How come he don't want me, man?
September 29, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

The true story behind the saddest scene in "The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air" history
posted by girlmightlive (36 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
I did not think I remembered seeing that episode until I saw the screenshot. But I do, and it was really genuinely sad.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:34 AM on September 29, 2014


I never heard the version where Will Smith's father was a deadbeat. I heard the "take a year for music, then go to college" version. It seems like the Kanye mean streets myth where black rapper must mean poor background/bad family.

I LOVE that scene though, gets me every time.
posted by sweetkid at 10:35 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Having not heard this particular urban legend before, hearing it explained then immediately dismantled was a bit like finding out I'm not going to get a bonus I didn't know about anyway.

TL;DR: it was like a half-hearted raspberry.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:49 AM on September 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


Fun fact: Will Smith, at 46, is now older than James Avery (Uncle Phil) was in the show's first season.
posted by rocket88 at 10:51 AM on September 29, 2014 [26 favorites]


I don't think I saw that show much, and I certainly cannot remember practically any of it, but I did see that seen and it stuck with me. Surprising that I do. I thought it was just good acting; never new there was a whole myth around it. Glad to know I never heard the myth. Even gladder that this article was not called an "oral history."
posted by dios at 10:53 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Apparently the dear boy tried acting. Good show.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


I hated to cry when I was younger (20s) but would force myself every so often to ease the depression. That scene was one of my go-tos. Today I have nothing to cry about and still choked up watching it.

That whole scene just made me miss live theatre, though. The way James Avery and Ben Vereen delivered the punchlines and then kept going when the laughs didn't come is consummate theatre professional.
posted by Nyakasikana at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


I always enjoyed the story that James Avery came to the studio to read for the part of Uncle Phil having no idea who Will Smith was. Upon entering a waiting room and finding Smith there, he promptly chided him to take off his baseball cap indoors and to take his feet off of the table. He got the part.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:01 AM on September 29, 2014 [37 favorites]


Clearly the most memorable Fresh Prince moment is:
Carlton: (handing Will a bag of cookies) What do you say to an Oreo?
Will: I say, "What's up, Carlton?"
posted by Chrysostom at 11:07 AM on September 29, 2014 [18 favorites]


I never really watched the show (or any sitcom really) but that's a hell of a good performance. I got misty.
posted by brundlefly at 11:09 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Upon entering a waiting room and finding Smith there, he promptly chided him to take off his baseball cap indoors and to take his feet off of the table. He got the part.

The first time I read that, it was a followup to a Tumblr post relating the "Will Smith had a deadbeat dad" story and now I'm wondering about the veracity of that as well.
posted by griphus at 11:11 AM on September 29, 2014


Also the pool hustling scene the GIF in that article is from is a work of art and probably my single favorite scene from Fresh Prince.
posted by griphus at 11:13 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fun fact: Will Smith, at 46, is now older than James Avery (Uncle Phil) was in the show's first season.

Thanks a lot. It was bad enough learning a couple of years ago that the karate kid is now older than Mr. Miyagi.
posted by TedW at 11:25 AM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh man. That was good. I watched this show a lot growing up. I remember this.
posted by sio42 at 11:35 AM on September 29, 2014


I watched the scene with the sound off, hoping that would save me.

Nope.

Dammit.
posted by Mogur at 11:41 AM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wow, jeez Louise. I got a situation with my face all of a sudden.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 11:52 AM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


Ok why did i click on that at work? Where's the damn Kleenex?
posted by ramix at 11:57 AM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Clearly the most memorable Fresh Prince moment is:
Carlton: (handing Will a bag of cookies) What do you say to an Oreo?
Will: I say, "What's up, Carlton?"


That is so problematic I don't even...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:03 PM on September 29, 2014


That is so problematic I don't even...

Oh please, that (hilarious) exchange is basically the entire premise of the show, which devoted seven seasons to exploring and unpacking it in ways smarter and savvier than 90s NBC deserved.
posted by eugenen at 12:21 PM on September 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah. I stand by my reaction.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:25 PM on September 29, 2014


Thanks a lot. It was bad enough learning a couple of years ago that the karate kid is now older than Mr. Miyagi.

This is less horrifying when you realize that he was 25 (!) when the Karate Kid came out, and now he looks like he's about 30.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:27 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


My most memorable Fresh Prince moment was the episode where Will (was that his name on the show?) and Carlton get pulled over for driving "too slow" (basically, driving while black) and end up getting arrested.

