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Will Smith is producing a modern remake of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the hit Nineties sitcom that established him as an actor to watch.
Smith played a teenager, also called Will, who was sent to stay with his rich relatives in Los Angeles’ wealthy Bel-Air district after his mother feared he was straying onto a bad path in their native Philadelphia.
It was one of the biggest comedies of the decade, running for six series before ending in 1996, and was wildly popular in the UK for its sharp script and emphasis on family and identity.
According to the website TV Line, Smith is in the very early stages of developing a remake which will update the story while remaining true to the original’s plot outline.
American television is in the middle of a wave of nostalgia for its Nineties
programming, with remakes and reboots of The X Files, Twin Peaks and The Powerpuff Girls all planned, and a TV adaptation of the influential horror film Scream also under way.
However critics have pointed out that none of the comedies with black casts that were a staple on that decade’s screens have had a look in, nor on Netflix, where many popular Nineties programmes are being re-shown.
In an article published in April, Dee Lockett of the culture website Vulture wrote of the important role these shows had played: “The ’90s were the last real golden age for black representation on TV, peaking in 1997 with almost two dozen black comedies on the air. On these shows, blacks were respectfully treated as multidimensional humans. They were the butler and the head of the household (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air); they were the jock and the nerd (Smart Guy); they were the geek next door and the hunk (Family Matters, duh).
“They were both seen and heard, telling necessary stories about the black experience in America that, as old clips from The Fresh Prince prove, are still painfully prescient.”