Peacock’s Soapy Fresh Prince Reboot Bel-Air Asks: What Does Black Excellence Mean Now?

Good-looking, humorous, and oozing charisma, Will Smith would have excelled at something he tried as a 21-year-old rapper in 1990. Fortunately for teenagers rising up in that decade, he turned to the small display within the now-classic NBC sitcom The Recent Prince of Bel-Air. Viewers drawn in by Smith’s energetic presence discovered rather more to like than one well-known face. Every member of the wealthy, stuffy but loving Banks clan turned a foil for Will’s street-smart extroversion, and each actor within the ensemble shined. As Tatyana Ali, who performed Will’s cousin Ashley, noticed in a 2020 reunion particular, “Our present meant Black excellence to folks.”
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That type of comedic chemistry can be unimaginable to recreate. To its credit score, Peacock’s satisfactory reboot, whose first three episodes will arrive on the platform Feb. 13, doesn’t attempt. Impressed by a spot-on spoof trailer for a darkish Recent Prince adaptation that went viral in 2019, Bel-Air (which incorporates each the video’s mastermind, Morgan Cooper, and Smith amongst its government producers) repurposes the unique sequence’ premise as fodder for a soapy drama. Newcomer Jabari Banks’ Will is a West Philadelphia basketball phenom who sees his Division I future thrown into uncertainty when he’s arrested with a gun after a run-in with a gangster. Enter Will’s highly effective, semi-estranged lawyer uncle, to make the costs disappear and preserve him protected in one in all L.A.’s most luxurious ZIP codes.

Bel-Air - Season 1
Evans Vestal Ward/PeacockOlly Sholotan and Jabari Banks in ‘Bel-Air’

On this telling, Uncle Phil (Adrian Holmes) is operating for district lawyer on a platform of ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and Will fears he’s a marketing campaign prop. Promoted from butler to “home supervisor,” Geoffrey (Jimmy Akingbola) advises Phil over video games of pool. Tensions flare between Aunt Viv (Cassandra Freeman), who deserted a promising artwork profession to lift her three children, and the Banks’ eldest daughter Hillary (Coco Jones), an influencer striving to interrupt into the culinary trade. Whereas younger Ashley (Akira Akbar) doesn’t make a lot of an impression in early episodes, the brand new Carlton (Olly Sholotan) comes as a authentic shock. Hardly a nerd, Will’s preppy, lacrosse-playing, Xanax-snorting cousin guidelines Bel-Air Academy with a haughty glare—and he has no intention of sharing the highlight.

Bel-Air doesn’t really feel distinct sufficient from TV’s many rich-people soaps to turn out to be a traditional. The dialogue can sound stiff, and fixed references to each the unique present and Cooper’s video get tiresome. But it does have all of the makings of a stable drama. True, he’s no Will Smith—there’s solely a kind of—however Jabari Banks makes a magnetic lead in his personal proper, correctly firming down the character’s exuberance for a style with out snigger tracks. And because the season progresses, story traces that contact on Black fraternities, the neighborhood obligations of rich Black households and intergenerational disagreements over calling out racism increase an intriguing query: Three many years after The Recent Prince, what does Black excellence appear like now?


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