- Stuart Millard (discussing the first episode, "Dancing to the Max"), So Excited, So Scared: The Saved by the Bell Retrospective
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Zachary "Zack" Morris
Portrayed by: Mark-Paul Gosselaar
- Big Man on Campus: Interestingly enough, he was clearly not the big man on campus when the show started, and seemed almost like a guy who was desperately trying to be popular. Apparently, whatever he did worked. As the series went on, Zack appeared to become popular around school. By senior year, he had truly became the big man on campus. The fact that he went from a scrawny runt during freshman year to a more muscular basketball player and track team runner (and his legendary status around school as the loveable rogue) may have had something to do with it.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Often does this in an episode.
- Breakout Character: He started off as a supporting character in Good Morning, Ms. Bliss.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Invoked in the episode where the characters get their SAT scores back and Zack scores extremely high. The other characters realize out loud that although Zack's lazy, he's a lot smarter than he lets on. Zack himself tells them to keep it quiet, since he has "a reputation to look out for."
- Chick Magnet: Is one of the most popular in Bayside. "Date Auction" is a good example of this.
- Childhood Friend Romance: Him and Kelly get married in Las Vegas in the movie.
- Deadpan Snarker: Occasionally is this.
- Delivery Guy: Helped deliver Mrs. Belding's baby.
- Easily Forgiven: Zack gets away with a lot of sociopathic behavior.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: Not to the level of Screech, but his friends (bar Screech) are often scheming against him behind his back against him and often show abhorrence towards him.
- The Hero: He's the central character of the series.
- High School Hustler: Arguably the Trope Codifier to Ferris Bueller's Trope Maker.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He may be a schemer, but he ultimately does care about his friends and doing the right thing.
- Kid-anova: When he wasn't in a relationship.
- Loveable Rogue: Despite his scheming, he is a likable guy.
- Manipulative Bastard: He comes across as this more often than not, since he's constantly shown lying, scheming, and manipulating to get what he wants.
- Mr. Vice Guy: Was a nice guy despite his scheming.
- Physical God: He's aware of the fourth wall and can even temporarily stop time (by calling a "time out") to address the audience, escape danger, or carefully analyze his surroundings. It rarely comes into play in most episodes, but it's reminiscent of another practical joker that has fourth wall awareness.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Manly Man to Screech's Sensitive Guy.
- Ship Tease: With all the female characters at some point.
- Smarter Than You Look: As hinted above, Zack was far smarter than he let on.
- Tech Marches On: In 1989, a teenager having his own cellphone was playing the High School Hustler trope Up to Eleven.
- Time Stands Still: "Time Out!"
- Trickster: Part of what cements his Alternate Character Interpretation as a Physical God is how closely he matches the Trickster archetype.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: At his worst.
- Will They or Won't They?: With Kelly for a while.
Portrayed by: Tiffani Amber Thiessen
- Academic Athlete: A good student and captain of the volleyball, swim, and softball teams.
- Alliterative Name: Kelly Kapowski
- The Cheerleader: Subverted. Despite the stereotypes of cheerleaders, Kelly is one of the kindest and most squeaky clean girls at Bayside High.
- Childhood Friend Romance: She and Zack get married in Las Vegas in the movie.
- The Ditz: Played with, she was smart and a good student, but also a bit of an airhead at times.
- Dude Magnet: Was one of the most popular girls at Bayside.
- Hello, Nurse!: How she was seen at Bayside.
- Informed Attractiveness: Kelly was hot, no doubt, but few would argue that Lisa or Jessie were not just as hot. Within canon, however, Kelly was treated like a supermodel parading through the school.
- Ivy League for Everyone: Probably the worst offender; 1100 on her SAT and from a cash strapped family yet made it into the same prestigious (if fictional) university as Zach (high SAT/upper middle-class family), Screech (Valedictorian), and Slater (sports scholarship).
- Military Brat: Somewhat inverted as even though her father, Frank, worked at a defense plant, she never had to move around, unlike Slater.
- Ms. Fanservice: When the opportunity presented itself.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Played with, regarding her singing ability. In "Miss Bayside," she can't carry a tune. In the very next episode, "Jessie's Song," she (along with Jessie and Lisa) is noted to have excellent singing talent. In "The Glee Club," she's just as helpless as everyone in the glee club not named Violet, yet in "The Last Dance" and "Rockumentary" she's the only member of the gang's band who only sings (doing so angelically) and doesn't play an instrument.
- Nice Girl: She's head cheerleader and the most popular girl in school but she's also the most sweet natured character in the show (and it isn't because she's spoiled sweet either because she's from a poor family).
- Pretty in Mink: In a fantasy scene.
- Remember the New Guy: Apparently grew up with Zack, Lisa, Screech, and Jessie.
- Will They or Won't They?: With Zack for a while.
Lisa Marie Turtle
Portrayed by: Lark Voorhies
- Black Best Friend: For the group.
- The Fashionista: Throughout the series. Also, she apparently becomes one in the literal sense as an adult, as she gets accepted to a prestigious fashion institute at the end of high school.
