Series: Saved by the Bell
Saved by the Bell
is a sitcom that aired on NBC
from August 1989 to May 1993. It was about high school (and 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.
Originally, the show was intended as a Hayley Mills
vehicle Good Morning, Miss Bliss
(1988-1989), featuring the lovely Miss 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 retool
. 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 titled Saved by the Bell
) was led by Zack Morris
and it is this
version that is the one most viewers are 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 Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) as The Hero
, most episodes surrounded his attempts at holding on to his on-again off-again girlfriend Kelly Kapowski
(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 Spano (Elizabeth Berkley). Samuel "Screech" Powers (Dustin Diamond) was their resident smart guy
and extraverted nerd
. He was a genius at invention, but not at common sense. And Lisa Turtle (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
Dennis Haskins, as Principal Richard Belding, ended up playing his role longer than anyone else associated with the show.
The show is very charming, with a high level of rewatchability, although it certainly had its moments of narm
(which one could argue is a 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.The series ran 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. Unfortunately, the producers' attempt to cater to both younger fans of the original series and older primetime 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 Saved by the Bell
Now has a character sheet.
For the trope described by the "saved by the bell" phrase, see Just in Time
or one of its variants.
This series contains examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer:
- Screech in the eyes of Lisa.
- Rhonda Robistelli, a Tomboy who's actually pretty decent looking... although, any guy would be turned off by a girl who's strong enough to lift and twirl them over her body during a swing dance, as Zack endured in "Fatal Distraction".
- Not to mention Wendy Parks, the overweight girl who won Zack during the date auction in Season 3.
- Absurdly Youthful Mother: Parodied in one episode. Zack's mother catches the boys at an over 18 dance club. Zack's date asks if she's his mother. Zack's response?
"Oh no, this is my lovely, beautiful, young-looking older sister."
- Adorkable: Screech before his voice changed. He was such a cute, dorky little kid & far less annoying.
- An Aesop: So many morals. Don't do drugs. Don't drive drunk. Don't hypnotize a girl so that she'll go out on a date with you.
- Aesop Amnesia: Any aesop the gang learns in one episode is forgotten and/or never referenced again in the ones after.
- Ageless Birthday Episode: Happened with Screech's and Zack's birthdays.
- All of the Other Reindeer:
- According to Dustin Diamond, Screech actor, this is the source of a lot of his disdain for the rest of the cast.
- Alpha Bitch: Averted/subverted. Despite displaying typical Alpha Bitch-qualities such as head 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.
- 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, high-top sneakers, acid-washed jeans, a 1990s-style shirt, and of course, Zack's classic "brick" cell phone (Zack even managed to plug Gosselaar's then-new show Raising the Bar). Fallon 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, leading to her spray-painting "Death to the SAT" on the lockers. However, when she finds out Screech beat her in valedictorian (but gave it up to spare her feelings), she publicly announces it during her speech and awards the title to him.
- Black and Nerdy: Ollie Creekly.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: In The College Years, you have Leslie (the blonde), Kelly (the brunette), and Alex (the redhead).
- Bottle Episode: A few, but since production values as a whole were not large, they aren't terribly noticeable.
- Born in an Elevator: Zack Belding. Guess who attended the birth?
- 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.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: "My hobbies include dating, guys, and dating guys!"
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Zack would often address the viewers.
- Breakout Character: Good Morning, Miss Bliss was completely retooled to focus on Zack. If that doesn't give Fonzie a run for his money, nothing else does.
- Brilliant but Lazy: Zack gets a genius-level score on his SAT, despite putting much more effort into his schemes than his studies.
- Building of Adventure:
- Somewhere around 95% of the action takes place at good old Bayside High.
- Occasionally, scenes are set in one of the kids' bedrooms. Also, tons of school-related activities takes place in The Max. This is justified because The Max is owned by the school board.
- California University: Trope namer. Zack, Kelly, Slater, Jessie (for a little while), and Screech all attend this university after graduation. This despite the fact that near the end of the original series, Zack was going to Yale, Slater to Iowa, and Screech to Cal Tech.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin' :
- They drive drunk once and crash the car. See Family-Unfriendly Aesop for the details.
