 
    • "How come they don't want me, man?" Explanation 
    • "This is a black thing isn't it?"
    • "Would you make me a sandwich?"
    • "You take your horny little ass, and you find Geoffrey, and you find Geoffrey, and you find Geoffrey, and you find Geoffrey, and you find Geoffrey..."
    • Geoffrey saying "No."
    • Chicken 'n winnigish.
    • "He a little confused, but he got the spirit" is commonly used as a gifset now on Tumblr.
    • One combined with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: A scene from the show spiced up JoJo style here.
      Lisa, come stand by my side!
    • Will's... unique sense of dancing is quite meme-worthy, particularly his dancing to Jazz's drumming in "Bang the Drum, Ashley".
    • On YouTube, whenever there's a clip where Phil gets angry (ex. "Your grandchildren are gonna need lawyers!"), saying James Avery is letting the Shredder out.
  • 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.
  • Narm Charm: The ending of "Just Say Yo", where Will tearfully confesses to the family that he indirectly caused Carlton's drug overdose, comes off as laughable as any other Very Special Episode. However, Will Smith handles the script rather well, and it becomes a brutally heartbreaking moment.
  • Never Live It Down: The feud between Janet Hubert-Whitten and Will Smith remains perhaps the most infamous aspect of the series, leading to the inevitable recasting of Vivian when things between Hubert-Whitten and her co-stars broke down. The casting of Daphne Maxwell Reid as the new Vivian proved to be a polarizing decision to say the least, with fans almost unanimous in their consensus that Hubert-Whitten was the better actress and that without her Vivian had become too much of a background character as a result. The show itself lampshaded this controversial decision several times.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • "Bob" in "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.
    • Mr. Hosek, Will's deranged faculty adviser from "All Guts, No Glory" who's on the verge of a (Played for Laughs) nervous breakdown due to both his wife's infidelity (which is apparently a serial problem since he says that she's "seen more action than Chuck Norris!") and his failing career. He's portrayed by Terry Kiser.
    • Vic, the Cold Ham employee at the avant-garde Christmas designer store whose decorations that Will and Ashley rejected in the first Christmas Episode "Deck the Halls". He was portrayed by the late Taylor Negron.
    • For fans of Family Matters, Ashley's old boyfriend Derek (played by Jaleel White) is pretty much an expy of Stefan Urquelle, serving as an unofficial crossover between two of the most popular Black sitcoms of the era.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Replacement Scrappy: Despite the fact that many people in the cast and crew hated Janet Hubert-Whitten, a majority of fans prefer her portrayal of Vivian over Daphne Maxwell Reid's. Not helping matters is that Vivian was a more important character when she was played by the former, but was more or less Demoted to Extra when the latter took over the role.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Phil LaMarr played Uncle Phil's law clerk in "Robbing the Banks".
    • Don Cheadle appeared in the episode "Homeboy, Sweet Homeboy" as one of Will's friends from Philadelphia.
    • Hank Azaria had a role in "Mistaken Identity" as Jerry, one of the racist police officers who locked up Will and Carlton.
    • Christa Miller, best known for her roles in The Drew Carey Show, Scrubs, and Cougar Town, had a small role in "Who's The Boss" as an unnamed girl Will hit on.
    • Tatyana M. Ali (Ashley) is also best known as a pop singer with a top 10 hit to her name, "Daydreamin'".
    • 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 Summer 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 would go on to win an Academy Award for writing 12 Years a Slave and create the TV series American Crime.
    • John Bowman wrote an episode. Bowman is best known as co-creator and co-executive producer of Martin.
    • Jenji Kohan wrote an episode. Kohan is best known as creator and executive producer of Weeds and Orange Is the New Black.
    • Dan Cross and David Hoge also wrote an episode. Both are best known as creators and executive producers of Pair of Kings and The Thundermans.
    • Josh Goldstein wrote an episode. Goldstein is best known for co-developing American Dreams.
    • Larry Wilmore 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, plus recurring correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and hosting its short-lived spin-off The Nightly Show.
  • Romantic Plot Tumor: Will and Lisa. Almost the entire fifth season revolves around their relationship.
  • 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. Also, some rather grating continuity errors began showing up such as Uncle's birthday being a different date. That being said, there still were some well-received episodes, such as "The Butler's Son Did It", the episode where Geoffrey meets the son he never knew he had, "I, Whoops, There It Is", the bloopers episode with Dick Clark and, of course, the series finale. Luckily, Will Smith acknowledged this before the sixth season started and decided to end the show before things got worse. In fact, much of the season's flaws can be chalked up to the fact that everyone knew this was the last season and were more or less coasting by.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: The series was considered to be rather "edgy" for its time due to dealing with adult subject matter. Nowadays, while still well-liked, it's also seen to be very goofy.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Will's breakdown in "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse".
