This is a story, all about how, a classic 90’s sitcom was adapted for a modern audience. That might sound like a familiar story (Fuller House, Girl Meets World); however, Bel-Air proves to be something entirely original. Rather than continue the story with a sequel series focused on a young new cast, it hits the reset button to craft something unique by stripping away the laughs and exploring the dramatic themes and ideas at its core. For this review I was provided the first three episodes of the new series. So, this review pertains to those episodes only. But after those three episodes were over, I found myself wanting more and dreading the fact that I had to wait.
90’s kids are a tough crowd to please. They cling to their nostalgia like a Tamagotchi snuggly clipped to a loop of their JNCO Jeans, scoffing at any attempt to reinvent a property from their past. So, from the very start, Bel-Air has the cards stacked against it. Where Bel-Air succeeds is in its ability to keep the core elements of the original, and tell a story that still feels fresh and new. There are nods and Easter Eggs to its predecessor sprinkled through the first few episodes. For example, nearly every line from the infamously catchy Fresh Prince opening song finds its way into the new series; either through a line of dialogue or a piece of imagery hidden within a scene.
One of the largest hurdles Bel-Air faces is adapting iconic characters with a new cast. James Avery’s portrayal of Uncle Phil in the 90’s classic was a perfect blend of stern authority and fatherly compassion. A man with a short temper, but strong morals. Some would say that version of the character can’t be topped, and perhaps they’d be right. But Bel-Air never tries to top or outshine the original. It embraces the characters we grew up with and allows us to see them through a different lens.
The cast is impeccable. While there isn’t a weak performance in the bunch, Olly Sholotan as Carlton, Coco Jones as Hilary and Adrian Holmes as Uncle Phil stand out as high points of the stellar supporting cast. And Jabari Banks fits into the role of Will like he was born for it. He possesses the confidence, swagger and charisma necessary to fulfil the role and carry the series. He brings the same suave coolness that Will Smith did to the original while also bearing his emotions and exposing his vulnerability. Something we only saw on occasion in The Fresh Prince.
The people of the internet will complain because, well, that’s what they do. But we need to applaud Peacock for their accomplishment here. Sure, at times Bel-Air feels a little melodramatic, like an after school special warning the youth about the dangers of guns and gang life. But its successes far outweigh its faults. Bel-Air is what a series reboot should be. It’s fun. It’s new. It’s fresh. 8/10
Follow us for more entertainment coverage on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.