Saved by the Bell was a NBC sitcom about high-school (later college) students, fronted Zack Morris as the Greek Chorus. Archetype of the TV High School, to the point where it is widely theorized that the entire Saved by the Bell universe is contained within Bayside High, and that Zack Morris is, in fact, God. The show ran from August 1989 to May 1993.Originally the show was intended as a Hayley Mills vehicle Good Morning Miss Bliss (1988-1989), featuring the lovely Ms. Mills as a teacher in a Junior High School dealing with her quirky students, among them Zack Morris. Though an NBC pilot, the network rejected it and the Disney Channel picked it up instead. It was not a success, but the series found its way back to NBC and was given a drastic Re Tool. Miss Bliss and several other characters were dropped (only Zack, Screech, Lisa and Mr. Belding made the transition), while focus was shifted to the students rather than teachers. The name of the school also changed from John F. Kennedy Junior High to Bayside High, but this is possibly less of a mystery than the school's unexplained move from Indiana to California.The new show (now called Saved by the Bell) was led by Zack Morris and it is this version that is the one most viewers will be familiar with.Powered by the Law of Disproportionate Response: characters won't even bat an eyelash at the big absurdities of their lives (such as the fact that Screech is imprisoned in a locker at least once per episode), but will explode over something trivial. With Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) as The Hero, most episodes surrounded his attempts at holding on to his on-again off-again girlfriend Kelly (Tiffani Theissen). His friend and rival A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) would also fight with Zack over Kelly, but would later hook up with the independent Jessie (Elizabeth Berkley). Samuel "Screech" Powers (Dustin Diamond) was their resident Smart Guy and resident Extraverted Nerd. He was a genius at invention, but not at common sense. And Lisa (Lark Voorhies) rounded out the cast as a Token Minority (even though Slater is Hispanic) and also as the resident Alpha Bitch, although she was far from being a Rich Bitch to them.Dennis Haskins, as the Principal Richard Belding, ended up playing the role longer than anyone else.The show is very charming, with a high level of rewatchability, although it certainly had its moments of Narm (although one could argue that this is part of its charm). One of the most memorable scenes of the series involved Elizabeth Berkley having a total mental breakdown as a result of a caffeine pill addiction. It is has become infamous with fans and belongs in the discussion of all-time great television Narm moments.Series ran for longer than most human beings can comfortably comprehend under four titles:
Good Morning, Miss Bliss (a.k.a. Saved by the Bell: The Junior High Years) (13 episodes, 1988-89)
Saved by the Bell (87 episodes, 1989-93)
Saved by the Bell: The College Years (19 episodes, 1993-94)
Saved by the Bell: The New Class (143 episodes, 1993-2000)
After graduating from Bayside, Zack, Slater, Screech and Kelly ended up at California University for the more adult-oriented sitcom Saved by the Bell: The College Years. Unfortunately it failed to attract an audience and ended after one season, though it did lead to a television movie that finally saw High School Sweethearts Zack and Kelly get married. (Aw!) Unfortunately, the producers' attempt to cater to both younger fans of the original series and older prime-time viewers proved unsuccessful as both demographics felt alienated by the series. The show was too hokey for older viewers and younger fans were turned off by the show's focus on relationship drama instead of wacky schemes.Launched at the same time as The College Years, The New Class might be classified as more of a Spin-Off than a continuation; with one exception the entire old main cast had left and were replaced with new students. In fact The New Class featured an alarmingly high cast turnover during its run - Mr Belding and (later) Screech were the only constants. Amazingly, despite its lack of memorable characters (at least compared to the original cast) it was the longest-lasting incarnation of the series (mainly because it was the anchor of an entire Saturday morning block of SBTB clones.)Now has a character sheet.
Also, by all accounts, the source of a lot of Dustin Diamond's disdain for the rest of the cast.
Alpha Bitch: Averted/subverted. Despite displaying typical Alpha Bitch-qualities such as cheerleader (Kelly), overacheiver (Jesse), and fashion queen (Lisa), all three main character girls are genuinely nice people and worthy of their popularity.
