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The Fresh Prince of Game Technology
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on August 29, 2005   |   Episode 60 (Show Archive)  

   

"Man Carlton, I didn't think Virtua Fighter was going to look this good on the NES. Boy was I wrong!"
Game consoles have always been a perfect fit on prime time sitcoms. No matter if it's the Super NES on Roseanne, Sega's Dreamcast on the Drew Carey Show, or the PlayStation on Everybody Loves Raymond, game technology is a popular prop on shows that use laugh tracks. For the most part these shows get it right, they rarely talk about the games and when they do they get their facts straight. But then there's a show like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air which gets it so wrong you have to wonder why they even bothered in the first place.

In case you've blocked the early 1990's out of your memory, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was the combination of the Cosby Show and the cute-as-a-puppy rapper Will Smith. This is the story of a kid who lives in the projects who gets shipped off to live with his uncle, a rich

No matter what side you see it from, the NES is the only game system on this set!
judge with eccentric children. It ran for six seasons on NBC, getting fairly good ratings despite jeers from critics and fans of quality TV everywhere. For the most part Will Smith and gang were harmless; no better or worse than the junk we're forced to put up with these days - Yes Dear, Hope & Faith, Joey, etc.

Generally I wouldn't complain about the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, I'd rather spend my time talking about bad advertising and nailing GamePro to the wall. But there was something in one of the later episodes that I knew I couldn't let pass by without scrutinizing it. I doubt I've seen every video

That's right Carlton, that's not an NES control!
game cameo in a prime time TV show (I'm sure there's an interesting Sega Master System discussion in a Charles In Charge episodes I missed), but it's going to take a major catastrophe to dethrone this Fresh Prince gaffe.

In the episode I, Buster Bowler (episode number 140 - February 26, 1996), Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro (known as Carlton in the show) share a moment together playing video games. This particular episode (found in the sixth and final season of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) opens with a clear shot of the Nintendo Entertainment System on top of the TV and the two "teenagers" sitting there playing it. Or are they? All it takes is one look at their hands to see that they aren't playing the NES at all ... they're holding something made by rival Sega.

Although we never get a clear shot of the front of the control, it's obvious that it's not something that connects to the 8-bit NES. It's large, it's black, and clearly doesn't control the game they are playing in this episode. It could be a Genesis control, it could be a Saturn control, heck, it could be a third-party device you bought specifically for your 32X, but it's definitely not something you play on a Nintendo console.


32-bit? Full Motion Video? They must have been playing the 32X version of Night Trap!
To make matters even more confusing, Carlton later describes his toy as being "the new 32-bit super system with digitized sound, VGA graphics, and full motion video." The what?? Clearly somebody just looked at the back of the box and decided to pull a few buzz words out, like full motion video and VGA graphics. We're some how led to believe that NES they are playing is supposed to represent the 32-bit powerhouse they are

Six Degrees of Separation is really the only Will Smith movie you need to watch!
describing? Besides, in 1996 the Saturn and PlayStation had already been out for a year, but maybe that's beside the point.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air isn't the first poorly written sitcom to completely confuse games, systems, and controls. But this flub requires them to not only find a prop NES, but get the controls from a whole different system so the actors can have something to play. Couldn't they have just used the NES controls that came with the system? Wouldn't that have been easier and cheaper?

Of course, I probably shouldn't get too upset with the prop department at NBC. It's not like their show was trying to hit a gamer audience, after all, this is just about the only time you ever hear video games come up and you rarely saw the NES used as a prop outside of this episode. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air couldn't even make its comedy funny, so maybe we should lay off them for some bad game information. After all, there are actual TV shows about video games that fail to get it right ...


These pictures were taking from an episode of the Ultimate Gamer, a show that can be found on Spike TV. This is a show that talks games, shows off games, and gives games away ... which makes it even funnier that this guy is trying to turn on the Xbox by pushing the big green logo on the top of the system! This is the kind of practice you would expect on some lame reality show, not something appealing to Xbox owners. When the shows that are meant for us game players can't even get it right, what's the point in even trying to go after all those lame sitcoms that fail to use the right control? Perhaps we should just give the Fresh Prince a break. Nah!
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