Bel-Air: Season 1/ Episode 1 “Dreams and Nightmares” [Series Premiere] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

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We get cursing, drug use, teen drama, and violence in what is deservingly called the dark Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot.

Aired 2/13/2022
Network Peacock
Created or Developed By Morgan Cooper, Malcolm Spellman, TJ Brady, Rasheed Newson
Directed By Morgan Cooper
Written By Morgan Cooper, Malcolm Spellman, TJ Brady, Rasheed Newson
Genre Comedy, Crime, Drama, Romance, Young Adult, Family
Introduced This Episode
Will Jabari Banks
Darnell Sloan “D4M $Loan” Morgan
Rashad Eazy the Block Captain
Tray Stevonte Hart
Phil Adrian Holmes
Viv Cassandra Freeman
Hillary Coco Jones
Ashley Akira Akbar
Carlton Olly Sholotan
Lisa Simone Joy Jones
Viola April Parker Jones

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Plot Overview

16-year-old Will Smith was the king of the basketball court in West Philly, potentially heading to Virginia with a full-ride scholarship. However, thanks to Darnell, who lost his ability to be a true competitor to Will due to going to juvie, Will finds himself risking it all. But it isn’t so much Darnell as it is the local big-time drug dealer, Rashad, that gets Will in trouble. For with Darnell not taking his loss to Will with grace, he sets Will and his friend Tray up to seem like they threw a ball at Rashad.

One thing leads to another, Tray gets jumped, and Will takes Tray’s gun to clear everyone out and points it at Rashad. In doing so, Will gets arrested, and Rashad decides Will and Tray can’t live after what they did. But, while Will is given the opportunity to head to Bel-Air, Tray is stuck in Philly, which leaves Tray in a dangerous situation.

As for Will? He is now assumed to be a snitch out in Philly but in Bel-Air? His uncle Phil, married to his biological aunt Viv, has a different story. You see, Phil pulled strings to get Will out of lock up and to hopefully make his case go away. So while in Bel-Air, Will is expected to keep his head down and say he came to Bel-Air for a better education. But with Will having his Philly swag, while this is appreciated by social media influencer Hillary, and maybe the socially conscious Ashley, Carlton? Oh, he doesn’t like Will and his swag at all. It cramps his style, leads to the life he made for himself being disrupted, and add in that Phil is pursuing Carlton’s ex, Lisa? Oh, that dude who likes Tom Jones and was goofy is replaced by a lacrosse-playing, Xanax sorting guy who has no love for the Fresh Prince.

Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. How did Phil and Vivian meet?
  2. Why is it that Will was unknown despite Lisa’s family being close to Carlton’s?
  3. Does Vivian ever head back east to visit her sister?
  4. Where is everyone’s grandparents?
  5. Will the show continue to feature Tray, or will he get killed off, and we’ll see survivors guilt haunt Will? Heck, how will Will’s mother be when Rashad can’t get to him?

What Could Happen Next

  1. Us get to see Vivian and Hillary beef more since Vivian doesn’t respect Hillary’s social media game
  2. Ashley potentially being a bit too woke
  3. Vivian and Phil having marital problems
  4. Will and Carlton fighting over Lisa, and that carrying into the house
  5. Phil’s pursuit of District Attorney under threat because of Will



Appreciating The Modifications Made To Hillary

Hillary (Coco Jones) styling Will
Hillary (Coco Jones)

Hillary wasn’t dumb based on memory, but she was very superficial and fit the times. But, in Bel-Air, she is an entrepreneur who still is hyper-feminine, yet her love for social media isn’t just to be seen but for her business. Which is based on her love of cooking and trying to pave her own way rather than rely on her father’s money.

It’s easy to appreciate this as it allows you to watch without needing to roll your eyes or forgive the show for trying to hold onto the familiar.

Fleshing Out Will’s Life In Philly

What Bel Air seemingly will do that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air didn’t is keep Philly as part of the show. At least, based on what is happening with Tray and Will’s mom seeming more integral to the story, it doesn’t seem like Will is going to forget where he came from, and fans in some ways as well. Rather, between Tray and Will’s mom, we’ll at least get the occasional check-in, especially on Tray’s status.

Now, whether or not this will lead to a survivor’s remorse story, depending on what Rashad does? That’s hard to say. But for now, it seems we aren’t leaving Philly behind, and we’re going to fully understand there was more than that one incident that factored into Will’s mother calling in a favor.

On The Fence

The Changes Made To Carlton

Carlton (Olly Sholotan) at his father's fundraising party
Carlton (Olly Sholotan)

While a lot of characters are modernized and are just shifted to be politically correct (Hillary), Carlton takes the type of turn that is a bit harder to accept. His character is the most dramatic change as now he is doing Xanax, involved in the young adult drama we often see, and it is hard to say if this will ultimately be a good thing or not.

On the one hand, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has Carlton get serious about Will’s perception of him and how he was treated. But, like most, I’m very used to a more comedic version of Carlton and a dynamic with Will that, even when they didn’t get along, was funny. So this new version? I think he will be the most difficult for fans of the original series to adjust to.

Feeling Like Aunt Viv Got Neutered A Bit

Viv (Cassandra Freeman) talking to Will
Viv (Cassandra Freeman)

That is, alongside the Aunt Viv we get who is less Janet Hubert and more Daphne Maxwell Reid. We don’t get any real oomph or intensity with this aunt Viv. More so, we get the homemaker trying to make peace between all parties and seems very wrapped up in what is going on with her kids and husband. Which there is nothing wrong with, but what this show will have as a challenge, throughout its run, is what it will be compared to. And to me, this might be my least favorite Aunt Viv until they make her more than someone’s aunt, wife, or mother. They need to establish who she is as an individual.

Ashley and Phil

When it comes to making Ashley “Woke,” I’m really hoping it won’t be at a level that makes you want to roll your eyes. I get she is 12, and she is well aware of what is going on in the world, but I hope they don’t have it to an annoying degree. Then, when it comes to Uncle Phil, can I just say him not being this tall and heavyset guy takes away from his stature a bit? Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to be in a courtroom with this version of Uncle Phil, but the look feels more generic than iconic and something about his attitude just doesn’t sit right with me. Especially the way he makes it seem like the only reason Will is in his house is because of Viv, which I think was how the OG Uncle Phil felt, but still.

Initial Impression

The dark reboot by no means is better than the original and is likely going to take quite a bit to win over old fans due to some of its changes. But I think it brings just enough to its free-to-watch pilot to tempt people to see more.

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Will in a crown
Bel-Air: Season 1/ Episode 1 “Dreams and Nightmares” [Series Premiere] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)
Who Is This For?
While, I'm sure, no one wants to co-sign dark reboots of all your favorite sitcoms, Bel-Air doesn't make the worst case for it. Yes, some of the ways it tries to stand apart from the original may take getting used to or are outright unwelcomed. However, there is more than enough intrigue here to want to continue onward.
Appreciating The Modifications Made To Hillary
Fleshing Out Will's Life In Philly
The Changes Made To Carlton
Feeling Like Aunt Viv Got Neutered A Bit
Ashley and Phil

What Would Your Rating Be?

One Comment

  1. Good use of attracting an audience from a classic black sit-com (a very good one) while addressing a more realistic view of the serious issues involved with Wills drastic change of circumstances. Also a more realistic story line of the dangers he did not leave so far behind.

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