Welcome to another entry of Grateful Heart Monday, which for today is for a new show I’m watching, Bel-Air, on Peacock, a reboot of the original Fresh Prince of Bel-Air series, but a far more gritty and edgy version of it.
These days, reboots of old tv shows seem to be becoming more and more common. Shows like Dynasty, MacGyver, Magnum PI, Law & Order, and so many others have returned to varying degrees, some I’d consider decent reboots, while others I quickly lost interest in, remembering the older version as far more superior. Most recently, Peacock has brought back The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air thanks to a YouTube video of one person’s view of what the original show should have been more like. Rather than the show being a comedy like its predecessor, Bel-Air is more of an urban drama and one that really feels more real than the original ever did.
While my partner was a big fan of the original Fresh Prince series, I wasn’t. It was just too goofy and irritated me more than not, especially every time Carlton did that silly dance that became so popular back then. I generally quickly turned the channel every time the original show was on, and continue to do so even in its reruns, because it never felt accurate or real on any level to me.
There was a very brief period of my life where I did live on the inner-city streets of Poughkeepsie, learning much about a culture I didn’t grow up with. The premise of the original Fresh Prince show was about taking Will Smith out of the inner-city streets of Philadelphia when things got out of hand and sending him off to Bel-Air in California to his rich aunt and uncle’s place for safety. For many, that original series was one of the highlights of their upbringing, bringing them some much-needed laughter when it was on. But for me, it brought annoyance each time it was, because it didn’t portray any of what I saw in the friends or life I had during my brief inner-city days. Honestly, it felt like it did a strong disservice to a culture I came to know.
In the new version of Fresh Prince though, more aptly titled Bel-Air to depict its originality, while the premise retains that initial theme of bringing Will Smith to a place of safety from inner-city trouble, there are subjects that are shown with much greater accuracy that the original never ever showed. Gang warfare, gun violence, drugs in high school, severe bullying, great family strife, and much more, Bel-Air is not a show for the light-hearted and looks nothing like the original, thankfully.
I’ve now watched almost half of the new season of Bel-Air and I find myself being drawn back into the life I once lived for that brief period each time the show is on. The main lead, Jabari Banks, as the young Will Smith is electrifying and very believable, as is Carlton (Olly Sholotan), who thankfully hasn’t done any silly dance in it as of yet.
Why I’m grateful for this show is simply because I feel that Hollywood often misrepresents cultures for the sake of gaining viewership. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air back in the 90’s had lots of viewers because it was goofy fun, but one I never felt connected to. The same can be said of a show like Modern Family that consistently type casted a gay couple as being overly flamboyant, something that annoys me incredibly because not all gay people are flamboyant.
I have grown weary of TV shows and movies that don’t represent what a culture is truly like, which is why I’m thankful on today’s Grateful Heart Monday for Bel-Air emerging this year with a fresh look and premise, one that feels far more real than its predecessor ever did…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson