WARNING! This article contains spoilers for Bel-Air season 1, episode 9.

The latest entry in the Fresh Prince reboot Bel-Air reimagines some of Uncle Phil’s original election campaign run, and, in doing so, avoids one of the predecessor series’ darkest jokes. Bel-Air season 1, episode 9, “Can’t Knock the Hustle” conveys some beautiful and touching themes on the importance of family and sacrificing certain desires or ambitions for the good of a person’s loved ones. Though there are a lot of obstacles, tension, and turmoil throughout the episode, it ends on a relatively feel-good note. However, had the Peacock reboot been truer to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s version of election events, “Can’t Knock the Hustle” would’ve undoubtedly portrayed a much more quirkily macabre vibe.


Fresh Prince of Bel-Air originally beamed a young Will Smith onto TV screens everywhere when it premiered on NBC in 1990. As the now-well-known theme song famously explains, the sitcom told the story of how Smith’s character of the same name transitions from life in West Philadelphia to a new existence with his affluent family members in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ended after a solid six-season run, and cemented itself in pop culture for years to come. The series’ popularity was recently jumpstarted when its modernized reboot version, simply entitled Bel-Air, premiered on Peacock in February 2022.

As many fans have already noted online, Bel-Air is a much more serious revival of its predecessor’s universe. Though there are certainly lighthearted and comical moments, there’s a palpable heaviness compared to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – and it’s not just due to a lack of laugh tracks in the background. Ironically, however, the show’s most recent episode actually takes some of the darkness out of certain election-related events from the original series. In “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” Bel-Air repeats an infamous, Uncle Phil-related feud. Judge Robertson (Dorian Harewood) discovers the truth behind Will’s (Jabari Banks) arrest in Philadelphia. Most importantly, he also knows that Uncle Phil (Adrian Holmes) used some of his influential connections to help his nephew avoid prison time for his law trouble. To avoid family matters and subsequent controversy being exposed to the public – as well as, hopefully, creating enough breathing room within the busy family unit for Vivian (Cassandra Freeman) to take her art fellowship – Uncle Phil resigns from the election and endorses his former opponent, Fred Wilkes (Joe Holt). As many fans surely remember from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air season 3, this reboot episode is a quite modified version of the original election’s dark events.

Bel-Air has already brought back a slew of themes from its predecessor (like how it revives Fresh Prince’s important Boyz II Men obsession, and much more), and episode 9 is based on a specific, election-related entry from the original series. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air season 3, episode 10, “Asses to Ashes” actually saw Uncle Phil lose to his opponent in what was a battle for a judge seat. In the original version, this opponent was Judge Robertson’s character. Will famously tells the man, who won the campaign partly by tarnishing Uncle Phil’s reputation, to “drop dead.” Of course, the episode took a dark turn by seeing Roberston literally die of a heart attack after this.

It was a morbidly funny way for Uncle Phil to eventually secure the position he had been gunning for, to make a point about morality and not speaking ill of the dead (Robertson was bashed by his own funeral-goers after his death), and add some levity via Will accidentally knocking over the judge’s coffin. Though different, it’s easy to see where the 2022 Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot episode got some of its plot inspiration from. Still, the final product is also a starkly different installment – and not nearly as dark or humorous as 1992’s “Asses to Ashes.” It’s probably for the best that Bel-Air veered off a bit from its inspiration; it would’ve been difficult to make the events (which, though they ended up working, were almost oddly dark when they aired the first time) translate over into Bel-Air’s very different tone, seriously dramatic. In addition, Uncle Phil’s family-centered decision to withdraw from the election also helps boost episode 9’s focus on family and sacrifice.

Bel-Air releases new episodes Thursdays on Peacock.

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