Since its viral independent trailer released in 2019 on YouTube, and Will Smith publicly announcing and endorsing the dramatized version of the beloved 90s sitcom, Bel-Air was entering the arena of many nostalgic remakes that Hollywood is all about in today’s market. The question that the fans and networks had was, is it going to work and pay off?
Bringing back to life older shows and remaking them has been sort of the movement surrounding television and movies being put out today. Some of them pay off in the long run, others you probably don’t remember even came out. So when it was public knowledge that the beloved 90s sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was getting a dramatized remake it was met with mixed feelings. Many fans were intrigued and excited once seeing Morgan Cooper’s 2019 dramatic interpretation of The Fresh Prince on Youtube. But others and critics alike were not too keen on the idea nor believed the remake can ever touch the original without even giving the revived show a chance. With its 2 episodes released on February 13th, the show would prove how drastically different it is and how this already told story can be reimagined and retold for a different generation and succeed.
Audiences who grew up watching Will Smith’s Fresh Prince from Philly character and younger audiences have nothing but good things to say about the remake. There are still a group of people who don’t agree with the remake. But it looks as though the younger generation is enjoying the show more. Bel Air’s more dramatized perspective on the story has seemed to carve out its own lane when compared to the original. Ultimately they aren’t comparable because both show a different perspective to the story we all know and love. The success of the remake comes from the fact that it didn’t stray too far away from what the original gave us. Bel Air is still a show about an affluent black family and the plights and situations a young black kid from Philly has when trying to assimilate into the lifestyle of Bel-Air just modernized.
This dramatized version allows us as the audience to see the duality of the characters we’ve known before. Characters like Carlton, Hilary, Jeffery, and Aunt Viv are given a new persona and added depth to their character.
Carlton played by Olly Sholotan has more depth to him now. Instead of being an affluent black child of bel air who can be naive to the real world or removed from a black culture like the original, in this remake, Carlton deals with a lot, such as substance abuse, anxiety, things that in today’s world are a more prevalent topic to talk about. Hilary, who is played by Coco Jones, has been revamped from the original. Instead of having an air-headed personality and just worried about shopping, Hillary is more like a hustling entrepreneur trying to find her own path on her own terms and just wants to be acknowledged for that by her mother. Also, the show’s Aunt Viv ( Played by Cassandra Freeman) is dealing with the troubles of wanting to be more than an Art professor by going back and trying to be the great artist she used to be before she shelved her art career to be a wife to Philip Banks. And Jeffery ( Played by Jimmy Akingbola) is more of a suave problem solver for Uncle Phil instead of the clap-back legend that we all know and loved.
Being at the midpoint in the season with 5 episodes out of 10 for the season, it’s safe to say that this version is going to be around for a minute. Peacock agreed to a second season of the show when they bought the show in early 2020 which was a rare thing to do in the industry since there wasn’t even a pilot for the show made yet. Obviously, the streaming platform saw the potential in the show if done right and so far, they have been proven right. The series started off strong and now has the nostalgic fans they wanted and even created their own fan base for the show. The question now is if they can keep their audience invested while staying true and paying homage to the original?
You can stream the first 5 episodes and catch up on Bel Air on the Peacock streaming service. New episodes are released weekly on Thursday.