Thank God The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Isn't Being Rebooted


The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air may be my favorite television show of all time. Yes, I liked it even more than The Wire, Law & Order: SVU, and Unsolved Mysteries. I loved A Different World, and liked The Cosby Show Family Matters, but I was all about Fresh Prince.


So when "news" broke that the show was going to get a reboot, at first I was like, "hell yeah!" Then I was like, "nawl, bitch I said nawl" and was happy to find out that Will is Smith is in talks (they're only talks at this point) to create a new show similar in premise only. We've hit this nostalgic point when it comes to our golden era of pop culturism. So much so that a a fake post about Tyler Perry re-making Love Jones nearly broke VSB AND the internet before breaking the internet was a thing. Our servers crashed and yes, as per usual, I think Brick killed a guy. We're so stuck in the glory days of the 90s - and they were glorious - that any grasp for the old while attempting to marry it with new flashes and bangs seems exciting. Hell, I throw a 90s party for this very reason.

Except, there's Girl Meets World.

Honesty box moment - I had the world's biggest crush on two women growing up: Laura Winslow from Family Matters (who I met in real life once in DC and who invited me to a party she was having but I couldn't make it and was sad about it, we never saw one another again) and Topanga Lawrence from Boy Meets World. Boy Meets World was my shit back in the 90s, a decade full of good shows of all stripes. Danielle Fishell is a bad mamma jamma. Lemonade was a popular drink and it still is, just like Topanga. By the time the show ended in 2000, she was legit bad as fuck. So when I saw that they were rebooting Boy Meets World with Girl Meets World on ABC Family and Disney, I was like, yay, more Topanga, even if I honestly had no real plan to watch the show.

Unfortunately, I did watch the show - and because my daughter loves it, I have continued to do so - and it just ain't got that thing that the original show had. Granted, its on Disney and has been even more family-fied than its predecessor, but sheesh, the corn-ball levels are on fleek. Hell, it makes the corniness of Family Matters - a show that I loved to the nth degree but can acknowledge was saccharine as fuck - seem edgy and violent. This isn't a bad thing, per se; I like that my kid can watch people I grew up watching and learn lessons about friendship and shit. It's just that the idea of another reboot of any sort based purely on the nostalgia of a show that may be better in memory than actuality makes me a little concerned about the end product.

For instance, let's say they actually were trying to reboot the show. I get that it makes financial sense. Will Smith attaching his name to a show that was super popular BEFORE he became one of the highest banking actors in Hollywood could only stand to increase its profile. It's an established name and a show that would still hold cache for its viewers who are now almost 20 years older. I'm guessing most of us would at least check it out, Black, white, or other, if only for nostalgia reasons. So I get the business end. But sometimes the business end of this shit can turn your friends against you, said Dre.

But from a show standpoint, what would a reboot even look like? Would you cast some rapper - like say a J. Cole or Wale - as a cat from the inner city somewhere sent to live with his new tech rich aunt and uncle in Silicon Valley who hit it big by dropping an app that changed the world? Shenanigans ensue? Maybe its a Black girl this time? Yo no se. Maybe Tiara Thomas? Or Azaelia Banks?

One thing that I think the Fresh Prince got right, and I largely attribute it to the writers and good execution by the actors, was that they touched on social issues without getting too heavy handed with it. In fact, many shows from the 90s were able to walk that line between after school special and edgy comedy. The "episode" where Will became Will Smith was handled well as were the drug episodes and the gun episode and the driving-while-black episode. Saturday morning shows like Saved By The Bell and City Guys were fairly heavy handed (at times), but they weren't prime time television either. I feel like nowadays, it would be a whole different ball game. Can you imagine a show like Fresh Prince attempting to deal with police killings and the Black community, something they'd at least attempt? A Different World attempted to address the riots in LA, and it wasn't a bad attempt but ya know, its hard to take a comedy and turn it THAT serious.


