Bel-Air showrunner departs

Bel-Air showrunner departs… again! First Collins, now Houston

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Another Bel-Air showrunner has ‘left’ the Peacock reboot / restart / reimagining of the Will Smith classic The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

To lose one showrunner may be classed as unfortunate; to lose two smacks of carelessness. We’ve learned of the departure of Diane Houston from the ‘troubled’ project [we can expect lots of people to use the word troubled] project, and some of the implications of whatever turmoil / creative difference / change of strategy is promoting this turn of events.

A quick Bel-Air showrunner history lesson

Here at Cultbox we like to give some context…

March 2019, superfan Morgan Cooper made a video with his take on how the show could be reset for a modern generation of TV consumers (what we called viewers in old money). The video went viral (as they are wont to do) and by September 2020, Peacock won a bidding war (over Netflix and HBO-Max) and gave a two-season order for the new show. Enter showrunner  Chris Collins (The Wire, Sons of Anarchy) who reportedly wanted to make something edgy and premium; this did not align with the vision of producers (including Will Smith, Quincy Jones, Benny Medina and original creators Andy and Susan Borowitz), who wanted something with broader demographic appeal. The show is called Bel-Air, rather than something like ‘The New Prince…’

So, Collins leaves in December to be replaced by Diane Houston. Inevitable rewrites have led to delays, and now Houston has left for reasons unexplained.

So what does it all mean?

If nothing else, Peacock bean counters won’t be seeing the show in 2021, so not good news as the delays are expected to take the launch out to 2022. The showrunner role is now joint between writers TJ Brady and Rasheed Newson, who were brought in under Houston and exec producer Malcolm Spellman. Newson was head writer for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and the pair have worked together before as writers.

What will the show actually be about?

The last stated intention was:

a dramatic take on the beloved ’90s comedy that catapulted Smith to stardom over six seasons starring as the street-smart kid who moved from West Philly to the tony Los Angeles neighborhood. With a reimagined vision, Bel-Air will dive deeper into the inherent conflicts, emotions and biases of what it means to be a Black man in America today, while still delivering swagger and fun nods to the original show.

We wait to see what actually happens.

Our view?

A conflict of vision ought to have been clear early on, and we wonder if there’s debate between Peacock and the producers. We also wonder if having the old guard is part of the problem, and perhaps always likely to cause tension. This is not a comment on those involved, rather a reflection of human nature. There’s a balance between the previous successful generation being supportive and a new generation being allowed to find their own expression for the show.

We suspect somebody has looked at the viewing figures and rerun income for the Fresh Prince and seen lots of 0s in the new show’s future. Whoever runs the show to screen has a lot of expectation to live up to.