“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air “ (or God’s greatest gift to humanity if you were to ask any black person from age 30 to 55 ) is back. Well, sort of. Whether the show is better than ever has been debated since its February 13th premiere, but it’s returned nonetheless and definitely more modern than ever.
Now titled “Bel-Air,” the robot is produced by the OG prince–Will Smith. It’s been described as a “dark and gritty” take on the original series.
The official network summary states that it’s “set in modern-day America through a new, dramatic take on Will’s complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated mansions of “Bel-Air”. As these worlds collide, he reckons with the power of second chances while navigating the conflicts, emotions, and biases of a world far different from the only one he’s ever known.”
But as a reboot, “Bel-Air’s” job is to be different enough so that this reimagination of the story could bring something unique and different to the table while also playing off the nostalgia of the original. I think that the new show manages to do just that. It has some similarities that I appreciate, like returning characters (played by different actors). There is some resemblance of the original Will, played by Jabari Banks, 23, who obviously studied up on Smith’s version of the character. But the differences added in both the characters and storylines keep it all interesting and new.
One major change is the relationship between Carlton (Olly Sholotan) and Will. In the original comedy series, we knew them as frenemies, with a very soft made-for-daytime television rivalry. But Smith has already come through on the promise of “Bel-Air” being darker. In this newest version, the two of them are full-blown enemies, with Carlton–originally a very straight all-American guy–struggling with drug abuse and darker issues.
I, for one, see these changes, though obviously very large, as positive. I appreciate the show’s choice to become more serious and focused on real issues in our society today like anxiety, drugs, and rocky family relationships. Though I’m for these changes, I’m not necessarily a big fan of the way Carlton’s character has been altered. In the “Fresh Prince,” you could find yourself liking the nerdy little cousin at moments; I can’t say the same for the Carlton character on “Bel-Air”.
All of these new things that we’re already seeing within the first four episodes released, make me excited for the upcoming storylines. I already love the change in Uncle Phil and Will’s interaction. “Bel-Air” shows Uncle Phil (Adrian Holmes) really wanting the best for Will, and caring for him in a way that took quite a while on “Fresh Prince”. I’m looking forward to that relationship being fleshed out more.
The first season of the show will have 10 episodes, and premiere until March 31.
It’s always hard to make a successful reboot, especially of something as iconic as ”The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. With Will Smith himself on the team, we can only hope that he can capture the same charisma and good feelings as he gave in the ’90s.
Catch episodes streaming now on Peacock.
By Kendal Amos, Junior at chi-arts