The time finally arrived as Bel-Air made its three-episode debut on Peacock to kick off Super Bowl Sunday. The reimagining's arrival was years in the making, following Morgan Cooper’s dramatic Fresh Prince short going viral in 2019. Things didn’t truly get rolling until Will Smith got onboard to EP the more dramatic iteration, but talks of a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot had been bandied about for years, and the new streaming version of the classic sitcom definitely wasn’t the first time Smith had been pitched ideas about a possible revamp.
Before settling on bringing the dramatic reimagining of the 1990s sitcom to life, Will Smith had been fielding pitch offers for years. Of course, Smith hadn’t been shy about making something happen with the original cast, and he and his former co-stars fed into fans’ need to see the cast together again by producing the heartfelt HBO Max reunion (including an unseen moment between both Aunt Viv actresses). While Smith has been onboard the Bel-Air train since roughly the beginning, his Westbrook Studios producing partner Terence Carter spilled to The Los Angeles Times a couple of past ideas that were pitched for potential reinterpretations.
Those ideas would’ve been great ideas for reviving The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, at least as far as I'm concerned. In the age of reboots, reimaginings, and reinterpretations, swapping the gender might’ve worked well by way of presenting the classic sitcom's story from a female perspective. Would she have followed in fictional Will Smith’s footsteps or forged her own new path? I'm also keen on imagining a female Carlton.
As well, the location flip could’ve opened up the fish-of-water concept with new possibilities. Watching a more privileged character like Carlton or Hilary Banks trying to survive in West Philadelphia would’ve unleashed new narrative layers not explored in the original series. The potential for either idea could’ve been endless, and while both obviously could have led to disastrous versions, the ideas themselves are still solid.
The road to the dramatic reinvention’s premiere has been a labor of love for Will Smith. Smith has supportive of the project even going as far as premiering a dramatic version of the original theme song in a first look teaser. He and series lead Jabari Banks seemed to be kindred spirits, having grown up in the same area. Banks even spilled the biggest advice the King Richard star gave him, which was to just be himself.
The Bel-Air star seemed to take his mentor’s advice to heart as he revealed his approach would differ from the way Smith portrayed his character. That was the goal of the new series as producer Morgan Cooper recalled how important the search for Smith’s successor was. The team wanted someone charismatic and charming while balancing dramatic and comedic timing, which Cooper said Banks had. Now it's up to streaming audiences to be the judges, and we can only hope for the best, even though early reviews haven't been overwhelmingly kind.
If you want to watch the first three episodes of Bel-Air, you should subscribe to Peacock. After its big Super Bowl weekend premiere, the Fresh Prince reboot will premiere new episodes every Thursday. Along with the Peacock series, there are more new TV shows set to debut throughout the rest of 2022.
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