- Fashion Designer: In a final season episode she is applying for an internship at a clothing design studio and as a part of the application process she has to put on her own fashion show with her own designs and models. Kelly and Jessie are the models while Zak and Slater organize the event.
- Feigning Intelligence: "What is art? Are we art? Is art art?"
- Gossipy Hens: If there's gossip, expect Lisa to know about it.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Despite being popular and somewhat shallow (and she can be very rude to her Abhorrent Admirer, Screech), she's a genuinely nice person.
- Sassy Black Woman: Definitely had the best put-downs of the cast."You want toasted buns? Go sit on a MICROWAVE!!!"
- Spoiled Sweet: Had a sweet personality even though her family is well off.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Sort of. After Kelly and Jesse left the show, Lisa got a noticable boost in both popularity and brains so she could step into their shoes as the pretty and smart one to play against Tori's wild one. Lisa was always popular in canon, but after the other two left, it's like she became the only hot girl left at Bayside.
- Token Minority: She's the only black member of the group.
Samuel "Screech" Powers
Portrayed by: Dustin Diamond
- Abhorrent Admirer: Towards Lisa, sometimes verging on stalker with a crush (played strictly for comedy).
- Adorkable: A quirky, eccentric, goofy genius. He usually wears extremely loud and mismatched clothes, loves science and is a member of the chess team.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Screech is this for the rest of the gang. According to Dustin Diamond, Screech's actor, this is also the source of a lot of his disdain for the rest of the cast.
- Brutal Honesty: Often does this.
- Butt Monkey: Of the group.
- Comically Missing the Point: Is prone to this in later seasons. The group would usually call him out for this.
- Ditzy Genius: He's smart but he usually lacks common sense.
- Dogged Nice Guy: To Lisa.
- Extraverted Nerd: One of the most well known examples.
- Flanderization: His quirkiness is exaggerated in later seasons to the point where it became blatant stupidity.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: While Screech is good friends with Zack (and Kelly to a degree), he is merely tolerated by the rest of the group (and outright despised by Lisa).
- Geek Physiques: He is very skinny.
- Karma Houdini: Surprisingly with a lot of Zack's schemes, he is rarely directly punished for them, despite being Zack's unindicted co-conspirator.
- Kiddie Kid: He is the character with the least development, and is the goofiest to boot. It doesn't help that his actor is a few years younger than his costars, yet his character is the same age on the show.
- Lovable Nerd: Initially, before his voice changes. He was such a cute, dorky little kid and far less annoying.
- The Millstone: He's frequently roped into scams by his best friend, Zack. And, as a running gag, he often unwittingly sabotages them.
- No Social Skills: Usually has trouble dealing with people outside the group.
- Odd Friendship: With the other main characters. Five cool, popular students and... Screech.
- Only Known by Their Nickname:
- Almost always referred as Screech. The one exceptions are his mom and Violet Bickerstaff, as both would always addressed him as "Samuel".
- Zack and Slater actually forgot Screech's real name in an episode of The College Years.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Is this for the group.
- Rejection Affection: Even though Lisa is extremely vocal in her lack of interest in Screech, he obliviously insists they are meant to be.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Sensitive Guy to Zack's Manly Man.
- The Smart Guy: Qualifies since he becomes Valedictorian at Bayside.
- Smart People Play Chess: Is fond of playing chess.
- Teen Genius: He did build his own robot.
- Took a Level in Dumbass: Oh did he ever.
- Wacky Guy: Due to his Flanderization.
Albert Clifford "A.C." Slater Sanchez
Portrayed by: Mario Lopez
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Jessie
- The Big Guy: He was the most muscular of the group.
- Big Man on Campus: In the first season, and it was the source of his and Zack's hostility.
- Chick Magnet: Was one of the most popular at Bayside.
- Embarrassing First Name: Along with Embarrassing Middle Name, he is Albert Clifford. No wonder he prefers to go by "A.C." or Slater.
- Flanderization: Into a proud male chauvinist.
- Last Name Basis: Usually referred to by his last name.
- Lovable Jock: He is a star wrestler and basketball player and, while a bit of a hothead, he's ultimately good natured.
- Military Brat: His dad was in the Army.
- Mr. Fanservice: The show never missed an opportunity to show off his impressive physique.
- Mr. Vice Guy: Was a good guy despite being a male chauvinist.
- New Transfer Student: Technically. He transferred to Bayside at the very beginning of the series, so he's not any newer to the audience than the rest of the characters. However, to the characters on the show, he was "the new guy," and the first season kept emphasizing this.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: His interactions with Jessie.
- The Rival: To Zack, at first.
- Romantic False Lead: Early on in the Zack/Kelly relationship.
- Straw Misogynist: At times, always played for laughs.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: the show took every available chance to get Slater shirtless or in tights. Cue sitcom "Woooooooh~"
Jessica "Jessie" Myrtle Spano
Portrayed by: Elizabeth Berkley
- Academic Alpha Bitch: Jessie teeters close to this - particularly when someone gets better grades than her - but overall she's a good-hearted girl.
