YMMV / Saved by the Bell

  • Accidental Innuendo:
    • Sometimes Mr. Belding seems uncomfortably close to Zack and company.
    • "Slater I hear you quit wrestling to start baking".
    • In "The Election" when Screech is telling Zack that's he losing the race for president and explaining the demographics of who's still with him and who isn't, he cries out, "And you're losing your jock support!"
  • Adaptation Displacement: Good Morning, Miss Bliss isn't nearly as well known as Saved by the Bell; it probably doesn't help that the former's episodes were folded into the latter's syndicated rerun package and presented as Saved by the Bell: The Junior High Years, so that its origins as a standalone series were obscured.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • A popular alternate take on Zack is basically that he's a sociopath who treats the rest of the characters as pawns for his schemes and will go to any lengths to manipulate them into doing his bidding. The other theory is that Zack is a living god who constructed the entire world of Bayside solely to stroke his own ego and twist mortals to his whims. After all, within the show Zack can stop time at will, and in several instances he actually messes with people while they're time-stopped. Adding on to this theory, DC Comics and Superman fans could suggest that Zack might be Mr. Mxyzptlk.
    • There's the one about Jessie being biologically male at birth. Whether Slater is aware of this is kept vague, but the general consensus seems to be that he'd not mind one bit.
    • Cracked have jokingly theorized that Mr. Belding is obsessed with Zack. They also posted articles about Zack bring a sociopath and the series wide interpretation it was only Zack's dream. Cracked suggests that the first season, when it was Good Morning, Miss Bliss, (where Zack isn't popular and constantly gets in trouble) is what is really happening, with the rest of the seasons taking place in Zack's mind were he is cool and everyone wants to be his friends.
    • Zack and Kelly's relationship and Kelly's true nature. Many fans have noticed that Zack seems more in love with Kelly than she was with him, given that she cheated on him with Jeff while they were together in high school and went after Professor Lasky in their college days while he was trying to legitimately rebuild a romantic relationship between them. Furthermore, even if at the time it was a throwaway line, in the "King of the Hill" episode, he mentions to Slater that he wasn't going to let him come between them since, as he puts it, "He waited through her last six boyfriends". It's not only her in the wrong, though. It's also noticeable that Zack seems a bit obsessed with Kelly and that it's (initially) seen that her beauty is the main/only thing that attracts him. See Harsher in Hindsight and Strangled by the Red String below for more details.
    • Jessie is meant to be viewed as the "smart" one, but if you actually examine her story lines, she's often just the loudest. Screech even cedes the valedictorian award to her after she whines about it enough.
    • The Nostalgia Critic once advanced the theory that Nomi Malone is actually Jessie after she grew up and never fully got over her caffeine-fueled breakdown.
  • Angst Dissonance: The two-parter episode, "The Break-Up"/"The Aftermath", comes to mind. As noted above in Alternate Character Interpretation, Kelly cheated on and left Zack for her boss, Jeff, and looks pretty bad for doing it. However, it's Zack who is ultimately portrayed as being in the wrong for (justifiably) being angry and bitter over losing his girlfriend to another guy and all of his friends turn on him and tell him to be mature. Cheating on your boyfriend is very mature, people, and so is encouraging your cheating friend to pursue the relationship further in spite of her betraying your other friend. Also, in a later episode, when the gang witnesses Jeff cheating on Kelly, they decide that Zack should be the one to tell her about it. When he does, she accuses him of being a jealous and vengeful liar.
  • Anvilicious: No aesop is subtle. Especially involving ducks, you bastards. This show was filmed during the 1980s and 1990s after all.
  • Awesome Music: The theme song. Just try to listen to it once without it getting stuck in your head.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: In "Operation: Zack", Zack is trying to leave the hospital so he won't have knee surgery, so he dressed as a doctor to avoid being caught. At one point, a middle-aged nurse comes out of one of the rooms, thinking he's a real doctor she may or may not be seeing, flirts with him, then pulls him into the room and kisses him. It's unknown where she came from and why this sequence occurred, as it is never brought up again during the remainder of the episode.
  • Critical Dissonance: Critics absolutely hated Saved by the Bell, but by the end of its first season, it had become the highest-rated show on Saturday mornings, a position it would hold for the rest of its run.