Ascended Extra: Mr. Tuttle. He never became a series regular, but he appeared sporadically throughout the series (certainly more often than any other teacher at Bayside), becoming a fan favorite guest star. Seemed to teach a wide variety of classes and coach a wide variety of clubs.
It's a Two-Teacher School with an incompetent principal. Someone's gotta pick up the slack.
Mr. Belding isn't incompetent, if anything he's just overworked. It's even acknowledged in the series itself that he's one of the few people who can actually give Zack a run for his money.
Ascended Fanboy: A retroactive example, oddly enough. Jimmy Fallon is a HUGE Saved by the Bell fanboy and has used his clout as a late night comedy show host to invite Mark-Paul Gosselaar onto "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon"...in character as Zack Morris, complete with blonde hair dye, high-top sneakers, acid-washed jeans, a 90's-style shirt...and of course Zack's classic "brick" cell phone! (Zack even managed to plug actor MPG's then-new show Franklin & Bash). Jimmy then arranged for a Saved by the Bell reunion, which took place in the form of a photo shoot.
Beach Episode: A whole string of them, informally known as "The Beach Episodes" or "The Malibu Sands Episodes." Though they don't really fit the traditional definition, a swimsuit-clad Kelly (and Slater) in all six of these episodes ain't too shabby.
The B Grade: Happens to Jessie several times. She fainted after receiving a B on a test (which most of the class, with the exception of Screech, bombed) and had fits over scoring lower on the SAT than Zack and losing valedictorian to Screech.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Zack put a hypnotic suggestion into Kelly's music tape to drop Slater and go with him to a High School Dance, with Screech making one for Lisa. Initially it worked, but then Kelly loaned her tape to various friends and suddenly all three girls wanted to take him. They got revenge.
Jessie has a full on junkie meltdown on caffeine pills.
The boys use Fake ID cards to sneak into an over 18 club and Zack gives a girl his phone number. Of course she calls as soon as he's gone from the house and just as his mother is in his room.
The Cast Showoff: Some episodes let Mario Lopez show off drumming and wrestling skills. Not to mention his dancing skills. And his bod.
The Cheerleader: Both lampshaded and subverted. Jessie is reluctant to join the squad because she thinks cheerleading is not for smart girls. Lisa and Kelly are not pleased.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: All the characters from the original Good Morning, Miss Bliss series, with the exception of Zack, Screech, Lisa, and Mr. Belding. Within the main show itself, all characters not a main character or Mr. Tuttle, including but not limited to Jessie's step brother, Kelly's younger sister, and Slater's sister. They're assumed to have been lost in the Saved by the Bell Bermuda triangle.
Kelly and Jessie were both Brother Chucked and replaced with Tori (see The Scrappy, below) in the fourth season. Tori herself disappeared in time for Jessie and Kelly to return for graduation.
The New Class had several characters outright disappear. Scott (the original lead) may be the most notable example.
Leslie disappears between The College Years and Wedding in Las Vegas.
Compliment Backfire: Screech has made two such mistakes. The first time involves his attempt to compliment Violet's mother by comparing her with a celebrity. His celebrity of choice? Arnold Schwarzenegger. His other such mistake is shown in this exchange when he introduces Mr. Belding to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in an episode of The New Class series:
Screech: This is Mr. Belding, the man who made me what I am today!
Kareem: (turning to Mr. Belding) Mr. Belding, we need to talk.
Compressed Vice: Jessie's caffeine pill addiction. And any tobacco or drug addiction any student from "The New Class" series gets would likely end up as this.
Continuity Snarl: The Tori episodes in the fourth season. Not that the show as a whole is exactly known for its continuity.
The Good Morning, Miss Bliss thirteen episode season were originally just Canon Discontinuity after the Re Tool. Only four characters made the transition and all sorts of details changed. (Aside from the location, Jessie was often referred to as Zack's oldest friend despite the fact that she didn't exist in the Miss Bliss episodes.) However, with the popularity of the series exploding, Miss Bliss episodes started airing to help pad the rerun count and retroactively were dubbed The Junior High Years. (In syndication, they tend to run before "King of the Hill" - the pilot episode.) The snarl comes in as with these reruns, new intros with Zack reminiscing about junior high were filmed. Needless to say, less knowledgeable viewers wondered what happened to Jessie and Kelly (among other things), while those coming in cold wonder how things take a drastic turn after these thirteen episodes.