Which is part of the trouble for Black sitcoms…they're going to at least attempt to deconstruct and address important social issues of the day because they have to. You remember the flack LL Cool J caught with "I Need Love" while Black power had enraptured the hip-hop landscape? Black folks, we love us some us, but i f you DON'T address shit, folks are coming for you, dumb as that may be.

See Internet.

Many of those 90s shows paid the proper deference to issues affecting the main demographic watching. The Fresh Prince did a pretty good job with that. But I do worry about what that would look like now. Folks give Black-ish all types of shit for no good reason and its as good as any show at looking at the dynamic of making it and trying to "keep it real", something that's been done before - see The Hughleys - but not really as well as Black-ish is doing it now and largely affects many of the very people beefing with the show, mostly due to its title. That show catches all the flack.


Which reminds me, a few months back I went to a panel discussion about Black representation in the media. It was a standard panel, no real groundbreaking dialogue occurred, but a discussion of Empire (at the time it was on its, like, fourth episode and gaining that serious steam of becoming a social media and ratings bonanaza) versus Black-ish came up, and one of the panelists stated that he felt Empire was more relatable than Black-ish, which to me was the most asinine statement I'd heard in quite some time. And I say asinine shit almost as a rule on a daily basis. I decided to ask how exactly would a show like Empire, full of characters that about 99 percent of people wouldn't actually want to be around, could be more relatable than a show like Black-ish, which was a nuclear family show that seemed very representative of what most of our families either did look like or WOULD look like, ya know, for the bougie Blacks in the room.

His argument was that Empire's family dynamic was more realistic (!!!) and relatable because of the familial structure and love of the brothers, etc. While that's admirable, and I love Empire, nigga what? Nigga who? The reason I love the show is because its so outrageous, from the top to bottom. Relatable is a stretch. Realistic is unrealistic. Now, I can't knock this brother's opinion, even thought I did here and while I was there at the panel, but I couldn't believe that a show that is basically a newer version of The Cosby Show with way more edge and snark could somehow be less realistic or relatable than Empire, DESPITE the fact that everybody on the panel talked about The Cosby Show as the family television gold standard.


That was a hell of a tangent to point out how confused I am about the hate for Black-ish, which I realize is a topic from months past in the Black zeitgeist. But a show that does a good job of capturing the Black experience gets shitted on, so I can't imagine what type of leeway a reboot of a show that would now be required to address much of the days issues would receive. And that will still be their struggle seeing as Will is trying to create SOME new show.

But thank God they won't take the Fresh Prince name down with it if it flops. That's the problem with banking on nostalgia…sometimes you ruin the original product.


Point is, I'm really glad Fresh Prince isn't getting a reboot.

Thanks, Obama.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



Thank GAWD someone wrote this! I've been saying for years that Fresh Prince > The Cosby Show. Not because of recent allegations or the Respectability Politics Tour. My parents thought the show was unrelateble to our lower-middle class black lives. And I was juuuust young enough to find it corny (and it hasn’t aged well). At the time, I preferred The Simpsons and Married With Children.

But The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a generational answer to Cosby’s decidedly more conservative approach to parenting to privileged black lives. Whereas The Cosby Show was more about Claire and Cliff reacting to something stupid one of the kids did, Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv were tough but forgiving. Plus, James Avery and Janet Hubert’s depictions didn’t mind if their characters looked a little unguarded and revolutionary.……

Whereas Cosby pretty much ignored the rise of rap music (seriously, they lived in Fort Greene, and none of the Cosby kids ever talked about liking BDP) and preferred guest appearances featuring jazz musicians and lip syncing the blues. Instead, The Fresh Prince (by way of Will himself) openly welcomed hip hop as a part of the show, even to the chagrin of Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv.…

And the casting of Will Smith was like…some sort of cosmic miracle. He had star power, charm, and developed real emotional intelligence toward the end of the series. All that early work on the show is why we have such a powerhouse now. And to think, he started doing Fresh Prince to get out of bankruptcy. Why do we keep thinking we can re-create that?