Talk about a show with a tremendous following. This was the teen soap from my generation that was originally picked up by the Disney Channel and started as 'Good Morning Miss Bliss,' which was set in an Indiana junior high school and followed five friends, their teacher Ms. Bliss (Haley Mills), principal Belding (Dennis Haskins), school administrator (T.K. Carter) and others. With the risk of being canceled, the show was given a face lift by setting the story in a California high school (Bayside High) and reworking some of the cast to become less focused on the teachers and more on the teenage cast, some of whom were also changed (Zach, Screech, and Lisa were part of the original cast). Then, the show was picked up by NBC, where it remained healthy for a number of years, before all of the actors got a little tired and disbanded.
'Saved by the Bell,' looking back on it now (and probably even realizing it as a kid) is an incredibly cheesy show, but it has other elements that gave it tremendous appeal. First, was the cast of teens. Mark Paul Gosselar played underachieving Zach Morris (who was not so underachieving in 'Good Morning Miss Bliss') and was a likely precursor to the headlining character, Parker Lewis, of the 1990 series, 'Parker Lewis Can't Lose' (although both may have been modeled on Ferris Bueler). (I admit that I was absolutely in love with this guy when I was a kid(. Zach's gang of friends also included his love interest, cheerleader Kelly Kapowski (Tiffany Theisen); feminist and brain Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkely); fashion minded (and appropriately Californian) Lisa Turtle (Lark Voohries); dimpled jock, Slater (Mario Lopez); and charming doofus, Screech (Dustin Diamond). It was not the first of its kind to have all the friends together in the same classes throughout their high school term, nor is it the first to have the principal follow them throughout that time, as well. When Saved by the Bell did change, it was made to look 100% American teenager, and that's exactly what it was. You could tell this just by watching the credits how generically it was framed.
Each episode followed the trials and tribulations of the six teens, usually involving some scheme cooked up by Zach Morris to get his way. They did have some original devices with the show, particularly moments where, prior to confrontation or much needed second thought, Zach Morris was able to call 'freeze,' and freeze frame everything while he addressed the audience. In a way, Zach Morris' ability to intentionally interact with the audience (one-way interaction, obviously, since we can't respond) also likely served as the precursor to Clarrisa Darling on 'Clarissa Explains it All.' We were living in Zach Morris' world, not just simply watching a bunch of high school students getting into mischief. Albeit the shows were incredibly corny looking back on them, they were still quite funny and often, entertaining, when I watched them as a kid (hey, not everything can maintain its appeal as you get older!).
The show, too, did take opportunity (usually in earlier episodes) to address certain issues such as drug addiction (in an episode where Jessie Spano, the do-it-all girl, gets hooked on something like speed and in a later episode where the gang befriends a young actor who invites them to smoke pot), although, come to think of it, this was the only controversial subject touched upon. The rest of the time was devoted to pure entertainment.
Then, the cast graduated, and they had several spin-offs. One was that of the gang heading to college, minus Elizabeth Berkley, who seemed to just want out of the show while, I imagine, others were waiting for some spotlight after the initial show ended (as did much of the craze). 'Saved By the Bell: The College Years,' to no surprise, however, did not last long. NBC also tried to cash in on the successes of the show by continuing with 'Saved By the Bell: The New Class' which was an undisguised attempt to merely replace all of the original characters with Zach Morris and the gang clones and replay another four years of teen high school mischief. Although this series fared slightly better than the College Years show, (keeping both Screech and Principal Belding in with Screech playing assistant principal) it did go through some cast changes before finally being cancelled. It even served in the same spot as the original show--eleven o'clock on Saturday mornings. Also, the success of Saved by the Bell lead to many unsuccessful attempts at similar shows that aired both on NBC (for quite a few years) and the USA Network. But nothing beats the original. Not by a long shot.
Dismiss the corniness and tune in (they're available on DVD, so you don't have to search the dial for the syndicates) and look at what television used to be like when it was still worth watching.
4 out of 7 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.