Also in the Good Morning, Miss Bliss episodes, Zack's father was divorced, and Zack had a sister who was mentioned but not seen. After the Re Tool, Zack's parents were together, his father's original actor had been replaced by The Other Darrin, and he was now an only child.
Creator Cameo: The end of "No Hope With Dope" features NBC President Brandon Tartikoff As Himself. Tartikoff broached the initial Good Morning, Miss Bliss premise and supported the series.
Dawson Casting: Averted. The actors playing the main characters match their ages, though Screech may have skipped a grade or two somewhere. It's most noticeable in the Miss Bliss episodes when he's a full head shorter than everyone else in the grade.
Elizabeth Berkley ("Jessie") was somewhat of a borderline case, as she was 17 when her character was introduced, pushing her to around 20-21 by the time the series wrapped (playing a high-school senior).
This was also averted in the spin-off. All the teen characters were played by actual teens although a couple did push into the twenties towards the end and only Lindsey McKeon graduated the same year as her character.
Also seen in the first season of The New Class as regards Screech expys Weasel's (mostly) unrequited crush on Lisa expys Megan.
Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Melissa, the girl in the wheelchair during one of the Tori episodes, really hates being treated differently. Zack really doesn't seem to get this, and keeps embarrassing her by saying things like "Could you slouch down? My date's in a wheelchair and she can't see the screen," and "Melissa you were amazing in that game! See, even though she's in a wheelchair she did great!" and other cringe-worthy comments. One honestly can't blame her when she dumps Zack.
Edutainment Show: Really only in technicality, but it has life lessons, so it counts, so some television stations will plug it in a timeslot with an E/I logo in the corner and get credit for it.
The Eighties: Started in 1988 as Good Morning, Miss Bliss and after The Retool came back as Saved by the Bell in 1989. Most of it takes place in The Nineties however, although stylistically there are still lots of 80's influences throughout the show's entire run (until The College Years begins in '93 at least).
Actually that makes sense, as much of the pop cultural trends of The Eighties bled over into The Nineties until roughly 1992 or '93.
'80s Hair: Oh Lord yes. Lisa, Jessie, and Tori poofed up their hair as much as humanly possible, but Kelly only poofed it up in the front, to the point that in retrospect it looks like she has a mullet. And don't get us started on Slater's Jheri curls and Zack's bleaching and feathering.
Zack's fantasy self with a... faux punk look will never be surpassed.
Fantastic Racism: Stacy Carosi initially has a rather fervent and irrational hatred of people from California, openly accusing them all of being airheads and Surfer Dude stereotypes, and declaring that she has no time for their supposed ditziness because "I'm from the East Coast." However, her Foe Yay with Zack eventually turns into a romance and she ends up changing her mind about Californians, and Stacy actually ends up transforming into a friendly, Reasonable Authority Figure towards the end of her arc.
Flanderization: Both Jessie and Slater ended up, by the end of the series, defined mainly by way of Jessie being an ultra-feminist and Slater a proud male chauvinist. Also by that time Screech's "zaniness" had been flanderized into "blatant stupidity," which is about the time viewers just got sick of him.
Freudian Excuse: Several episodes imply that Zack's ultra-manipulative personality is the result of his parents being divorced. His father basically ignores him because of work while his mother makes excuses for Zack's delinquent behavior and generally does nothing to punish her son for his actions.
That was only when the show was Good Morning Miss Bliss. In Saved by the Bell proper, and The College Years, Zack's parents were still married.
One of the earlier episodes of the proper series suggests that Zack is such a poor student because his father is busy working all the time and never around to keep him focused.
Future Loser: Slater feared this for one episode, where he imagined his life as an out-of-shape WWF (now WWE) wrestler who was losing one match after another.
Gender Flip: Plots from the original series were recycled in The New Class with the gender roles reversed.