- 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. Lisa herself is the closest to a straight example the show has but she is still a nice person who cares about the squad.
- 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 stepbrother, 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 in the fourth season. Tori herself disappeared in time for Jessie and Kelly to return for graduation.
- Leslie disappears between The College Years and Wedding in Las Vegas.
- The New Class had several characters outright disappear. Scott (the original lead) may be the most notable example.
- Clip Show: Abused by The New Class. The show had so many of these that most of them were made up of clips from episodes that were only a couple of weeks old. Season 5 for example had not one but two clip shows that consisted of nothing but Season 5 clips.
- 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!
Abdul-Jabbar: (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 Nod: in The New Class, Eric, the school's star quarterback gets Jim Harbaugh, then Indianapolis Colts QB and current San Francisco 49ers coach, to speak to his class for a report because he is Screech's cousin. The show's first incarnation, Good Morning Miss Bliss is set in Indianapolis. Mr. Dewey, the math teacher from the original series states that he is from there, as well.
- Continuity Snarl:
- The Good Morning, Miss Bliss thirteen episode season were originally just Canon Discontinuity after the retool. 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 retool, Zack's parents were together, his father's original actor had been replaced, and he was now an only child.
- The Tori episodes in the fourth season. Not that the show as a whole is known for its continuity.
- Cool Teacher: Miss Bliss, and Miss Wentworth in the re-tooled episodes.
- 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.
- Mary Beth and Amy from fellow TNBC show Hang Time appear in The New Class episode "The Kiss".
- A crossover of sorts when The New Class gang visited the school from USA High (a.k.a. Saved by the Bell in Europe) in the episode "Foreign Behavior". None of the characters from USA High actually appeared in the episode, however.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Stacy Carosi.
- Delivery Guy: Zack, who indeed shepherds the birth of his principal's wife's child. In an elevator. During an earthquake.
- The Documentary: The dream episode where the Zack Attack becomes rock stars was structured this way.
- Dogged Nice Guy:
- Screech, to Lisa. Borders on Stalker with a Crush.
- 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.
- Double Standard: The episode where an unattractive fat girl shows interest in Zack and he has to learn that looks are not everything is Played for Drama with An Aesop at the end. Unattractive nerds hitting on the girls who rebuff them constantly? Played for Laughs.
- Dream Sequence: Plenty of 'em.
- Many of which involve the characters all having the same daydream / dream...
- Easily Forgiven: Zack.
- Edgy Backwards Chair-Sitting: This is Slater's default way of sitting. As the series predates most ironic uses of this, Slater manages to come across as cool and slightly (but harmlessly) rebellious.
- 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 '90s, however, although stylistically there are still lots of '80s influences throughout the show's entire run (until The College Years begins in '93 at least).
- '80s Hair:
- 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.
- "...I look like 'Mr. Madonna'! "
- Embarrassing First Name / Embarrassing Middle Name: Slater's full name is Albert Clifford Slater (hence why he prefers "A.C."). Jessie's middle name is Myrtle. Which was, apparently, also the name of Zack's turtle.
- Enter Stage Window: Zack and Jessie.
- Estranged Soap Family: The parents rarely show up, but when the gang graduates, goes to college, etc., they're never around. The only exception to this is when Zack's and Kelly's parents showed up in Wedding in Las Vegas (and with the original actors too).
- Extraverted Nerd: Screech.
- Fake Band: Zack Attack.
- Falling in Love Montage
- 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.
- Fat Idiot: Mr. Tuttle. Although he was a knowledgeable, enthusiastic science/drivers' ed/glee club teacher, he was shown to be very gullible and easily manipulated by Zack.
- Feigning Intelligence: Lisa's (in)famous quote: "What is art? Are we art? Is art art?"
- 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 this time, Screech's "zaniness" had been flanderized into "blatant stupidity," which is about the time viewers just got sick of him.
- Follow the Leader: Saved by the Bell was the leader, and spawned multiple clones (including California Dreams), leading NBC to cancel all its cartoons, give half of Saturday Morning to a new version of the Today show, and the other half to the Saved by the Bell clones.