Arts, Culture & Entertainment

Cardinal Sins: ‘Bel-Air’

The newly minted ‘Bel-Air’ falls extraordinarily flat for this group of USC students.

Will Smith and the star of Bel-Air, Jabari Banks, at the Los Angeles premiere for the show.

Prof. Miki Turner’s feature writing students have learned the art of the two-minute pitch and now the two-minute critique. After watching “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot,” “Bel-Air,” the students recorded their thoughts on the show during a two-minute time limit. Cardinal Sins will be a recurring feature on this site.

Kacie Yamamoto

A headshot of USC student, Kacie Yamamoto.

“If I’m being completely honest, I’ve never actually seen “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” In fact, I had absolutely no idea what the show was about going into this, so I was a bit blind to what was coming next. I’m assuming that the original show was nothing like what I just watched. I was intrigued by what I was watching, but also confused for a good portion of it. I didn’t really understand the nuances of the show, or what the plot really was. I wonder if I would understand if I had seen the original. I understand that Will is supposed to be a relatable character, but I felt no semblance of sympathy for him throughout the show. I understand the intentions behind his uncle and aunt, but I felt no reasoning behind their actions. I wonder how things will unfold, and how the characters will recover from that.”

—  Kacie Yamamoto

Chelsea Hylton

A headshot of USC student, Chelsea Hylton.

“This show was just messy. I don’t even know what was happening at some points. The characters were acting and it just seemed so forced and it was fake to me. I was just thinking, “Did no one on the production or editing team feel the same way?” But I would say that the language, the music and the styling of clothes was my favorite part of the whole episode that we saw. Whoever was in charge of music really did their job with that one.”

—  Chelsea Hylton

Catherine Orihuela

A headshot fo Catherine Orihuela in a green shirt and jeans surrounded by greenery

“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reboot seems promising at first, as many reboots often do. But like so many, it falls flat after the first few minutes of the pilot episode. In just the first few minutes, viewers are thrown around on a rollercoaster of emotions – they swing from scenes of basketball games and locker room celebrations to touching moments with a mother and scenes that depict gang violence. With too many plot points to keep track of, viewers will find it hard to connect with the storyline and ease into the reboot. Intimate and contemplative scenes are also crow-barred into the show at odd moments, almost as an afterthought, rather than being given ample breathing room.”

—  Catherine Orihuela

Diego Ramos

A headshot of USC student, Diego Ramos.

“When you gather all the elements of pop culture, what is in, what is being listened to, what is fresh and fit, and you cram it all into one pilot, you are left with the first episode of “Bel-Air.” The show is a dramatic reboot of the beloved sitcom about the kid from West Philly, except the creators made sure to tick off all the boxes of what the kids are talking about these days, down to calling random things “jawn” and wearing Jordans in every scene.”

—  Diego Ramos

Savannah Greene

A headshot of USC student, Savanah Greene.

“The first five minutes of the pilot we just watched did a ton of exposition into its main character, Will Smith, to keep us loving him for the rest of the cringey episode. It showed Will as a hard-working kid who does well in school, loves his mom, cares about his friends and loves life. The actual show itself tries way too hard to be relatable and political. The dialogue is so forced that it hurts. However, the actors do a great job of hiding it most of the time. The insane music choices, fantastic cinematography and references back to the original helped it to stay entertaining.”

—  Savannah Greene

LeeAnna Villarreal

A headshot of USC student, LeeAnna Villarreal.

“I don’t think you have to watch the original to realize this reboot can’t live up to its legacy. I see how they are trying to differentiate themselves from the original by adding an element of drama to the reboot, but it’s soooo over-exaggerated. Also, the differences between LA and Philly almost seem odd, although, of course, they’re a part of Will’s transition. LA is portrayed to be this pastel-color-y, nice and calm place, while in Philly, there are these dark and cool tones and a lot of sirens in the background. The comedic aspects of the show were heavily carried by Will only, and even then, most of the jokes were misses or over-exaggerated.”

