This 'Fresh Prince' Episode Is Never Talked About But Here's Proof It's Actually The Best
By its third season, Fresh Prince had fully hit its stride. Characters were developed, the show's wackiness level had dropped off a little bit to focus more on relationships, and the jokes were flying pretty consistently. And whether you realize it or not, Season 3 also happened to contain a Fresh Prince episode that no one talks about despite it being truly great, an installment called "Alma Matter."
For many fans, the Fresh Prince episodes that stand out in their minds are the more intense, serious ones. That makes sense; the show was a comedy, and so the dramatic moments were when it went above and beyond. But "Alma Matter" got at the heart of a serious problem (Carlton doesn't like himself) without sacrificing comedy for a moment. I mean, ask the average Fresh Prince fan what's their favorite moment from the show, and most will note some version of Carlton's dance to his beloved Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual." Well, this Season 3 episode actually had Jones in it for an extended sing and dance-along, as part of an extended tribute to the beloved Christmas classic It's A Wonderful Life.
On top of that, the episode treated fans to extended montages of Will and Carlton's biggest strengths: physical comedy and snappy one-liners. It had topical humor, conventions upended, and more, making it an episode with something for everyone. Fresh Prince fans should give it some more love, especially for the reasons below.
1. It's Got One Of The Best Guest Appearances In The Show's History
As Carlton echoes It's A Wonderful Life and wishes he was also never born, his own personal Clarence arrives to show him the error of his ways. And who better to play the angel on Carlton's shoulder than Mr. Tom Jones himself.
2. It's A Little More Risqué Than Other Episodes
Between a raunchy Madonna joke and Carlton actively making death threats, this episode pushes the PG-attitude of most Fresh Prince episodes.
3. It Gives Carlton Some Love...
Carlton is always the second banana, rarely the cool guy, and the entire episode is centered around him trying to be anyone but himself. But by showcasing his fierce drive to succeed and honesty under pressure, the episode demonstrates why he's an important counterpoint to easy-to-love Will's wackiness.
4. ...At The Expense Of Carlton, Of Course
Between getting called a pygmy, being labeled certifiably insane by a Princeton interviewer, and having the exchange below, Carlton gets served plenty in this ep.
Uncle Phil: You can't be like me, Carlton. Or like Will, or like anybody else. You can only be like you.
Carlton: There's no need to be cruel.
5. It Calls Out Clarence Thomas
Right at the episode's start, as Carlton and Uncle Phil look over Phil's Princeton photo album, Carlton asks who that man is getting slapped. Why, it's none other than Clarence Thomas, whose sexual harassment scandal didn't stop him from landing a seat on the bench in the highest court in the land.
6. It Shows Tom Jones Has Still Got It
Between his killer dance moves and golden voice, Tom Jones looks and sounds amazing in this episode.
7. The Uncle Phil Jokes Fly Fast And Furious
Though Will initially resists the temptation of Uncle Phil's claim that his Princeton Dining Club made him "the man I am today," after that all bets are off when it comes to Phil's rotund physique.
8. The Idea Of College Elitism Gets Roasted
The repeated line, "We frown on that at Princeton", pokes fun at all Ivy League schools and the like.
9. It Starts With The Strangest Hilary Sidebar
Though the ep is mostly Carlton-focused, it cold-opens with the implication that Hilary had her own catering business... and poisoned an entire convent?! Let us never speak of this again.
10. It Gets Extra Mileage With Fewer Characters
Aunt Viv and Geoffrey don't appear in this episode much, and Ashley and Hilary barely show up after the opening. But with fewer characters, the show focuses more closely on their relationships.
11. It Has a 'Fresh Prince' Take On "Greed Is Good"
Carlton's entire purpose for existence turns out to be that he's the one who keeps the family from being too happy. Unlike Gordon Gekko's infamous, misunderstood "Greed is good" speech, the idea that avarice and remorseless capitalism are ideals is made a joke much more clearly in Fresh Prince.
12. All's Well That Ends Well
By the episode's end, Carlton feels OK with being himself, Will's probably not going to Princeton, and Uncle Phil's dishing out punishment. Back to normal and ready for the next episode.
Though there are plenty of Fresh Prince favorites, this under-loved episode should get a little more traction in your viewing queue next time you're tuning in.