Give Geeks a Chance : Screech had several one-episode love interests, often played by extremely beautiful actresses (Hillary Danner, Emma Caulfield, Christina Moore, Marnette Patterson). In the "country club" story arc, he had a recurring girlfriend named Alison, played by the lovely Clare Salstrom. Even his "nerdy" girlfriend, Violet, was played by Tori Spelling, although she wore thick glasses and a dorky hairstyle and clothes for the role.
The Great Politics Messup: The show takes place right at the end of the Cold War, when the Soviet empire was falling apart (there are early references in the show to Mikhail Gorbachev, and at one point Zack describes his skin-clearing cream as "Acne Glasnost"). It actually becomes a plot-point in the 1990 episode "The Prom", where Kelly's dad loses his job at the local defense contractor due to Cold War tensions coming to an end and the Real Life federal budget cuts in defense. In Mr. Kapowski's words, "World peace broke out." Serves as an example where Real Life Writes the Plot.
Hollywood Dateless: Mostly averted, as all the lead actors are gorgeous, and their characters are popular in the school. There is one odd example, though. The boys participate in a date auction, and not one girl bids on Slater, until Kelly does out of pity. This despite him being a star wrestler, good friends with Zack, and played by Mario Freaking Lopez.
That was justified as Jessie threatened every girl in school not to bid on Slater because she was opposed to the idea of a date auction for some reason. Kelly was the only one willing to to stand up to Jessie about it.
I'm Not Here to Make Friends: Stacy Carosi pretty much unequivocally states this when she arrives to take charge of the Malibu Sands resort for her father. What she wasn't counting on was that her antagonism with the fun-loving Zack would turn into Foe Yay and result in her becoming a Defrosting Ice Queen.
Informed Attractiveness: Kelly was portrayed as the hands down hottest chick at Bayside, yet most would agree she's not any more attractive than Jessie, Lisa, or any other one-off "hot" girl.
During the Hawaii movie when Mr. Belding briefly impersonates a professor, his performance can only be described as this. Lampshaded by Kelly when Belding starts bellowing a loud proclamation in native Hawaiian while banging a spear into the ground and the camera zooms in on the look of silent incredulity on Kelly's face. And lampshaded again by Zack when Belding afterward asks "How was I?" and Zack replies that he was "A little hammy here and there."
Zack would also address the audience, usually at the beginning of an episode to provide exposition.
During the first season of The New Class, the Zack expy Scott Erickson did the same thing in every episode.
Nice Character, Mean Actor: Kind-hearted (albeit annoying) Screech Powers played by all-around pathological Jerk Ass Dustin Diamond. He's managed to completely alienate all the other former cast members, who went ahead and did a reunion photo without him. Ironically, Lisa's actress, Lark Voorhies, seems to be the one member of the cast who seems to feel more pity for Dustin than anything else.
Noodle Incident: "Screech, I have a great idea!" "Gee, I dunno, Zack. The last time you had a great idea, I ended up (in an extremely improbable situation)". Examples include "naked in a jar of jellybeans" and "with my tongue stuck to a moving airplane". Scenarios that are never shown, nor discussed again.
Obfuscating Stupidity: We discover during senior year that Zack has been playing this trope from the beginning (although it had been hinted at throughout the series) when it comes to academics. Despite his self-constructed image as a slacker, he scores extremely high on the SAT and gets into Yale. The represenatative from one college, the fictional Stansbury University, actually kept showering Zack with attention and courted him to attend their school, much to Jessie's frustration, as the lady kept ignoring her.
Omnidisciplinary Teacher: Mr Tuttle teaches science, economics, driver's ed, and music (including coaching the Glee club). Which makes it rather easy to sympathize with him when he insists he deserves better pay.
Somewhat disturbing given that they make out in one episode, just to see "How much we wouldn't like kissing each other!". And are prompty caught by Slater and Kelly.
It started off as them having to kiss while practicing for the school play, in which Jessie was a (feminist!) Snow White and Zack was the prince. They kiss each other while practicing, and consider the possibility of exploring a romantic relationship, though the thought freaks them both out. That's when—taking advice from Mr. Belding—they decide to kiss again to see if they really like it. When they realize they don't, that's when they kiss again just to laugh about how meaningless it feels to them...and then cue Slater and Kelly walking in.
