Bel Air is a Strange Beast

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Bel Air is a television show that, by all accounts, shouldn’t exist. It seems to take place is some dark timeline where The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is an hour-long family soap opera instead of a light family sitcom. The odd thing is it kind of works.

Some of that may be due to the influence of the original Fresh Prince Will Smith who lends his considerable star power to producing the new series. He knows the original material inside and out allowing him to give his blessing and put his mark on the new Bel Air.

The concept itself began life as a short film produced by Morgan Cooper. Once Will Smith saw it he immediately saw the potential of the series and brought it to life. The results are a mixed bag. For instance, it’s nice that the pilot spends most of its run time establishing who the new Will Smith (played with tons of charisma by Jabari Banks) is and what his life was like before he moved to Los Angeles. That’s a whole chapter the sitcom glossed over in the 90s.

It also adds a whole lot more depth to the rest of the family. In this universe Hillary (CoCo Jones) is a struggling social media influencer focused on creating her own culinary business. She’s very independent which is a nice change from the original. Carlton (Olly Sholotan) on the other hand is played as a villain right away. Any naïve swarm that the original character had in the 90s is now amped up right away.

The only one really left in the shadows is the new Ashley (Akira Akbar). It’s a shame too because the original Will Smith and Ashley Banks had a ton of chemistry and it seems like that’s been swapped out for a Will/Hilary relationship instead. Let’s hope she gets some attention and doesn’t become the cousin Oliver of the series.

If nothing else the show is gutsy as hell. The whole concept is crazy but it’s being done in the best possible way with the best possible people behind it. With clear story arcs and character development expect Bel Air to create a whole new generation of fans. Let’s hope they seek out the original show to see the origin of the series because the original Fresh Prince of Bel Air is still a classic.