  • Critical Research Failure: The episode where oil is found on school property has this in spades. As do most episodes involving any vaguely science-related class. Though it did get the planets right in the memorable acronym. For its era, at least.
  • Creator's Pet: Tori. Being a Replacement Scrappy, the show had to do a lot of shilling to make her seem cool to viewers. It didn't really work.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Zack in Good Morning, Miss Bliss.
    • Kelly and Screech in the Saved by the Bell proper.
    • Susan McMann in The College Years.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: In the episode "Drinking and Driving", Zack, Slater, and Lisa get drunk at a party and then try to drive home. Zack crashes the car. They all scramble to fix everything and repeatedly lie to try to avoid trouble. Of course, they get found out, but only after their cover story gets so overly complicated and full of conflicting details. In other words, stick to the same lie or else you'll get caught for what you did wrong.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Zack and Lisa, in part because of victorious childhood friend syndrome. This was due to the fact that the two actors actually dated for a good deal of the production of the series.
  • Fanon Discontinuity:
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • It's hard to look at the episode about the oil on the school property without thinking about what happened in the Gulf of Mexico.
    • Lisa's response when Kelly says that she always wanted to be a princess: "Well, if anything ever happens to Princess Di..."
    • In "Rockumentary", we find out that Screech is the one who is going to the tabloids with scandalous gossip about everyone. Dustin Diamond, Screech's actor, would write a scathing tell all book years later.
  • Guilty Pleasure: Jessie's caffeine pill-induced freakout is known to be re-watched over and over for its narm.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Screech's entire characterization of being The Friend Nobody Likes. In real life, Dustin Diamond is outright hostile to his former castmates. So much so that he wrote a scathing tell all book (Behind the Bell). However, Diamond has since claimed that the book was ghostwritten by an author who wildly exaggerated many of the things he said.
    • As something as a Running Gag of the series, Zack and Screech are very into their attractions/crushes on Kelly and Lisa, respectively.note  While it may have seemed cute or a way to express affection for the one you love in the late '80s-early '90s, nowadays their behavior is considered forms of obsessive love and stalking.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: In "Miss Bayside", Screech wins the Miss Bayside competition after Zack starts a rumor that Slater, who was also in the competition, gave him a black eye. Slater is the Big Man on Campus while Screech is The Friend Nobody Likes. So this means while most of the school likes Slater and abhors Screech, they don't want to see him physically hurt and have a limit on what they'll take from Slater.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Ho Yay:
    • Zack and Slater. They got their own video, which naturally didn't neglect to include scenes related to the George Michael concert they were going to go to or the bits involving ballet. With the amount of drag and homoerotic and gay subtext, this show certainly has its queer edge.
    • This line from "Screech's Woman" shortly after Slater recognizes Screech's date as Zack in drag:
    Slater: Morris??? (looks down) Nice legs.
    • Jessie stares crying at a recently married Kelly for just a little bit longer than strictly necessary.
    • Screech and Belding in The New Class.
  • Hollywood Homely: All of the nerd girls, most notably Violet and Louise. For the latter, her actress was basically just given huge goggle-like glasses and had her hair mussed to make her look nerdier.
  • Idiot Plot: When the boys go to a dance club and find Kelly's boyfriend there with another girl, they tell Jessie and Lisa and they decide that Zack must tell Kelly. Right, the same guy Kelly left for Jeff. Because she's likely to believe him rather than if her two best friends tell her. Of course, she doesn't and this conveniently sets things up for a big dramatic scene where she catches Jeff in the act.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Kelly is regarded as the prettiest girl in school and amongst the gang. While Tiffani-Amber Thiessen is gorgeous, she isn't anymore beautiful than Elizabeth Berkeley, Lark Voorhies, or any other girl that appeared on the show.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Zack. It helps that the show at one point or another ship teased him with all the major female characters. And we're not even mentioning all the Ho Yay with Slater and Screech.
  • Marty Stu: Let's face it, Zack gets unbelievably high SAT scores with a fictional Ivy League college pining for him, despite him having a billion drop-out worthy things on his record and never studying a day in his life, gets a new girl every other episode, (which he promptly pushes outside of the universe into a vast pit of darkness that is discontinuity), is one of the most popular guys in school, stops time, plays with his acquaintances like puppets on strings and suffers no actual repercussions for it. This has gotten to the point where some people (including Cracked) theorized that Zack is ether a very Manipulative Bastard, God or both.
