Now this is the story all about how a 1990s sitcom favorite got flipped-turned upside down. Next year, Peacock — the streaming home of Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell revivals — is bringing back Will Smith's beloved comedy, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which aired its series finale 25 years ago in May 1996.
But this new version isn't a comedy: instead, Bel-Air is a dramatic take on the story of a West Philadelphia teen who is transplanted to the ritzy Los Angeles ZIP code. The just-released first teaser for the series gives viewers a taste of its subdued tone, complete with somber narration from Smith himself. (Watch the teaser above.)
If Smith's line readings sound familiar to you, that's because he's quoting his younger self. The King Richard star is reading — rather than rapping — the lively lyrics of the '90s series, which laid out the circumstances behind his cross-country move. There's no footage from the currently-shooting Bel-Air in the minute-long clip, but we do get an extended glimpse at the new Fresh Prince: Jabari Banks, who makes his professional acting debut with the show. Like his predecessor, Banks hails from West Philly — where he shot some b-ball outside of the school — and is also a skilled rapper. The teaser ends with him taking his place on his throne as the new Prince of Bel-Air.
Smith personally handpicked Banks for the part, and the creative team approved of the choice for reasons beyond the fact that the young star shares the same last name as the fictional Bel-Air family. "During the development of Bel-Air, the most daunting question was: Could we find a young actor who'd be able to step into the role of Will Smith?" co-showrunners T.J. Brady and Rasheed Newson said in a statement provided to Yahoo Entertainment. "Well, did we ever find him. His name is Jabari Banks and he won our hearts in the same way he won this role. Our creative team, including Will Smith, recognized that Jabari embodied the talent, charisma, and sheer swagger necessary to make this iconic role his own."
In a separate statement, Bel-Air director and co-writer Morgan Cooper explained his approach to transforming a half-hour sitcom into an hour-long 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."
Smith was inspired to revisit the series following the viral success of Cooper's reimagined Bel-Air trailer was released to widespread acclaim on YouTube in 2019.
In addition to Banks, Bel-Air's cast includes ex-Arrow star, Adrian Holmes, as Uncle Phil; Cassandra Freeman as Aunt Viv; and Jordan L. Jones as Will's best pal, Jazz. And Peacock is clearly liking what it's seeing, because the streamer has already given the series a two-season run. Twitter, on the other hand, still needs to be convinced.
This might be one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Ain’t NO WAY this is related to THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR bruh 😭😭😭 https://t.co/Cm7or6ZHRg
— Ahmed. (@hands_ghost) November 23, 2021
Now Ik bel-air is supposed to be dramatic and all but I would still like for it to have some light humor in it
— 𝑛𝑦 (@dicexwylie) November 23, 2021
While I believe a remake didn't need to happen, I'm curious to see how this Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot works as a drama. https://t.co/bqHRfQP0Or
— S▲h▲a▲k▲a (@ShakatheShocker) November 23, 2021
No cause the way twitter literally begged for the drama version of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to the point that 2 seasons were ordered before they even started filming. Now suddenly everybody is against it pic.twitter.com/Uuel25satc
— wanna play? (@cultclassikk) November 23, 2021
Bel-Air premieres in 2022 on Peacock.