February 25, 2022
Photo by: Peacock/Contributor
With its intriguing ensemble of characters and gut-busting punchlines, the bar was set astronomically high with the airing of the original sitcom. When it was announced that a remake was in the works, there were low expectations that the program would live up to the excitement that surrounded its predecessor.
However, old and new viewers are quickly becoming fans of Bel-Air, the dramatic revival of the ’90s favorite, which is inspired by the present rather than the past.
In West Philadelphia, the series begins. Will (Jabari Banks) is on top of the world after winning a basketball game and making an impression on college recruiters. When Darnell dares Will to a pickup basketball game, drug lord Rashad makes a wager that if Will loses, he will have to work for them.
A brawl erupts following the game, which then, like the original, sends Will to “live with his auntie and uncle in Bel Air!”
As a result of the move, Will struggles to fit in with the polished lifestyle of his new classmates. But, the show has still grabbed fans with plot lines that address current challenges in America’s Black communities, such as code-switching, cultural appropriation and social media.
The comedy also doesn’t shy away from politics and exploring contemporary themes such as police defunding with a focus on race and class.
Social media was quick to share their thoughts about the new show.
“I LOVE Bel-Air. The drama and comedic relief is perfectly balanced. The transformation of the characters is superb. Will is perfect. Uncle Phil is FINE. Geoffrey is EVERYTHING! Aunt Viv is so multidimensional. Hillary and Jazz aren’t idiots. Carlton isn’t a loser. It’s just 🤌🏽✨ ”
I LOVE Bel-Air. The drama and comedic relief is perfectly balanced. The transformation of the characters is superb. Will is perfect. Uncle Phil is FINE. Geoffrey is EVERYTHING! Aunt Viv is so multidimensional. Hillary and Jazz aren’t idiots. Carlton isn’t a loser. It’s just 🤌🏽✨
— Trillmonger (@modelESQ_) February 19, 2022
To the surprise of many viewers, the reboot ended up being great television and something to look forward to every week.
Bel-Air is actually… really good? Topical without being preachy, updated without being too cliché, cinematography is elite (and clearly has a grasp on how to capture blackness in all its glory and range). I’m all in! #belair pic.twitter.com/hXr79iqSVB
— Elle (@notexactlylegit) February 23, 2022
However, while some fans instantly fell in love with the reboot, others weren’t here for the show.
“I’m a lil conflicted on this,” one person tweeted alongside the “Bel-Air” trailer. “It looks interesting but I liked the fun nature of ‘Fresh Prince.’ Def gonna check it out… what ya’ll think,” one fan questioned.
This person expressed their confusion about the direction of the show.
“Taking a beloved, lighthearted, comedy from the 90s and making it a DARK EDGY REBOOT is the most 2020s thing they could’ve done,” one Twitter user stated. “Look, ‘Fresh Prince’ dealt with some heavier material from time to time, but at its core it was just about family. IDK what this is supposed to be.”
Taking a beloved, lighthearted, comedy from the 90s and making it a DARK EDGY REBOOT is the most 2020s thing they could’ve done. Look, Fresh Prince dealt with some heavier material from time to time, but at its core it was just about family. IDK what this is supposed to be. https://t.co/J0WIdbcL66
— DOMINVS ORBIS TERRARVM (@DominvsT) January 10, 2022
While much has been made of Smith’s darkening of the role that made him famous, many people can’t help but like the other characters who helped the program become one of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 50 Best Sitcoms in History. Hilary Banks, Will’s cousin, is a standout character on both shows.
“I grew up in Santa Monica, and at my school, there were girls from Malibu who would drive up in their fancy cars and stuff,” she explained. “I took a little bit of that, a little bit of my cousin Garland, a little bit of my friend LeAnne, and kind of threw ’em in a blender, and that’s how the key character started for me.”
When Parsons originally got the part, there was no clear reference for her, “just this stuff written on paper,” she said. The oldest Banks daughter is described as a “model type” by the producers, so she had to figure out how to make that work. According to the young actress, she was able to connect with her inspirations.
However, she said developing the character from those foundational aspects, allowed her to become “more.” She had to develop the character because no one liked her at first. She cited specific examples of how much they “despised” Hilary.
Parsons related an incident that occurred at a party in Paris. “Do you play that Hilary on The Fresh Prince?” someone asked her while she was out with friends.
“Oh, we hate you,” the girl remarked after confirming her assumptions.
As the original Fresh Prince of Bel-Air series continued, people went from laughing at Hilary’s ditzy nature to appreciating her material girl characteristics.
And with Bel-Air’s new 21st century approach, Hilary Banks is fresh and ready to take on the world.
“And I think they were very smart in the reboot to make that so much a part of the Hilary Coco is playing. She’s a fierce woman,” Parsons said before noting what she considers to be another wise decision made by the franchise’s producers from the start.
“I think one of the reasons the show was so successful and endures is that you simply got to see Black people as very different. You’ve got this family where everybody’s not the same. Carlton’s this young Black Republican. Then you’ve got Hilary and Ashley, and she’s the intellectual kid, and then of course you’ve got Will. The parents and the butler and everybody—they’re all individually very, very different.”
She said not only is that still really important and valuable, but a lot of the stuff in the original, thematically, is still relevant.
“Now it’s a great time to explore some of those things and go deeper. We’re in a time where people aren’t dismissing certain things, either. They’re actually really looking and calling society out — and the Banks family is the vehicle for it.”
New episodes of Bel-Air drop every Thursday exclusively on Peacock.