- The B Grade: Jessie's greatest fear.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Slater
- Class Representative: If not literally then at least in terms of personality.
- The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Much of her activism is mostly Played for Laughs and ends up doing more harm than good. Save for one serious occasion when she and Zack try to stop an oil tycoon from turning Bayside into a disaster zone.
- Determinator: Was one of her characteristics.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: As noted above, Myrtle.Zack: "That's what I named my turtle."
- Flanderization: Her Straw Feminist tendencies.
- Go-Getter Girl: Academic overachiever, environmental activist, and class president.
- Huge Schoolgirl: She was the tallest girl in the group. This was one of the things that she was initially insecure about.
- Ivy League for Everyone: A literal example, as she is accepted to Columbia upon her graduation (after several of the other Ivy League schools turn her down, presumably due to her low SAT score).
- Platonic Life Partners: With Zack, leading to occasional moments of Ship Tease.
- Remember the New Guy: Apparently grew up with Zack, Lisa, Screech, and Kelly.
- The Smart Girl: So much so that her dream was to go to Stanford.
- Soapbox Sadie: Constantly due to being a feminist.
- Straw Feminist: Her defining trait.
Mr. Richard Belding
Portrayed by: Dennis Haskins
- Butt Monkey: Usually at the hands of Zack's antics.
- Catchphrase: "Hey, hey, hey, what is going on here?"
- Former Teen Rebel: Was this when he was younger.
- Large Ham: Usually.
- Out-of-Character Moment: Most people know that Mr. Belding is a very strict but a kindhearted person. However, in one particular episode, "The Yearbook", he was more than willing to restrain Zack while Slater was gonna punch him. Zack got out of it with his classic Time Out power, and boy did Mr. Belding learn the hard way that he can't be sadistic without consequences.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Even Zack occasionally admits that Mr. Belding is a lot more reasonable than he usually gives him credit for. During the graduation episode, Zack gives Belding a hug. In the Wedding in Vegas movie when Mr. Belding is a guest at Zack and Kelly's wedding, Zack finally admits that he appreciates Mr. Belding and says "You made high school challenging."
- Worthy Opponent: Despite his Butt Monkey status, he's one of the few people who can keep up with Zack's schemes and even turn them against him on a regular basis. Zack even admitted that that Mr. Belding made things challenging for him.
Portrayed by: Leanna Creel
- Biker Babe: She showed up at Bayside riding a motorcycle.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Kelly and Jessie disappear, Tori appears and takes their place for nine episodes, then disappears, Jessie and Kelly reappear and everything carries on as normal as if Tori never existed.
- The Lad-ette: A tough, rebellious, jacket wearing, motorcycle-riding tomboy.
- New Transfer Student: Was this in the final season.
- One of the Boys: Eventually became this with the group.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Replaced Kelly as Zack's love interest, though otherwise didn't much resemble her.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Briefly the Tomboy to Lisa's Girly Girl.
Violet Anne Bickerstaff
Portrayed by: Tori Spelling
Portrayed by: Leah Remini
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Zack.
- Big Applesauce: She was a New Yorker who only goes to California during the summers to work at her father's beach club.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: She went from hating Zack to being his girlfriend during the time at her father's beach club.
- Parental Marriage Veto: Her dad didn't approve of Zack.
- Your Cheating Heart: Zack finds out that Stacey had a boyfriend back at school.
Portrayed by: Bob Golic
- The Big Guy: Was a former football player.
- Embarrassing Tattoo: We'll let the quote speak for itself:Screech: "Coach has Big Bird on his butt!"Mike: "Hey, hey, hey! It's Tweety Bird!"
- Glory Days: A former NFL player for the San Francisco 49ers, Mike often wistfully reminisces about his days as a football player, and clearly loves the sport. On one occasion, while complaining about a Jerkass from his old team, he admits that he's jealous, and says "He's getting paid millions to play a game that I would have been willing to play for free."
- Landlord: OK, not actually a landlord, as the characters were living in a college dorm, but he was their Resident Advisor, so Landlord is probably the closest trope that fits.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He was this for the group at California University.
Portrayed by: Holland Taylor
- California University: The college where she works.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: How the group reacted when they were around her.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: Was the dean of California University.
Portrayed by: Josh Hoffman
- Big Applesauce: From New York.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Never seen or heard from again after his appearance.
- Hidden Depths: Despite his Jerkass ways, genuinely liked Lisa, enough to be very hurt upon discovering that she only went out with him to help Jessie get back at him and not believe her her sincere claims that she really had come to like him also.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite initial personality, he ultimately is a good guy.
- Renaissance Man: Is in the glee club, is a science geek, and mentions taking a Spanish cooking class.
- Jerk Jock: Sometimes. By the end though, he, Screech, and Big Pete have a "breakthrough" during Mr. Belding's bizarre group-psychotherapy session in gym class, and Ox ends up swearing off making fun of nerds again.
Portrayed by: Jeffrey Asch