Mandatory TV Battles: The Fresh Prince vs. Bel Air

In many ways, not much has changed in 30 years. We still put off doing our homework to watch our favorite TV shows. Pop-Tarts still don’t taste as good as we wish they did. And Will Smith is still threatening to put out another rap album. But one thing is new: Peacock is cutting a path in the streaming jungle using a cadre of reboots armed with dull machetes. And the latest hacking blade is Bel Air, an hour-long version of The Fresh Prince that oh so badly wants you to take it seriously.

Seriously. It may have sounded like a joke when you first caught wind of it, like a Lonely Island digital short that TV execs didn’t realize was a spoof. But we assure you, the latest feather in Peacock’s cap is a very real, very earnest attempt at remixing the story of a West Philadelphia kid who finds himself living in Bel Air after one little fight lands him in hot water with police, his mom, and a local gangster.

Based on a YouTube fan video that caught the attention of Will Smith back in 2019, Bel Air ditches the three-camera comedy stylings of its predecessor and airs on the side of hard-knuckle drama, replete with artfully shaky Steadicam and adult language. So does it work? Is it a triumph? And can it hold its own against a flawed but beloved ’90s sitcom that launched the acting career of one of the biggest movie stars in the world? Find out who will be crowned the true Prince of Bel-Air below.

Cover Photo:  Ron Galella Ltd. / Frazer Harrison (Getty Images)


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