Plenty of classic sitcoms are built on dark premises. Hogan’s Heroes and M*A*S*H are set in war zones. Homer Simpson parents while drunk and Michael Scott is as ignorant as they come. And then there’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the story of a poor kid moving across the country to escape the violence of the inner city. It sounds like the premise of a great prestige drama, and “Bel-Air,” a brilliant short film from director Morgan Cooper, proves it.
The trailer opens on Will Smith (the character, not the actor) sitting on a throne and wearing a crown, an allusion to the title sequence of the sitcom. Shots of Will playing basketball are intercut with his mom having a serious talk: “The only reason why you’re not in jail is because Uncle Phil called in a favor.”
Will gets in a fight at the court and the cops find a gun in his backpack. That’s it for mom, who says “You’re going to Bel-Air, to live with your uncle and your aunty,” immediately getting the Fresh Prince theme song stuck in the head of everyone who grew up with the show.
In sun-drenched California, we see Bel-Air Academy, an awkward scene with Uncle Phil’s white upper crust friends, Carlton confronting Will wearing a sweater wrapped around his neck, and even the pivotal moment where Will and Jazz (a.k.a. DJ Jazzy Jeff) meet in a record store.
The film ends with a montage of emotions: Jazz rocking out to some music, Uncle Phil crying, Will surveying Bel-Air from the hilltop mansion. Cooper cuts back to the throne, and we see Will putting on the crown in slow motion.
“Bel-Air” is definitely worth your time, but we can’t promise you won’t feel disappointed that it’s not a real show when you’re finished. It’s a long shot, but our fingers are crossed that there’s a network or streaming service that can make it happen.