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A re-imagination of the beloved sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" set in modern-day America through a new, dramatic take on Will's complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated mansions of Bel Air. As these worlds collide, he reckons with the power of second chances while navigating the conflicts, emotions and biases of a world far different from the only one he's ever known.


In 2019, a short film/parody trailer by Morgan Cooper went viral by reimagining The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a gritty drama rather than the goofy Will Smith comedy of ‘90s lore. The film caught the attention of Smith himself, and three years later, that trailer has been expanded into the dark new series Bel-Air. The first three episodes premiered on Peacock on February 13, with critics getting an early look at the first six episodes ahead of its debut, and despite all the pre-release hype, many are saying the series misses its mark.

Bel-Air introduces Jabari Banks as the new Will Smith and follows the same premise as the O.G. Fresh Prince, which sees Will sent to live with his Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv after an incident during a pickup game back home in Philadelphia. The critics seem to find a lot of common ground in the belief that merely changing the sitcom’s tone does not allow Bel-Air to drive home its important messages better than — or even as well as — The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air already did 30 years ago. Let’s take a look at what they had to say.

"One of the countless magical properties of the sitcom format is that it has a particular ability to create moving dramatic moments, because viewers are wrongfooted when the clown mask suddenly drops: the Fresh Prince episode where Will and Carlton find themselves the victims of racist policing, for instance, or the one where Will’s neglectful father reappears and then abandons his son again, have extra power because they sneak up in the cloak of a gag-filled comedy. With an hour an episode and no jokes to make, Bel-Air has all the time in the world to fashion drama about race, class and coming-of-age, but it ends up being less layered and guileful than its source material."

One of the toughest things Bel-Air has working against it might just be the strength of its source material and the inevitable comparisons that will be made between the two. The critics seemed to think that despite its light tone, the iconic 1990s sitcom was still able to accomplish emotional stories and tackle social issues that hit home in a way that Bel-Air didn’t in its first handful of episodes.

To be sure, there are certainly reviews out there that skew more positive if you spend enough time looking. But as far as the most widespread and commonly shared opinions go, everything seen above is par for the course. Here's hoping things spin around into something more embraced as the season goes on.

The first three episodes of Bel-Air are available for streaming now with a Peacock subscription, with new episodes coming on Thursdays. Be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what other shows are premiering soon.

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