The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is widely regarded as one of the best and most charming sitcoms of the 1990s. However, beneath its seemingly innocuous appearance, it still managed to engage with some of the most pressing issues of the age. The same is even more true of its reboot, Bel-Air, which is a dramatic reinterpretation of Will Smith’s story.
Given that it’s a drama, it tends to be a bit more dour in town than the original, with characters that are less joyful. They thus show varying levels of likability during the first season of the series.
One of the most notable aspects of the original Carlton was how likable he was (even though he could at times be irritating). In this new series, however, he is indisputably one of the series’ least likable characters. Given that he takes an immediate dislike to Will, he does everything in his power to make his life miserable, up to and including humiliating in front of the entire school. He’s the type of person who often can’t see outside of his own bitterness to see the world from others’ point of view.
Unlike the character Hilary in the original series, who was not one of its most intelligent characters, this version is fiercely independent and has a vision for what she wants to accomplish in life. Just as importantly, however, she is also one of this series’ most likable characters.
She not only welcomes Will with open arms, she also has a fierce sort of independence that allows her to stand up for her beliefs, even though it might cost her a job to do so.
Ashley is one of the characters that undergoes the most changes in the rebooted version. Many of these changes allow her to emerge as one of this series’ most likable characters. Like her sister, she is genuinely pleased to see Will and does what she can to make him welcome. However, it’s also notable that she is one of this series’ new LGBT characters, and she is open about her questioning of identity, which helps viewers to sympathize with her.
Though Will has a bit of trouble fitting in with some of the elements of Bel-Air society, one of his first friends is Jazz. As was the case with his predecessor in the original series, he is a very likable character. He takes an immediate liking to Will, and he gives him some valuable advice about how to survive in a city like LA, which can easily chew up a newcomer and leave them disenchanted and defeated. When others aren’t to be relied on, Will always knows that Jazz will be in his corner.
There are many great butlers in TV, but Geoffrey has always been one of the best. That was the case with the original TV series, and it’s also the case with Bel-Air. Though he can be a bit stiff at times, there’s no question that Geoffrey is still a likable character once he lets his propriety slip a bit. In particular, he’s one of the people that Phil knows that he can depend on, and the fact that he has a fascinating backstory in his own right allows him to be one of the series’ most fully-developed characters.
5 Uncle Phil
TV is full of great father figures, and the original Uncle Phil was certainly one of those. While this Uncle Phil can be a bit harder and more ruthlessly practical than his predecessor, he still has a powerful loyalty to his family, and that ultimately comes to include Will. What makes him especially likable is the fact that, when the chips are down, he’s willing to go to bat for his nephew, up to and including forcing the school to un-suspend him until they can review the security tapes.
Like the other characters that appear on the show, Lisa has to contend with quite a lot of pressure, particularly since she dated Carlton before the series began and is still dealing with the fallout. However, there’s no question that she is one of this series’ most likable characters. For one thing, there’s powerful chemistry between her and Will.
Just as importantly, however, she’s also willing to stand up to Carlton and to tell him that what he’s doing is wrong.
Will Smith is a phenomenal actor with many great roles in his resume, and so his successor had very big shoes to fill. However, this new version of Will manages to be almost as likable as his predecessor, though perhaps with a bit more of an edge. From the very first episode, Will shows that he has quite a lot of charisma, and that it’s very hard for someone not to fall under his spell. What makes him truly likable, however, is his indomitable sense that he has potential and is going to make the most of it.
2 Aunt Viv
There have been many great TV families, and the key ingredient is almost always a matriarch who holds everything together. In Bel-Air, that responsibility falls to Aunt Viv, and it’s precisely her devotion to her family that makes her such a likable character. She is always willing to go the extra mile, for both her children and Will, even if that means endangering some of the alliances she has spent her life building in Bel-Air. No matter what happens, they can all rest assured that she will always have their backs.
Viola is sure to be seen as one of TV’s best moms, precisely because she goes to so many lengths to ensure that Will stays safe. She’s the one who makes the decision to send him to LA, and she’s also the one that continues to call him and offer words of encouragement, to remind him that he has a promising future in front of him. As with Aunt Viv, she is one of the people that truly cares about him and wants to make sure that he not only stays safe but actually flourishes in his new life.
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