—  LeeAnna Villarreal

Mariah Hill

A headshot of USC student, Mariah Hill

“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reboot was pretty okay. They didn’t really make it similar to the previous one that we all know and love. They made this one more dramatic. They did make it more relevant to what’s going on right now in society. For example, uncle Phil was running for office and he was talking about getting young Black men out of the prison pipeline. A lot of the show discussed things that BIPOC has been going through. I wonder why they made Carlton’s character do drugs.”

—  Mariah Hill

Victoria L. Westover

A headshot of USC student, Victoria L. Westover.

“There was a lot of intense music and loud transitions. The scenes catch your eye and force you to keep looking. Stereotypical characters playing on certain character tropes - LA social media girl, rich white people and people living in Philly. All the characters are very different and at face value, the show’s writers did not go too in-depth with who the various characters are but presented them briefly and with intensity. I was engaged the whole time but the episode moved really fast — almost too fast. There were a lot of plot points they included in just one episode, which was entertaining, but superficial. The show touched on real issues but just hit the surface with them. It made you connect with the main character, but it was definitely not as good as it could be. It has the ability to reach a wide audience, but right now it is not reaching its full potential.”

—  Victoria L. Westover

Pauline Woodley

A headshot of USC student, Pauline Woodley.

“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reboot wants it too badly and feels like it’s vying for a Black card it shouldn’t have to prove it needs. What is joyful about the original is lost in the reboot that attempts to tackle serious subjects earnestly, but just ends up making a mockery of them. Rather than show a holistic view of the Black experience, which I want to believe was the goal, it just plays into boring stereotypes. I wish that it were self-aware enough to realize that this concept could have remained a concept in short, and nothing more.”

—  Pauline Woodley

Savannah Thomas

A headshot of USC student, Savannah Thomas.

“That was the most cliche story I have ever had the misfortune to witness. Not only was the titular character completely unsympathetic and aggravating to watch on screen, but all the supporting characters were menaces to experience. There were a lot of issues with the show overall, but one thing that stands out to me is how all of the people who suck somehow managed to have dark skin – Carlton, Uncle Phil, that dude with the gun in the beginning (Darnell). The only other person who was equally as unbearable was the white boy who said the n-word. Sad.”

—  Savannah Thomas

Ronny Hu

A headshot of USC student, Ronny Hu.

“The beginning was shocking. I saw a lot of stereotypes and wasn’t sure if it was being overdramatic. In a sense, it made me uncomfortable even though the actors are Black. Later in the show, the experience got better. I saw a storyline about second chances and a reflection on social media. One line that I think will rule the show is “Don’t forget who you are and where you came from.” Lastly, I want to know more about Carlton’s story.”

—  Ronny Hu

Guilherme Guerreiro

A headshot of USC Student, Guilherme Guerreiro.

“There isn’t much to admire in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reboot. I mean, first of all, it’s not like it needed one in the first place, but people still decided to do one. So I guess we should roll with that, even though it strays from the source material in ways that only make it a more muddled product. I was expecting it to just be a nice and funny show like the first one but it really tried to be HBO without any sort of dramatic prowess, aiming to do a dramedy without understanding how to do one or even if they should. Plus the jokes are reaaaallly bad.”

—  Guilherme Guerreiro

Maya Abu-Zahra

A headshot of USC student, Maya Abu-Zahra.

“Philly pride is real – but not that real. Overwhelmed with excessive references to Philadelphia and Will’s roots powered the unfortunate forceful nature of this episode. I was confused by the cross-cultural references, filled with antique cars and lots of Meek Mill, who, by the way, is a rapper of our time. Beyond the difficulty of interpreting the ingenuity of the character interactions, the dialogue was forced and the convenience of certain events was all too coincidental. If the show could achieve a greater level of ingenuity, that would perhaps be its saving grace.”

—  Maya Abu-Zahra

The first three episodes of “Bel-Air” are available to stream now on Peacock with subsequent episodes releasing every Thursday.