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20 Facts About The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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deviantART user SameerPrehistorica

1. Will Smith only agreed to star in the show because he was in serious debt to the IRS.

Smith gained widespread fame as the rapper The Fresh Prince, and with that fame came a significant jump in income. Unfortunately, Smith didn't manage his money wisely or pay enough in income taxes, and he owed the government a whopping $2.8 million. The IRS seized most of his belongings, including his income. The Fresh Prince almost declared bankruptcy—until producer Quincy Jones picked him to star in a new series, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was born.

2. And he had to pay up.

The IRS forced Smith to pay them 70 percent of his salary over the first three seasons.

3. He was almost a total novice.

Smith only had one other TV production under his belt—as a t-shirt salesman on an ABC after school special—when he accepted a role on The Fresh Prince, and is embarrassed by his earliest performances on the show. He had never been formally trained as an actor, and—in some cases—his lack of experience was painfully obvious. "I was trying so hard," he said. "I would memorize the entire script, then I'd be lipping everybody's lines while they were talking. When I watch those episodes, it's disgusting. My performances were horrible."

4. Tyra Banks Made Her Acting Debut on the Show

She played Smith's on-screen girlfriend, Jackie, in a season four episode.

5. The House in the Intro isn't in Bel Air.

Instead, the pictured house is located in the nearby (and similarly affluent) Brentwood.

6. Carlton's Dance was Inspired by Courteney Cox and Eddie Murphy.

"There was a video of Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox called 'Dancing in the Dark,' and Bruce Springsteen pulls her up onto the stage and she basically does that dance," actor Alfonso Ribeiro said. "And it was also from Eddie Murphy’s Delirious comedy video where he does 'the white man dance.' And what I did was ultimately take those two dances and combined them and made it my own, and made it my character’s."

7. Geoffrey Had A Last Name.

The ever-snarky butler of the Banks household's last name was ... Butler. (His middle name was Barbara.)

8. Nicky's Middle Names Were Inspired by Boyz II Men.

Audiences were first introduced to Nicky in season three, after he is born to Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv. His full name is Nicholas Andrew Michael Shawn Nathan Wanya Banks. What are the Boyz II Men member names? Michael, Shawn, Nathan, and Wanya. The four-member R&B group performed at Nicky’s christening in a season four episode.

9. Who's the Cabbie?

Many sites (including IMDb) state that that's Quincy Jones driving the taxi cab with dice in the mirror. But according to both Rashida Jones (Quincy's daughter) and Jada Pinkett Smith, the cabbie in the credits is "absolutely not" the Q. Besides, thanks to an auto accident at age 14 in which he was a passenger, Jones has never learned to drive.

10. Smith met his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, during auditions for the show.

She originally auditioned for the role of Will’s on-screen girlfriend. She didn’t get the part, but that didn’t stop the couple from getting married in 1997.

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11. Smith contributed stories for some episodes.

Will Smith was more than just the sitcom’s star. He also helped with stories and produced some of the episodes, including “Ain’t No Business Like Show Business” in season three. In this episode, Will’s friend Keith Campbell, a comedian from Philadelphia, visits and makes stand-up look so easy that Will decides to pursue a career in comedy.

12. Two Different Actresses Played Aunt Vivian.

Janet Hubert played the character during the first three seasons; Daphne Maxwell Reid played Aunt Vivian during the last three seasons. Janet Hubert has said that the producers offered her a 10-episode contract that prevented her from doing any other acting work. When she refused, the producers refused to negotiate and recast the role.

13. There were many famous guest stars.

Jay Leno, Queen Latifah, and Hugh Hefner all made guest appearances on the show.

14. The cast kept a "diary."

Earlier this year, Karyn Parsons, who played Hilary Banks, told ABC News about a notebook kept in the drawer of the set's kitchen island, which she took with her after the show went off the air. "Every now and then a camera person or the actors, somebody would just write silly poetry or 'James is getting on my nerves,'" she said. "We would make little notes, so I took that. I need to pull that out, especially now that James has passed, because I know he's written in there. I know he was written about."

15. The Show was Canceled and Brought Back

After NBC canceled Fresh Prince in its fourth season, the finale had Smith's character heading back to Philadelphia. After fan outcry, however, NBC decided to bring the show back; its fifth season opens with an NBC executive pulling Smith into a van to drive him back to California, saying "It's called the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, not The Fresh Prince of Philadelphia." Ultimately, the show had six seasons.

16. The Theme Song Caused a School Lockdown.

In 2013, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song caused a school to be put on lockdown. A receptionist from Ambridge Area High School in Pennsylvania called a student to remind him of an upcoming appointment. He didn’t answer, and the receptionist was directed to the student’s voicemail. The student imitated the show’s theme song for his answering message, and the receptionist thought he said “shooting people outside of the school” instead of “shooting some b-ball outside of the school.” The local police brought the student into custody, although he was later released.

17. You probably can't get the soundtrack.

Want to get a CD soundtrack of The Fresh Prince? You might have to take a plane to the Netherlands to get it; it was originally only released in Holland, where an extended remixed version of the title song hit #3 on the singles chart in 1992. The songs are now available online via Spotify and elsewhere for downloading.

18. The Show has been parodied.

There are multiple parodies of the show. Mad TV produced the animated Fresh Prawn of Bel-Air. A pet adoption group produced The Fresh Pup of Bel-Air.

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25 Things You Might Not Know About Boy Meets World
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28 Facts About The Wonder Years
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25 Future Stars Who Appeared on Seinfeld
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5 Baffling Foreign Language Versions of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Theme

19. Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay love The Fresh Prince.

In August 2012, the sitcom overtook the Harry Potter series as the entertainment of choice in the prison.

20. The show endorsed a pair of basketball sneakers.

They were called The Fresh Prince of Bel Air Jordan 5. (Well, they were actually called the Air Jordan 5 Bel Air, but that's not as good a name.)

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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