    • Aunt Viv's dance audition in "The Big Four-Oh".
    • Carlton dancing to "It's Not Unusual".
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • 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 "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 "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 "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:
      • 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.
      • This is parodied in "Same Game, Next Season" where Will sits down on the couch and says, "If we so rich, why we can't afford no ceiling?" while the camera pans up to the ceiling of the set with all the spotlights in a magnificent fourth wall break.
    • When Geoffrey shows the family the video of how he cheated at the Montreal Olympics, the green screen of the massive crowds cheering him and the other winners is brutally obvious, with the actors on the stand poorly composited over said stock footage. And if you look closely, none of the actors' feet are touching the ground when Geoffrey flees the scene.
  • Squick: In "Love at First Flight", Will says that age makes no difference back in Philadelphia and teens and adults are 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. He technically has a right to go out with her since she was single and accepted Will when he asked her out.
    • Will's friend Top Dog in "Blood is Thicker Than Mud". Will and Carlton decide to pledge to the fraternity that Top Dog runs, but he refuses to let Carlton join because of his wealth and privilege and even calls Carlton a sell-out. While Top Dog is in the wrong because he hasn't known Carlton long enough to judge his life and he still let Carlton pledge while working him much harder than the other candidates, despite never having any intention of letting him join, he's not wrong about Carlton's general attitude. In several episodes both before and after this one, Carlton displays multiple instances of elitism and callousness towards the less fortunate; in particular, in "I, Stank Hole in One", he expresses glee at getting to see a family's house foreclosed on and them being thrown into the street. Taking Carlton's personality over the course of the show into account makes Top Dog seem like less of an unreasonable bigot and more Right for the Wrong Reasons.
    • In "Geoffrey Cleans Up", Geoffrey makes a huge fuss during a party because he feels he's not upscale enough to date a wealthy heiress and has to apologize to her for how he acted. While he was primarily at fault, Karen did not help matters by trying to glorify Geoffrey's social status at the party such as bragging about his trip to England making it sound like he went because he could not that he was seeing family.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Kellogg Lieberbaum, affectionately named Cornflake by Will. He was one of the friendliest and most loyal people to Will, even over Carlton or any of his other friends. Unfortunately, his final mention was in "Eyes On The Prize" where Geoffrey mentioned that he left town due to being threatened from being Will's partner on a game show by Jazz and Tyriq (the latter of whom didn't last too much longer as a character himself).
    • Trevor Collins, Hillary's ill-fated fiancé. Through his few appearances, he really loved her, was a good foil for the other characters (especially Jazz) and quite possibly could have been the one person who genuinely made her grow up and take responsibility for her life.
    • Robert, Vy's boyfriend from "Vying For Attention". Nice Guy, good father, loved Vy, could fix anything and was wealthy. Unfortunately, they broke up largely because Will was jealous of their relationship, even though he was nothing but friendly to him. A later episode had her even regret breaking up with him.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The series is laden with contemporary pop culture references, especially in the earlier seasons, which not only had many late 1980s fashion lingering around, but also had frequent references to early 1990s politics such as Operation Desert Storm and Dan Quayle, and celebrity scandals such as Zsa Zsa Gabor's slapping of a police officer and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart's arrest for solicitation. This reaches the point that a gag in Gravity Falls mocking the worst excesses of the decade used the typeface of the show's title card.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Will is lectured on being immature by his old bully Omar because he was upset about how his reputation was damaged. While trying to pick a fight wasn't the best way to handle it, seeing as Will was being mocked everywhere he went while he was visiting, had a meal made to mock him at his favorite restaurant, and his friends got beat up for defending him, one could totally understand Will's desperation.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • The two main homeless tenants in "There's the Rub". Despite already having some sympathy for being homeless, they 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.
    • Noah in "Will Gets Committed", who accuses Will of having no intention of coming back to help rebuild the old neighborhood. The reasons Will gives for not being able to come back to help at the times Noah wanted, like school and a ball game, were clearly flimsy and Will was obviously fishing for excuses. However, Noah really had no way of knowing that for sure and never gave Will a chance to set his own schedule to come back. Coupled with the fact that both guys spent the whole episode dissing everyone who came to help as "just clearing their conscience" and "not understanding what really went down here," what was supposed to be a straightforward What the Hell, Hero? moment just made both of them look pretty bad.
