By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — NBC has high hopes for “Bel-Air,” a new series that’s a dramatic reboot of a previously successful comedy, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” This version will get the highly coveted post-Super Bowl premiere slot on its network, the NBCUniversal streaming service Peacock. The debut episode premieres on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 13th 2022, with new episodes premiering weekly.
The series is out of Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios and Universal Television. It is based on the viral concept trailer from Morgan Cooper released in 2019. Peacock won a bidding war for the series after Smith contacted Cooper and wanted to develop the project. The NBCUniversal streamer already has a two-season order for the series.
The show is set in the present, with “Bel-Air” being a serialized one-hour dramatic analogue of the 90’s sitcom. According to network press statements, the new show “ 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. “
It is executive produced by showrunners T.J. Brady and Rasheed Newsom, with Cooper serving as co-writer, director and execuutive producer on the series. “With this dramatic reimagining, we wanted to create a show that stands on its own while honoring the spirit and innovation of the original series,” Cooper said in a prior statement. “Because “Bel-Air” is a drama, we’re able to really peel back the layers of these characters and themes in a way that you simply couldn’t do 30 years ago in the half-hour sitcom format. We’re able to go have tough conversations that challenge perspectives. At its core, “Bel-Air” is a celebration of the Black experience through the perspective of a family.”
Cooper told the Shadow and Act website that he took a different approach to the new series. “My approach to the series started with a deep focus on tone and really being intentional with my creative choices. I’m inspired by a lot of things as a director; it could be a random conversation, memories from my past, it could be art, music, fashion. Everything can be inspiration, and having a two-season order gives us the opportunity to go infinitely deeper narratively, visually, and aesthetically. I think that with “Bel-Air” we have created something unique and honest.”
There’s also a gamble on its lead star, at least in terms of acting. Jabari Banks stars as Will. He’s better known as an accomplished songwriter, singer, rapper and basketball player. He’s from West Philadelphia and is a graduate of the University of the Arts there. The series also stars Adrian Holmes as Phillip Banks, Cassandra Freeman as Vivian Banks, Olly Sholotan as Carlton Banks, Coco Jones as Hilary Banks, Akira Akbar as Ashley Banks, Jimmy Akingbola as Geoffrey, Jordan L. Jones as Jazz and Simone Joy Jones as Lisa.