The "Tori Paradox", The unexplained disappearance of Jessie and Kelly and the introduction of the new character of Tori Scott, and then her disappearance and Jessie and Kelly's reappearance in time for the graduation episode that is never given any explanation in the course of the show.
There never is any real explanation for what happened to all the characters who disappeared in the show's transformation from "Miss Bliss" to "Saved By the Bell".
Reed Richards Is Useless: Screech discovered artificial intelligence early on in the series and during senior year he and lab assistant Kelly build a Love-O-Meter that can accurately gauge how two people feel about each other. Considering the scientific breakthroughs Screech made despite being a high school student, one really wonders why he didn't come up with more inventions that could solve the gang's problems.
Rejection Affection: Even though Lisa is extremely vocal in her lack of interest in Screech, he obliviously insists they are meant to be.
Revolving Door Casting By the time The New Class ended, Belding was the only one to be there from day one. Granted, high school is four years, but many of the characters that left were never stated to be seniors, so they were either Put on a Bus or BrotherChucked.
Recycled Set: The hallway/locker area set,originally built for the show's first incarnation as Good Morning, Miss Bliss, never got destroyed, and has been reused in many high-school based shows. It is currently being used as the school set for iCarly, and Victoriousm after That's So Raven used it before.
Screaming Birth: Mrs. Belding gives birth trapped in an elevator with Zack and Tori.
Sexy Mentor: OK, the show clearly loved this trope. Here are some examples:
Much to everybody's utter shock and awe, Screech becomes this to Kelly while coaching her for a science exam during their freshman year. Kelly begins to respect Screech for his scientific genius...and then actually starts to find it attractive (thus Kelly became seemingly the only person at Bayside to believe in the Nerds Are Sexy trope). Everyone else is completely shocked to hear about this and treat it as if it's the most shocking news of the century, reacting with a mixture of awe, disgust, and amazement, with people at Bayside openly wondering What Does She See in Him?. Screech and Kelly getting together is apparently such a big deal that the news spreads like wildfire around the world, and George Bush, Barbara Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Margaret Thatcher are actually seen gossiping about it! President Bush himself sums it up by giving an OK sign and declaring "Way to go, Screech!" while First Lady Barbara nods in agreement.
Screech repeats this again in The College Years when he plays astronomy mentor to a hot, famous tennis player.
Stacy Carosi becomes one for Zack during the Malibu Sands arc.
Jeff, the sleazy new manager of The Max becomes this for Kelly for a while, becoming the Romantic False Lead in the process until Kelly finds out he's been cheating on her.
The lecherous Professor Lasky becomes this for Kelly as well in The College Years, becoming the Romantic False Lead and a Fan Unfavorite character overnight, as he was throwing a wrench in the Zack and Kelly pairing. In the end, Zack and Kelly get together when Kelly breaks up with Lasky after realizing that Zack truly loves her and that Lasky is just a sleazy Casanova Wannabe. After Lasky's relationship with Kelly was exposed and Kelly dumped him to return to Zack, Professor Lasky was last seen as a broken man, apparently undergoing a nervous breakdown and downing milk at the college food court in an attempt to cure his stress-induced ulcers...
Re: Zack and Lisa, they also teased us with the Zack-in-hospital episode, the Murder Mystery episode, a several other subtle moments
Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Lark Voorhies actually were dating for much of the series, so that certainly explains the undeniable chemistry between Zack and Lisa.
As for Zack/Jessie, there were definitely a few episodes in Season 1 that seemed to subtly Ship Tease them, such as the one where Jessie trains Zack to dance so that he can take Kelly to a dance, but Zack ends up asking Jessie herself to be his dance partner (many fans like to think of this as an example of Jessie becoming a Sexy Mentor to Zack), and even in their senior year, the moment after Jessie realizes that Zack has orchestrated a hair-brained scheme to get her into Stansbury University, she and Zack share a sweet moment outside Belding's office.