    • Omar in "The Philadelphia Story," who is shown to be Will's former tormentor and was ultimately responsible for starting the fight that led him to move out to Bel-Air. Omar is presented as somebody who has left his violent ways behind and even goes as far telling Will to move on, telling him to "grow up" when the latter wants a rematch. Will is presented as childish for not wanting to leave the past alone. The problem is that Omar does not once actually apologize for starting the infamous fight, and Will himself only gets the desire to fight him because the entire city mocks him for it. The fight was the reason why Will's mother sent him to move with the Banks family to begin with, showing that it was a nightmarish scenario for her. While Omar is well within his rights to leave that lifestyle behind, he never once takes ownership for basically being a major part of why Will had to leave Philadelphia. This could rub viewers the wrong way when Omar tells him to "grow up," as it's possible that Will was dealing with a lot of emotional trauma from it. However, the episode is paced in a way that suggests Will's actions are meant to be played for comedy.
  • 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.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Carlton's blasé attitude towards the police in "Mistaken Identity", while pointed out to be dumb in the episode proper, comes off as borderline suicidal to a viewer from The New '10s and '20s following the increased media coverage and public awareness of incidents where black people ended up being mistreated or even dead during encounters with the authorities.
    • That's to say nothing of the family's Republican leanings, as the party's attitude towards race relations have come under increasing fire in the years since the show's original run. In one episode, Uncle Phil tells an old civil rights activist friend of his fight for affirmative action, which the Republican Party of 2020 staunchly opposes. Another episode even features an appearance by a certain Donald Trump, who Carlton is a little too excited to see.
    • To an extent during "Guess Who's Coming to Marry?" Will's aunt wants to marry a white man, and 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 in the 21st century. That said, interracial couples still might take heat from certain crowds/audiences and are still not universally accepted.
    • Will goes to college at the fictional University of Los Angeles (ULA), a barely-concealed Expy of the real life University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which is also Carlton's back-up school. This is not treated by the show as a huge deal. While Carlton going there makes sense as he's stated to have had great grades and extracurriculars, there's absolutely no way Will would have been accepted in The New '20s. note  When the episode first aired in March 1993, Will's acceptance might have made sense if the university was trying to increase its diversity, but in 1996, the state of California made it illegal for public universities to consider race when assessing college applications. Adding to this, ULA's campus is depicted as having mostly a mix of white, Hispanic, and black students. Ever since race-based discrimination in college admissions was banned, black students have basically disappeared and white students (read: white women) have become less common, while Asians now comprise over 1/3 of the student body, making the show's depiction quite unrepresentative.
    • In the episode where Will and Carlton's school goes co-ed, what they and the other boys do — lining up to catcall and outright judge the appearances of the girls passing by — is sexual harassment, plain and simple. Not to mention Carlton's snide comment about a tall and muscular blonde girl—"Let's hear it for the East German team!". (Though he gets his deserved punishment when she forcefully shoves him against the wall.) That being said they weren't exactly portrayed as in the right for their behavior in the episode.
    • Anytime Will beds a woman much older than he is, with the result merely played for comedy can be much harder to see as funny in the current era. This is especially obvious in "M is for the Many Things She Gave to Me" where Phil's ex-girlfriend seduces Will, and Will is clearly reluctant to do that. While Will still consents, portraying a reluctant sexual encounter as comedy would be unacceptable in The New '10s and '20s due to the rise in awareness involving sexual harassment.
    • Season 1 had a joke several times of teachers threatening students with guns. Though they ultimately end up being harmless (Will being threatened with a shotgun being just a dream, and Mr. Smiley shooting Carlton with a starter pistol for blowing a game they probably would've won) they still would not fly nowadays.
  • Values Resonance: In "Mistaken Identity," on the other hand, Will has the better measure of the situation, as does Uncle Phil. They both try to dismantle Carlton's naivete about the situation — Will with more Brutal Honesty and Uncle Phil with Breaking Bad News Gently. Will himself points out that they were both very lucky to not be killed, and tells Carlton that cops are racist and he needs to know that sooner rather than later. No one will stop you for driving too slow if you're white, and a map will not help you. Phil says something to the same effect, that you question if you were doing something wrong but knowing that you didn't is what's important.  
  • What an Idiot!:
    • In "Mistaken Identity", Carlton repeatedly ignores Will's advice, escalating an already lousy situation once they get pulled over. At the police station, he fails to shut up and ask for a lawyer. While the former situation can be chalked up to a sheltered upbringing,note  the latter situation is inexcusable for someone claiming to be pro-law.
    • "Just Say Yo!":
      • Will is given amphetamines from a classmate to help him stay awake. Instead of getting rid of them or storing them a safe location, he throws them in his locker and forgets about them. Carlton eventually stumbles upon them (mistaking them for vitamins), downs a whole bottle and ends up hospitalized as a result of Will's carelessness. "How could [he] be so stupid" indeed.
      • Carlton isn't blameless either; even if he was concerned about the zit on his head and didn't know that the bottle had amphetamines, he still should have known through common sense that downing a bottle of vitamins is a bad idea.
  • The Woobie:
    • Will in "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse".
    • Carlton varies between this and Jerkass Woobie.

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