It's the first time Carlton has had to really face that no matter how wealthy and smart and privileged he is in many ways, some authority figures will always just see him as a black man, and thus a potential criminal. He resists drawing this conclusion, but it eventually hits him that what happened wasn't fair. It was a devastating moment and made a huge impression on me as a suburban white kid.
posted by lunasol at 12:41 PM on September 29, 2014 [31 favorites]


James Avery is so good in these, too - in a very understated way. Nice to see these clips again.
posted by iotic at 12:52 PM on September 29, 2014


The Oreo episode is actually the same one where they get pulled over for driving while black, I believe.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:16 PM on September 29, 2014


For some reason, Will Smith always irritated the hell out of me. Not sure why; even in his serious movies he's annoying. He was often put in his place, which I liked, but the confrontation where Uncle Phil tells him he saw Malcolm X speak always gave me warm fuzzies:

Will: I'm a joker. I play around. I have fun.

Phillip Banks: Mm-hmm. Being a joker's what's gotten you into trouble. You may think it's cool to be on the streets when you're 17, but when you're my age, it's a waste.

Will: I-I can't think that far ahead.

Phillip Banks: That's your problem. You can't take anything seriously.

Will: Hey look, man, I don't have the problem, all right. YOU have the problem. I remind you of who you are and what you used to be. Now I don't know, somewhere between Princeton and the office, you got soft. You forgot who you are and where you came from.

Phillip Banks: You think you're so wise. [Will looks away from Phillip] Look at me when I'm talking to you. Let me tell you something, son. I grew up on the streets just like you. I encountered bigotry you could not imagine. Now you have a nice poster of Malcolm X on your wall. I heard the brother speak. I read every word he wrote. Believe me, I KNOW where I come from!

Will: You actually heard Malcolm speak?

Phillip Banks: That's right. So before you criticize someone, you find out what he's all about.
posted by Melismata at 1:26 PM on September 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Ah, damn it. So many tears. I used to flip away from that episode every time it (re)ran in syndication (which was often). It's actually even more painful to watch now that I'm a parent.
posted by synapse at 1:31 PM on September 29, 2014


I hear The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a comedy, but all I can remember of it is Will's dad leaving him again and driving while black.
posted by ckape at 1:58 PM on September 29, 2014


As a teen, watching this was heartwrenching.

As a single mom whose ex wants nothing to do with the two amazing people he helped create, watching this was damn near paralyzing.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 3:30 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Oreo episode is actually the same one where they get pulled over for driving while black, I believe.

And it features a young Hank Azaria as a racist cracker deputy! And was the only time I heard someone describe something as "retarded" on TV! And has the scary prison dude who's great at showtunes!

I watched entirely too much Fresh Prince, but then again, I think it was/is a pretty fantastic show. And now it's on Netflix!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:41 PM on September 29, 2014


I loved this show (ok I didn't see it until it was in syndication but still). It knew how to be funny, but still have poignant moments. A lot of the more modern comedy shows I watch feel like they are trying too hard.

And I say it shows what a great actor Will Smith is that he didn't grow up that way but was in the moment to such a degree it feels completely authentic.
posted by Aranquis at 4:29 PM on September 29, 2014


For some reason, Will Smith always irritated the hell out of me. Not sure why; even in his serious movies he's annoying.

What are his serious movies? The only one I've seen in which his dramatic acting ability really shone was Six Degrees of Separation, and in that his character was meant to be annoying. Then he got properly famous, and he has played Will Smith since, to varying degrees of serious.
posted by goo at 8:30 PM on September 29, 2014


A man as successful as Will Smith actually had a parent who was "an active participant in his son’s life, and even encouraged him". Not surprising in the least.
posted by Blitz at 10:11 PM on September 29, 2014


Will Smith was also serious in Enemy of the State (with Gene Hackman, Jon Voigt, and a very young Seth Green, not even mentioned in the credits, then again Jason Robards wasn't either): a movie about the NSA being invasive and out of control--made 16 years ago. Gene Hackman stole the movie, though.
posted by eye of newt at 12:05 AM on September 30, 2014


Will Smith is completely capable of drama. I, Robot is pulpy SF fun, but it's not funny. The same is true of I Am Legend. I was surprised that I liked Hancock -- which was marketed really, really badly -- and while it's got comedic elements it's mostly a pretty smart story about a superhero in the real world.

Totally outside of genre, there's The Pursuit of Happyness. But my knockout example is Michael Mann's gorgeous Ali.
posted by uberchet at 5:38 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Actually I loved Hancock, and had totally forgotten about Ali. Thanks for reminding me, uberchet.
posted by goo at 6:21 PM on October 1, 2014


The first twenty minutes of Ali are transcendent.
posted by uberchet at 3:30 PM on October 5, 2014


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