Bel-Air: The Reboot I Didn't Know I Needed
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was one of my favorite shows growing up so naturally, I was slightly offended by the idea of remaking what I consider a classic. I wasn’t alone in that thought either. Just look on Black Twitter. Fortunately, I had a change of heart after seeing the official trailer and decided to not treat this as I had treated the remake of Superfly and Sparkle (both of which I love now). Let me just tell you, I am glad I did! This reboot is the TV drama I didn’t know I needed.
Nbc/Stuffed Dog/Quincy Jones Ent/Kobal/Shutterstock
*Before you continue there are some spoilers just in case you haven't watched yet. Not many but definitely some character details if you’re into that kind of thing.
The story line follows the original closely but with a twist, giving more to the backstory of Will Smith leaving West Philadelphia for Los Angeles. We get to actually see Will in his element, in a modern world of course but it’s nice to get a feel of who he actually is by placing him in his neighborhood. One of my favorite elements of this is that the characters who are essentially the “bad” guys don’t feel like bad actors. They don’t feel like those fake street guys we see in almost every movie. Not saying every local drug dealer or corner kid needs to be cast in a movie but for authenticity purposes I wouldn’t mind..you know what never mind.
Any-who, most of us know Will got in one little fight and his mom got scared so he was on a flight to Bel-Air instantly. His mama was playing no games.
Will arrives and meets Jazz. This Jazz isn’t at all like the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff but not in a bad way. I’ll get back to that in a moment. Will then gets to the Banks home where we’re introduced to the family and things almost instantly begin to unfold.
Will & Jazz/Courtesy of Peacock
While there’s yet to be any gratuitous sex scenes like we get on almost every single drama now, there is drama, drugs, violence and some foul language if you’re into that kind of thing. Even with that, this feels like a show you can enjoy with the entire family or like me, all of my Facebook friends.
Now that we’ve got a run down of the synopsis, let's get into what really makes Bel-Air something special, the characters.
While it’s hard to be as charming and “cool” as the real Will Smith in the 90's (or now on Instagram), Jabari Banks is doing a great job connecting with the premise of the character
of Will Smith. He’s street smart but naive. Naturally cool yet kind and able to connect with almost anyone. The one thing I’ve noticed though is that Will is not the main character as much as he was in the original but instead is a good compliment to the rest of the family. Besides not being as fly as Will was I’m digging the character overall. Also, I’m 32 and still saying fly so what do I know? Courtesy of Peacock
Arguably one of the breakout stars of the series according to Black Twitter, Hilary is giving all of the Black Girl magic we need to see on TV. From her clothes to the hair to her unapologetic approach to Black influencing and blogging, she's an IT girl. Played by the multi-talented Coco Jones, who is no stranger to the screen (Please look our good sis up!) is creative and talented as Hilary as well which is a big shift from the more glam yet ditsy Hilary of the 90's. Sis is a leader and free spirit just as the original Hilary but with some sass and brains to add to the beauty. I can’t help but think that Karen Parsons deserved more. Nonetheless, we absolutely stan.
Ms.Ashley (Akira Akbar) hasn’t really connected with me the way the old Ashley did but I like that she has modern issues including the glance at.. never mind, y'all gotta watch. The original Ashley Banks had Tevin Campell at her birthday party so I’m going to need new school to have something exciting happen this season. I do love how naturally adorable this young lady is though and that she looks like a real preteen. Like Rudy Huxtable, Ashley Banks was a cute but powerful role model for many little girls. I think this young lady will fill those shoes well.
The original Aunt Viv is a fan favorite and luckily, this version of our good sis (Cassandra Freeman) is a winner. As an artist currently focusing her attention elsewhere we get to see the plight of many women especially sisters who get stuck being everything and everyone but themselves. She’s strong, fierce and beautiful but also gentle. I also like the very real approach to the delicate mother daughter dynamic that she and Hilary share that I’m sure many of us can relate to. As the daughter of a mother who just wanted me to succeed, I definitely feel the vibes. For me, this version of Aunt Viv is a good mixture of both Aunt Vivs that we grew up with and loved. Also, do not switch on us or we’ll have to talk Will Smith.
Uncle Phil is not the Uncle Phil we're used to OK! This Uncle Phil (Adrian Holmes) is very handsome, fit, stylish and all that good stuff physically but also a complex character. He’s dealing with racism and classism despite being a successful Black man who paved his own way. He’s a shining example of it never being enough no matter how “good” or smart we are. I hope that this is explored more as the show goes on. I love that he’s representing strong men who take care of their family beyond money but with time, dedication, and leadership as well. It’s hard to live up to the iconic James Avery but I think this character is symbolizing a shift in Black TV Dads like Anthony Anderson has with Black-ish. I just hope we get to see Mama Banks as well.
Let’s talk about Jazz(Jordan L. Jones). At first I wasn’t feeling him because the original Jazz was one of my favorite characters. He was so hip to everything while being a comic relief (even in a comedy). It never made sense that he and Will were instant friends yet seemed to always know each other but this reboot makes sense of that also. My favorite thing about this Jazz is that he’s a legal hustler. He works but not in a tiresome over grinding way. He’s smart (big plot twist) and smooth in a way that doesn’t feel disingenuous. Plus, I think Hilary might give him a little attention, a big change from the original.
Is it just me or is Jeffery (Jimmy Akingbola) giving us the gangster vibes that a drama needs? This version of Jeffrey is suave, sophisticated, and doesn’t do a single thing around the house besides managing it. He’s more of an official security/house manager/executive assistant to Uncle Phil which makes him feel like more of a member of the family versus “the help”. No shade to anyone in a service position, I just appreciate seeing more personality associated with this character but I do hope to get some of those classic comebacks we knew and loved.
I’m not sure why Lisa (Simone Joy Jones) was introduced so early as Will went through many beautiful ladies in the original before settling down with her. The good thing I like about Lisa in this reboot though is that she feels like a real young lady. She’s accomplishing things in her own rite as a swimmer on scholarship at the academy. And although she’s dated another wealthy young man of the cast, she’s not at all a gold digger or social climber looking for clout.
I saved Carlton for last because that young man (Olly Sholotan) deserves an Emmy already. When an actor makes you despise them just from their on screen behavior, they’re doing something right. Carlton is spoiled, entitled, rude, arrogant, and obnoxious. And sadly, that’s everything the original Carlton represented before befriending his cousin and incorporating his famous dance moves into our lives and memories forever. Having Carlton feel so cold towards Will gives him the ultimate villain vibes. Like I was nervous he was going to kill his own cousin for a moment. I can’t wait to see how this character unfolds.
So, I missed some characters but the season is just starting and I have to believe that with its success, we’ll get more. If you haven’t watched, be sure to download the Peacock app and sign up. I’m not getting paid for this recommendation, I just love great TV.
Re-Kenya Roberson is an author, creative consultant, mom, and a bunch of other things that you won't actually remember later. Follow her on instagram @iamrekenya