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This is the most controversial new series of 2022 so far

Published Feb 16th, 2022 6:06PM EST
A scene from the new Peacock original series "Bel Air"
Image: Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock

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Now, this is a story all about how a beloved ’90s show got flipped-turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, and tell you why it’s so controversial, what Peacock did to Bel-Air.

Whereas the titular protagonist in this classic sitcom got in one little fight and his mom got scared — his words, in the original version of the show — that got translated to a more violent beatdown in the trailer for this remake of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that Peacock finally debuted in recent days. What’s more, the new series has produced enough polarization in terms of viewer reaction that this might actually be the most controversial new streaming release of the year so far.

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air remake

If Peacock’s goal here was mostly to create something buzzy that got people talking, Bel-Air certainly succeeds on that front. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can check out the trailer below (which we’ve also embedded here).

“Set in modern-day America, Peacock’s new one-hour drama series Bel-Air imagines the beloved sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air through a new, dramatic take on Will’s complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated mansions of Bel-Air,” Peacock’s summary reads. “As these two worlds collide, Will reckons with the power of second chances while navigating the conflicts, emotions, and biases of a world far different from the only one he’s ever known.”

Will Smith, who of course was the star of the original, is an executive producer here. The inspiration was Morgan Cooper’s viral trailer that reimagined the sitcom (which you can read about here). “Bel-Air takes a fresh and raw approach to this world of swagger, style, and aspiration, while exploring Will’s complex journey through a current lens,” Peacock continues.

The controversy

That “fresh and raw” approach, meanwhile, is the heart of the issue here.

Reviews like this one from The Guardian, for example, don’t hold back. That review in particular (“this confused, joyless Fresh Prince remake has no reason to exist”) also points to something we alluded to earlier. It’s that many fans don’t know what to make of this remake. And, really, when is a remake so different that it becomes just a “make,” for lack of a better word?

Carlton’s hilarious stuffiness is missing here, as is Will’s comedic swagger and so many other things. Needless to say, the reviews are atrocious right now on both IMDb as well as Rotten Tomatoes. The latter is where critics and viewers are saying things like:

  • Suck all the joy, exuberance and wondrous charisma out of The Fresh Prince — a worthy launchpad for an actor who, in his prime, was widely considered the biggest movie star in the world — and you’re left with the gloomy and plodding Bel-Air.
  • Bel-Air isn’t fun, like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was.
  • This is so disappointing. I am not sure what this show is aiming for. The story is not exciting, funny, or heartwarming. And Carlton … OMG, he is way too annoying. I do not like it.
Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.