One of the benefits of working frequently between the hours of 4 PM and 2 AM is that you are available to watch some great afternoon TV. Recently, I discovered that MTV2, in addition to actually existing, shows two hours of Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World back-to-back from noon til 4. As you’d imagine, this was a revelation and ever since I’ve been reliving some of my favorite childhood shows. What follows is the fourth of several look-backs at some of those incredible shows and what made them so (not-so) great.
Good lord. I honestly have no idea where to start with this one. Truth is, the idea for this whole ‘let’s review ’90s sitcoms’ thing came from watching this show on MTV2 at noon nearly every weekday for the last month or so.
At first I waited to write this one because I figured it would be obvious to start with The Bell, too predictable. As time went on, I realized I was putting it off because I had no idea where to start, where to finish, where to go. There’s just so damn much.
Without exaggeration, I think I could honestly write a full post on any of the following topics related to this show:
- How fucking hot was/is Kelly Kapowski? Is it possible that she’s hotter now than she was then? Was there a more masturbated to teen star from 1990 to 1995?
- This book. How much of it was true? How much of it was made up to stir trouble? Would it be better or worse if it was mostly accurate? (I vote, better, personally)
- The cool of Zack Morris. Topics of discussion include making the prep look “in”, his slicked blonde locks, the ability to freeze time by saying “Time Out”*, how he macked it with basically every female on the show and none of them ever really seemed to mind, and his amazing, Frank Abagnale-esque ability to con anyone.
- The incredibly awful overacting job by Screech (and subsequently, the over-reacting to his role on the show by becoming the what he’s become).
- Why didn’t they actually do a full reunion on Jimmy Fallon?
- The incredible theme song, those great MTV2 commercials (this, this, or that), or the great openings where Zack would talk to the camera to open up the episode. So smooth.
- How incredibly old they all looked as the show clearly went on too long.
- The fact that they even had the nerve to make the New Class. Or, that they made the College Years as awful as they made them.
I could keep going, but I’ll spare you.
Instead, what I decided to do was just go character-by-character and give my random thoughts on each. It’s not the best idea, but it’s better than writing a book about it. Which, best believe, I considered.
First, a few fun facts:
Did you know?… The show was originally called “Good Morning, Miss Bliss” and featured Zack and Lisa and Mr. Belding but was more focused on Miss Bliss. Somehow, the idea of a mediocre sitcom with poor writing centered not on kids but on teachers (despite clearly being geared towards a younger audience) didn’t work. NBC ditched the show after one season, kept Zack and Lisa and rebranded the show as the Saved by the Bell we know and love… That there were only 5 seasons of The Bell, and there were actually 7 seasons of Saved by the Bell: The New Class. Why that’s beyond belief is so obvious, I’ll leave it at that (Except to say, have you ever even met anyone that’s seen an episode of The New Class? Did it even ever air?)…
Zachary Morris: What can be said that hasn’t already been said? So. Fucking. Cool. I never had blonde hair, never could be confused with a preppy, never had a cellphone the size of a car battery, never dated 5 girls a semester… and yet I (like every male my age) wanted to be Zack Morris with every fiber of my being. The man always had a scheme, a way out, a plan. Selling out Albert Clifford when it came to Kelly, forcing his pal Samuel to take out the principal’s niece on a date, or leaving his solo career with Zack Attack to visit his friends, he did it all. While I never was in the audience for an actual taping of the show, I always gave a hoot or holler from home when he’d look into the camera and flash that mega-watt smile. Easily the only character on any of these shows I could see myself attracted to as a man and as a woman.
Kelly Kapowski: In watching the show again recently, I came to realize how little Kelly actually did on the show. There were the legions of other brothers in her family (9? To my recollection, we never met any of them), the fact that her father, in one of the all-time chump moves, actually took his daughter’s money when he got laid off, and that she was a waitress on-and-off at the Max. In the beginning seasons, she wasn’t really in the group. Towards the middle, she and Zack went back and forth, seemingly not-dating as much as they were dating. How they were cool with the other one just fooling around with another guy or girl right in front of them, I could never understand. Tiffani-Amber Thiessen and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, by the way, had to be the best/hottest couple with combo first names in the history of names or couples. Lastly, I realize it’s a kids show, but I can’t be the only one hoping that there’s some backroom footage of the two of them just getting down after prom or something. Hey, a boy can dream.
Albert Clifford Slater: Another thing I didn’t remember from the show – and realized after I started watching again – how Zack and Albert weren’t friends right away. Albert Clifford moved from another school and initially served as Zack’s rival in the chase for Kelly. In fact, it wasn’t until Albert started dating Jessica that the whole Albert vs. Zachary thing really fully melted away. I know you could say this about all of the actors by the series’ end, but did you ever see a high school student that jacked? There were episodes where he seemed to be missing sleeves for the entire time. I’m talking 22 minutes, no sleeves. Father was a bit of a douche, but he had a hot sister, J.B. What was it with initialed names in the Slater family? Never did learn what that stood for, but I’d have to guess Jon Benet. Just a guess.
Jessica Spano/Lisa Turtle: I never cared for either of these characters, but I guess I wasn’t supposed to. Jessica was way, way too tall and righteous for my liking. The righteousness I could tolerate, the height really drove me over the edge. Homegirl was a monstar, most famous for her (actually, hysterical) freak-out. And as far as Lisa was concerned, I hated her fling with Zack. That made no sense to me. They never had any chemistry and how does Lisa not have enough self-respect to say no after Zack had stuck his dick in half of Bayside by that point? Final point, and stay with me: I think, despite one being a cartoon and the other a fictional sitcom character, that Lisa Turtle from The Bell and Beebe Bluff from Doug are the same character. Think about it. Or, don’t.
Samuel Powers: Easily my least favorite of the regularly involved characters. He was such a goober, such a dork, such a doofus. I not only couldn’t stand the way he walked, talked, dressed (that shit was awful, even back then), but I couldn’t stand the way people reacted around him. If I had to hear one more “Why don’t you go back to dork mountain?”-type remark from Lisa, I’d smash my television. And his mom being a weird fan of Elvis? The only saving grace… he owned a bassett hound. That’s all he had to redeem him.
Richard Belding: Besides being a total buffoon and hiring a legion of buffoons (Mr. Tuttle, the no-necked Driver’s Ed teacher, the leader of those buffoons), Richie Belding had one good thing going for him: the fact that he was brothers with Rod Belding. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to Rod Belding after his mysterious disappearing act before the school white water rafting trip (By the way, if my school took us to Taco Bell for Spanish class, that was adventurous, but I digress…), then please (I beg of you) watch this video. A tad long, but incredibly worth it. And, if I may say so, incredibly humorous.
As if you couldn’t tell, I love(d) this show. I could wax poetic on it, paste in more classic photos, erase everything on my DVR to fit more episodes on it… It never ends. Next time I go out, I’m pouring a little out for the Bell. Richie Belding would make the kids do the same for me.
*I have to say, that was one of the least used features of the show that deserved far more play. It seemed like every so often the writers would remember, “Oh yeah, that’s right, Zack can stop time whenever he wants to explain shit. Let’s get that in here this episode.”