  • Mary Sue:
  • Memetic Mutation: "I'M SO EXCITED! I'M SO EXCITED! I'M, SO... SCARED!" In addition to constant references to it in popular media such as the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode, "Inspiration Manifestation", its status as a meme was deliberately invoked by Elizabeth Berkley, who played Jessie, when she appeared on Dancing with the Stars. Before she and her partner Val performed their jive to (naturally) "I'm So Excited", they recreated the whole scene, including Val coming into the window dressed in a letterman jacket, Berkley insisting she needed her "jive pills," and, of course, the singing.
  • Narm: Jessie's caffeine pill addiction (this Teens React episode on the show is visible proof of this kind of Audience Reaction) and the Elvis episode. In the case of the latter, it was probably intentional.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • "The Lisa Card" features an imagine spot where Lisa worries about what her father will say when she tells him she's run up a $400 credit card bill. If you're a kid watching this, it's pretty scary. Lightning crashes and her father changes from jovial to demon-voiced and declares her "the worst daughter of all", accompanied by Screech, dressed as the Grim Reaper, shrieking "Lisa! Lisa! Lisa!" in such as way as to haunt nightmares.
    • Even with the episode's humor and great trope namer, "Mystery Weekend" gets a mention. There is the matter of the pianist and the detective who tries to solve the pianist's suspicious death. Both die within moments of their respective introductions by being poisoned and getting shot in the back with multiple arrows. Even worse, neither are seen again for the rest of the episode. Also, there's a moment where Lisa saves Mr. Jameson from a falling ax which could have easily hit her as well.
  • One True Threesome: Zack initially is a Shipper on Deck for Slater, Jessie, and Jennifer (Slater's old girlfriend who moves to Bayside) to become this, until Slater states that he intends to pick one, and Zack decides he wants to date Jennifer himself.
  • Replacement Scrappy:
    • Tori. She wasn't very well received, as fans who saw those episodes kept wondering "where are Kelly and Jessie?" On top of her being a hastily devised replacement character, the blatant attempts to shill her and have the preexisting, established characters with well-known characters traits and behaviors all of a sudden acting out of character and looking foolish in order to make her look better (one-upping Zack and Slater, Screech falling for her in spite of his long-running obsession over Lisa, being the sole voice of reason when the others act up, etc.) made her come across as a Mary Sue. Plus, compared to the rest of the gang, she had very little backstory. It should be noted that the only reason for the introduction of Tori is that at the last minute, NBC ordered more episodes to be filmed for the final season, just as the series was wrapping up and all the cast's contracts had expired. Elizabeth Berkley and Tiffani Amber-Thiessen (who played Jessie Spano and Kelly Kapowski, respectively) simply wanted to move on and refused to re-sign. As a result, Tori was brought in to fill in the roles left by the absence of the two aforementioned characters, and especially in the case of Kelly's absence, serve as a love interest for Zack.
    • The New Class. Suspiciously Similar Substitutes galore.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Viewers will instantly recognize Stacey Carosi for her later role as Carrie Heffernan from The King of Queens.
    • A few sharp-eared ones might recognize that Stacey's father is Pumbaa.
    • Patrick Fabian, who plays the professor that Kelly would controversially date during The College Years, would go on to greater recognition as Howard Hamlin in Better Call Saul. Additionally, he played the lead in the film The Last Exorcism.
    • Casper Van Dien, Scott Wolf and Denise Richards were all featured extras on several episodes.
  • The Scrappy: Professor Lasky, Kelly's Romantic False Lead of The College Years. He shared a lot in common with Jeff only in this case, the show went out of its way shilling what a great guy he was despite how unethical his romance with Kelly was.