Shirtless Scene: Mario Lopez has several in both Saved by the Bell and Saved by the Bell: the College Years. In the College Years, on the episode Professor Zack, the girls convince Slater to pose for a shirtless calendar - which he does on-screen. In the original series, he competes in the Miss Bayside contest - going shirtless for the swimsuit portion and flexing.
Sociopathic Hero: Zack comes across as this more often than not, since he's constantly shown lying, scheming, and manipulating to get what he wants.
Stand-In Parents: Zack got a waiter/aspiring actor from the local hangout to pretend to be his father for a parent-principal conference with Mr. Belding. Since that guy was an out-of-work actor he decided to ham it up. But that was for a different reason - he didn't want his real father to find out about his scholastic misdeeds.
Even moreso during The College Years, where it sometimes really makes one speculate that NBC intentionally found the most *ahem* excited audience ever, whose members apparently found everything in the plot of the College Years to be Fetish Fuel and would shriek "WOOOOOOOOOOO!" or "OW!!!" accordingly.
Stupid Sexy Flanders: On at least two occasions (both while he was in drag), someone makes a flirtatious comment about Zack's legs.
And, even though it wasn't in drag, there's been a few comments on how soft and girly his hands are.
Some coming from Slater. Make of it what you will, Zack/Slater-shippers.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The New Class, most blatantly in its first season. Scott for Zack (even breaking the Fourth Wall in the same way), Weasel for Screech, Tommy D for Slater, Lindsay for Kelly, and Megan for Lisa and Jessie (due to her being Weasel's unrequited crush, as well as the smart one in the group). Also Tori for both Kelly and Jessie in the original show.
Take That: There's one Take That at Vice President Dan Quayle (like in most of the TV shows from this period) where during Zack's fantasy about becoming an industrialist, Quayle buys one of Zack's Buddy Band bracelets and tries to wear it as a headband, breaking it in the process. According to fantasy!Jessie and fantasy!Zack, this is apparently not the first time this has occurred.
In "The Prom," Screech, Lisa, and the rest of the gang are watching a zombie movie and Lisa asks if Matt Dillon is in the movie, to which Screech responds "No, Alan Thicke is the zombie. Everybody knows that!" as a not-so-subtle way of insulting Thicke's acting skills.
And the show does take place on the California coast, where the whole Surfer Dude culture never really went away.
TV Teen: Zack's awkward, uncertain, and initially resistant reaction when he's offered a beer. Mind you, this is Zack, the Lovable Rogue who loves to party and loves to flout the adults' rules for fun; the idea that he would be initially resistant to enjoying a beer seems rather bizarre and inconsistent with his usual characterization. The same can be said for Zack's furious and aghast reaction to the idea of smoking pot; again, it's certainly not impossible for him to abstain from it, but his furious reaction seems at odds with his usual characterization.
The Unseen: A really bizarre and glaring example. In some episodes, Mr. Belding is informed of an incoming visitor to his office by a secretary over the PA system. But...how? The door from the hallway leads directly into Mr. Belding's office, with no secretary room in between, so unless the guests to Mr. Belding's office first enter a pocket dimension where a secretary works before re-emerging in Belding's office, this seems impossible.
The College Years has a very poorly done episode where Slater discovers his father is Mexican but changed his name to get into the Army. Zack apparently has to learn An Aesop about respecting Slater's heritage after Slater spends the episode being overly sensitive and accusing Zack of being racist.
What the Hell, Hero?: Zack often gets called out by his friends for his schemes and manipulations yet they continue forgiving him and go along with them over and over again.
What about Kelly, first she and Zack are pretty much doing everything for each other, then she for the sake of shock value cheats on him not once but twice disregarding his feelings. In college years his attempts to win her back are disregarded as stupid. One of the people she cheats on him with, a college professor, calls her out on this and when she realizes what she did to Zack she doesn't blame herself she blames him.
Wrong Name Outburst: It's what eventually kills Zack and Kelly's relationship. For a while, anyway.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Jessie and Kelly's location during the Tori episodes is never stated due to contractual issues regarding the number of episodes they were signed up to do.
More like they were not actually mentioned at all.