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Scott D. Pierce: I shot Will Smith in the face with a squirt gun. Three decades later, ‘Bel-Air’ is about real guns.

A much darker reboot of ‘The Fresh Prince’ is streaming on Peacock.

(Evans Vestal Ward | Peacock) Olly Sholotan as Carlton Banks, Jabari Banks as Will in "Bel-Air."

A long time ago, I shot Will Smith right in the face. With a squirt gun, that is.

It was 1990, and I was young. Smith was younger — just 22 — and on the edge of TV stardom. It was a few weeks before the premiere of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and NBC publicists provided squirt guns at a party for talent and TV critics at the Century Plaza in L.A.

(NBC) Will Smith starred in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" from 1990-96.

I found out about the guns when one of my fellow critics got me wet. And several of us got into a running squirt gun battle with the boys in “Saved by the Bell” — Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mario Lopez and Dustin Diamond — who were all teenagers at the time.

Smith was not playing along. He was acting a bit full of himself, surrounded by his entourage. And the squirt guns were really good, so I didn’t have to get too close to hit him with a shot from the hip. He didn’t know it was me.

What the hell was I thinking? Caught up in the moment, I suppose.

(BTW, I’ve interviewed Smith several times since then, and he’s always been a great guy. One of the best.)

Things were less serious back then. More fun. Goofy squirt-gun fights and all.

And “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was a goofy show built on a dark premise. Will was “west Philadelphia born and raised,” and “a couple of guys who were up to no good, started making trouble in my neighborhood. I got in one little fight and my mom got scared. She said, ‘You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air.’”

That remains the premise of the reboot, titled “Bel-Air,” but this is no comedy that starts streaming Sunday on Peacock. Will (Jabari Banks), a high school basketball star, comes into conflict with a gang member. A fight breaks out at a playground game. Gunshots are fired. Will lands in jail. And, with gang bangers after him, he doesn’t have long to live.

It’s a far cry from the iconic opening of “Fresh Prince,” when the one of those guys who was “up to no good” put Will on his shoulders and spun him around. In “Bel-Air,” the bad guys want Will dead.

(Kwaku Alston | Peacock) Jimmy Akingbola as Geoffrey, Akira Jolie Akbar as Ashley, Olly Sholotan as Carlton, Jabari Banks as Will, Cassandra Freeman as Viv, Adrian Holmes as Phil, and Courtney Coco Jones as Hilary in "Bel-Air."

Once again, Will’s mother puts him on a plane to Los Angeles and he moves in with his Uncle Phil (Adrian Holmes), Aunt Vivian (Cassandra Freeman) and cousins Hilary (Coco Jones), Carlton (Olly Sholotan) and Ashley (Akira Akbar). Will gets a ride from LAX to the Bel-Air mansion in an Uber — and his driver (Jordan L. Jones) introduces himself as “Jazz. Two Z’s. Never been to Utah.”

Will is a fish out of water in Bel-Air. He’s sort of an arrogant jerk who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. And wealthy Uncle Phil, who’s running for district attorney, expects a lot from him.

Will’s biggest hurdle, however, is his cousin Carlton. About the only thing this character has in common with the original (Alfonso Ribeiro) is that both actors are 5-feet-6. The new Carlton is entitled, arrogant and wildly jealous of Will, which leads to some extraordinarily bad behavior, both at home and at school.

Will and Carlton hate each other. At least in the three episodes screened for critics, Carlton is the villain. Along with the gang members, of course.

Race was an undercurrent throughout the run of the 1990s sitcom, and frequently moved to the forefront with episodes about racism, police brutality, racial profiling and interracial dating. In the new drama, race is a constant refrain. In the first seconds of the first episode, Will is listening to rap music replete with the n-word, and, before long, he reacts badly when he hears white teenagers using that word themselves.

The new series was inspired by a faux trailer posted back in 2019 by Morgan Cooper. It caught the attention of Smith, who’s on board as an executive producer. (Cooper is also an e.p., as well as a writer and director.)

The show has been delayed for a couple of years, both by the pandemic and by backstage drama. Not one but two showrunners left the series before it premiered — the first-time showrunners who got the series made are T.J. Brady and Racheed Newson (“The Chi,” “Shooter”).

What they’ve deliver is ... fine. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel original — not because it’s based on “Fresh Prince,” but because it’s so similar to “All-American.” The poor teenage athlete suddenly going to school in a ritzy part of Los Angeles while dealing with gang members has been playing out in that series on The CW for the past three-and-a-half seasons.

“Bel-Air” gets better through the first three episodes. And it will have plenty of chance to improve — Peacock ordered two 10-episode seasons.

The first three episodes of “Bel-Air” start streaming on Sunday on Peacock; the seven remaining episodes will be released one per week.