But it's also somehow so nostalgic.
In the era of reboots and reimaginings, one of the most highly anticipated revivals is that of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The 1990s staple sitcom launched the career of Will Smith from a rapper best known for “Parents Just Don’t Understand” to a household name on his way to being one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. The iconic series was ripe for reinvention, and after a fan’s concept went video went viral on YouTube, Peacock pounced, greenlighting two seasons right off the bat. Now, Bel-Air Season 1 is arriving on Feb. 13, so let’s run down everything there is to know about the series.
When YouTube launched back in the mid-aughts, it was meant to be a place where video creators and would-be directors could upload their content to get Hollywood’s attention. The video site has long since drifted away from that original intent, but every so often, along comes a fan-made film that takes Hollywood by storm. That was the case with Bel-Air, a short film released in 2019 by Morgan Cooper, in which he reimagined what modern prestige TV would do with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s concept, resulting in a dark and gritty take on the classic comedy.
The video immediately went viral, catching the attention of everyone in Hollywood, including Will Smith. Smith was taken with the concept, so much so it eventually became the basis for a revival of the show from his company, Westbrook Studios, appropriately titled Bel-Air after the video that inspired it.
Bel-Air Season 1 Trailer
Peacock released the first official teaser for Bel-Air on Nov. 23, 2021. For fans of the original show, it was chock-full of references to the original series, including Will Smith himself doing a dramatic reading of the show’s opening theme.
Also, fans should note the new Will, played by Jabari Banks, is wearing Jordans, the same brand of sneakers Will Smith wore in the original series.
The full trailer arrived on Jan. 10, 2022, giving fans their first real footage of the new show, which manages to be both completely new and utterly nostalgic at the same time.
For those curious about the inspiration for the series, the original fan-made feature released by Cooper is still up. Considering Cooper is the show’s director, co-writer, and executive producer, fans expect the series to follow the concept laid out in it. T.J. Brady and Rasheed Newson (The Chi) will acts as the series’ co-showrunners.
Bel-Air Season 1 Cast
Any series that revives an iconic show needs a lead who will hold down the new franchise installment. In some cases, like Punky Brewster or Saved By The Bell, the original cast members return to the roles that made them famous. But Bel-Air’s concept wouldn’t work with Will Smith as the star, since the idea was to remake the story of a teenage kid from Philly being shipped out to the wealthy suburbs of California. Instead, the series had to find the next Will Smith, a kid who could follow in the actor’s footsteps.
After a nationwide search, Smith announced on social media the actor who has been selected to play Will in the new series: a newcomer, recent University of the Arts graduate, and West Philadelphia local named Jabari Banks. Like Smith before him, Banks is already an accomplished songwriter, singer, and rapper. (He’s also a basketball player.) This casting, which will hopefully be as life-changing for Banks as Smith’s was back in the day, is his first major starring role.
Along with the first official teaser, the rest of the cast was also revealed. Banks, as stated, plays Will. He’ll be joined by Adrian Holmes (At That Age) as Phillip Banks, Cassandra Freeman (Atlanta) as Vivian Banks, Olly Sholotan (Evolution of Nate Gibson) as Carlton, Coco Jones (Vampires vs. The Bronx) as Hilary Banks and Akira Akbar (Captain Marvel) as Ashley Banks.
Jimmy Akingbola (Most Dangerous Game) is Geoffrey, Jordan L. Jones (Snowfall) is Jazz, and Simone Joy Jones (The Chair) is Lisa.
Bel-Air Season 1 Plot
How close the new series will hew to Cooper’s initial concept trailer probably won’t be known until the series arrives on Peacock. But the series description seems to suggest it will follow the plot laid out in the trailer. Here’s the logline, via Peacock:
Set in modern-day America, Bel-Air is a serialized one-hour dramatic analogue of the ‘90s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, that leans into the original premise: Will’s complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated mansions of Bel-Air. With a reimagined vision, Bel-Air will dive deeper into the inherent conflicts, emotions and biases that were impossible to fully explore in a 30-minute sitcom format, while still delivering swagger and nods to the original show.
Bel-Air Season 1 Release Date
Bel-Air Season 1 premieres on Peacock starting Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022. Season 2 is already greenlit.
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