The second season of Bel-Air, the reboot of the original The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is coming to the Peacock streaming service on February 23. Bel-Air is a reimagined version of the original comedy sitcom, and it turns the story of Will Smith into a serious drama that deals with heady topics such as racial tension, culture shock, and poverty. It has its fans and is one of the most successful original shows on the streaming platform according to IndieWire. Its tone is far different from the original show that starred Will Smith playing a fictionalized version of himself.
The CW show was primarily a “fish out of water” comedy that poked fun at both Will’s wealthy family and the ways he was unaccustomed to it and took advantage of it. But it also had plenty of instances of drama, exploring what it was like for the Banks to be a wealthy black family among mostly white people in Bel-Air. The show was incredibly popular even after the series finished and fans continue to watch it on television and streaming apps like HBO Max. Fans have happily made memes about their favorite show to point out its themes and reference the notable bits of it.
The Story Could Have Been Much Shorter
The reason for Will being sent to Bel-Air in the first place is because he gets into a fight with some people at a basketball court and his mother sends him to California, so he’ll stay out of trouble. But it’s also revealed in that opening intro song that the reason the guys attack Will is that his wayward basketball shot hits them.
The group of guys is sitting around talking to each other minding their own business when Will puts up a shot that bricks off the rim, right into the leader of the gang. If Will had only made that shot, or if had even ricocheted another way, he would not have ended up being beaten and then sent to Bel-Air.
The Theme Song Is Incredible
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has one of the best theme songs on TV of all time. It’s an earworm sung by Will Smith himself and sets up the whole story of the show in about one minute. It has a catchy beat and easy-to-remember lyrics making it a classic intro song for any show.
The lyrics are so fun to sing that it’s not uncommon for people to know the words off the top of their head. When the first few beats of the theme song come on, it is difficult not to drop everything and listen to it, much less watch and not sing along to it.
Meme Source Code
Thanks to Will Smith’s hilarious and rubbery facial expressions, many scenes from The Fresh Prince have become prime meme material. This screenshot is itself an often-used meme. There are numerous examples of scenes from the show being used on Twitter, IG, and Reddit as memes.
With the ability to watch the entire series on streaming services, some fans who were not watching during the original airing will be delighted to see exactly when a favorite meme pops up in the show used as a normal scene. It happens frequently with many of the characters.
Uncle Phil, played by the late James Avery, is one of the best parts of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He is the rich patriarch of the Banks family and a judge with a quick temper and high expectations for his children. He is a fantastic father and husband even if he sets high standards for everyone and gets upset when they don’t meet them.
He often gets annoyed with Will and his penchant for mischief, but he is much more a father to Will than his real father, the man in the center of the meme. Uncle Phil’s love for Will and aggravation with him is a central theme of the show and an important aspect of Will’s growth and shows why he is one of the best ’90s TV sitcom dads.
Aunt Vivian Recasting
Aunt Vivian, affectionately referred to as Aunt Viv, is the matriarch of the Banks family. She is the vivacious and fun-loving parent but is also very no-nonsense, nothing ever gets by her. For seasons 1-3, she was played by Janet Hubert while for seasons 4-6 she was played by Daphne Maxwell Reid.
This sudden change did not go unremarked by fans who had to get used to Reid who played the character looser and less fiery. Even Jazz gets a fourth-wall-breaking comment by saying that there is something different about Vivian in the first Reid episode. It was a great way to handle the major TV cast change.
Carlton Banks’ Style
Will Smith’s cousin in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is Carlton Banks, played by Alfonso Ribeiro. Carlton is the uptight and high-minded counterpart to Will and as the series progresses grows to be the deuteragonist of the series and a constant friend and foil to Will.
Unlike Will, Carlton is rarely shown to be “cool” in any way, his famous “Carlton” dance where he swings his arms back and forth tends to make others cringe. And his outfits are all the New England preppy variety, much like the mannequin in this meme. He’s something like the “anti-Will” in every way including his attire.
Jazz And Uncle Phil
One of the characters who appear the most but is not a member of the main cast is Will’s best friend in the show and real life. Jeffrey Allen Townes was a member of the Will Smith duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince and plays a fictionalized, and much sillier, version of himself as Jazz.
Jazz often hits on the Banks women or inadvertently insults UNcle Phil and overstays his welcome. Whenever that happens, Uncle Phil tosses Jazz out of the house in a classic running gag. The clip of Jazz being tossed out of their home is a reused video which makes it funnier every time it happens.
Ashley Does Whatever She Wants
Ashley Banks, played by Tatyana Ali, is the youngest child of the Banks family and the most spoiled of them all. Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian rarely reprimand or punish her, and consequently, she feels the freedom to act like a rebellious teen, unlike her older siblings.
She loves her cousin Will who she sees as a laid-back, fun older brother. Uncle Phil notices this relationship and so tries to encourage Will to be a role model for the teenage girl. Anytime Ashley acts out, Will is usually the one in trouble, as Uncle Phil accuses him of not guiding Ashley, whereas Ashley usually ends the episode unpunished.
Will Smith At The Oscars
Unfortunately, it is hard to rewatch episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air without thinking about Will Smith’s actions during the 94th Academy Awards. Angered by a joke made by comedian Chris Rock, Will Smith went on stage and slapped the presenter across the face in front of a live television audience.
It was a shocking and embarrassing moment for everyone involved and soured the rest of the evening, including his win for Best Actor for his role in King Richard, one of the best movies Will Smith’s been in. His character in the show is so fun-loving, relaxed, and easily cool that it can be hard to reconcile the character on the screen with the real actor.
Will Meets His Father
Any discussion about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air will inevitably result in someone bringing up the episode where Will finally reunites with his Dad after years of abandonment. His father is not often brought up in the show and this episode shows why.
His father is a deadbeat that doesn’t want to make time for Will and just when it seems like the two are going to spend some time together, Will’s dad runs off again. Smith’s acting in the scene is some of his best in the series and Uncle Phil’s embrace of his crying nephew sums up the series not just as a comedy but a dramatic show about a young man looking for a family.