  • Seinfeld Is Unfunny: A lot of the jokes, while dated by now due to being reused in several sitcoms since then, were much fresher when the show first premiered. Saved by the Bell was also the first sitcom to feature "tweens" as the core demographic, before the word "tween" even existed, and was also the first of these sitcoms to gain a significant Periphery Demographic, a phenomenon which happens regularly nowadays. iCarly, Lizzie McGuire, Hannah Montana, Drake & Josh, and other similar shows all owe a debt of gratitude to Saved by the Bell for starting it all. To make things even more amusing, several of the above-mentioned shows that owe their existence to Saved by the Bell also feature the same school hallway set from Bayside High. If you look closely at the hallway scenes of iCarly or That's So Raven, you can actually notice it's the same layout, because the exact same set that was used for Bayside has been reused fo several of these later sitcoms, making the set itself a legacy that Saved by the Bell bequeathed to later tween sitcoms.
  • Special Effects Failure: Given the time frame and quality of the show, some of the examples are pretty obvious, particularly involving Screech:
    • In "Screech's Birthday", when Screech has an Imagine Spot that he's RoboCop, when he "shoots" the rival hall monitor, the way he disintegrates is really cheap-looking.
    • In "Zack's War", when Screech imagines himself this time as an Army General, upon getting a random bully named Butch who was mouthing off to him to stand on his feet, when he lifts him up with one arm and throws him up into the sky, it's an obvious dummy.
    • In "Palm Springs Weekend" (Part 1), when in the exercise room on a treadmill and Screech tries a pick-up line on a random girl ("How would you like to run away with me?"), upon the girl rejecting him and her turning up the speed of his machine, if you look carefully, you can see that he is only marching in place and that the treadmill isn't even turned on.
    • In "Video Yearbook", when Zack does his famous "Time Out" to stop himself from being punched by Slater and stop Kelly from making out with her "new" boyfriend, Vince, in front of him, he moves out of the way and slides a piece of paper in between Kelly and the guy's faces. Even though she is supposed to be "frozen" in place, you can see her slightly move her head so the paper can go in between them.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Zack and Kelly, while the two are shown to be happy as a couple, you can't help but wonder why Kelly would stay with Zack after he's done so many horrible things to get with her including but not limited to trying to use subliminal messages to trick her into dating him, spying on her slumber party, and manipulating her prom date into leaving her so she'd say yes to him. That last part gets even worse since that episode is what got the two back together.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Several, due to the tendency for a new character to show up, becoming important for an episode, and then never show up or be mentioned again. One episode focused on Screech finally getting a girlfriend, the shy, nerdy Violet Anne Bickerstaff, played by Tori Spelling. Despite being very adorable and having a lot of chemistry with Screech, she is never seen or heard from again after a few episodes and he goes back to being a loser who can't get a date.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Zack and Lisa hooking up and making quite a nice couple and having Screech move on to Jessie, two potentially interesting bits of plot which was completely ignored afterwards.
    • In the episode with Lisa's secret admirer, she meets a person she thinks is Zack at a costume party and announces she loves him. When it turns out to be Screech, the entire plot is dropped forever.
  • Uncanny Valley: Those Screech masks from "Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind". Also from the same episode, his second "alien" mask he used to fool the reporter/Air Force Captain into thinking he was an alien, which doubles as Nightmare Fuel.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • As described below, Screech. His Dogged Nice Guy traits, while considered endearing in the '80s and '90s, does not hold up well over time. This is especially notable in "The Bayside Triangle", where Screech's Entitled to Have You antics reaches its peaks and he challenges Zack to a fight over Lisa.
    • Kelly in the whole Jeff arc. Basically she dumps Zack for a guy about three years her senior. And when everyone is rightfully mad at her, we're supposed to sympathize with her. Especially after Zack does the heinous act of, dancing to the song he and Kelly danced to with another girl at The Max (which may have been a little rude but nowhere near as horrible as it was treated). Then comes Fake IDs when Zack tells Kelly he saw Jeff with another girl, Kelly yells at him for supposedly lying despite Zack having over his jealousy by that point. When Kelly catches Jeff in the act, we're supposed to see him as a cheating dog, despite him doing exactly when she did to Zack. In fact, Jeff even brings up the valid point he and Kelly were never going steady, so it can be argued what Kelly did to Zack was even worse than what Jeff did to her. Plus, her comment of "I broke up with a great guy for you!" also showcases how stupid she was in the first place.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • There's "The Lisa Card" where Screech buys Lisa's lingerie and tells her to her face that he'll sleep with it. The same episode also features Zack selling tickets to various guys for a chance to kiss Lisa - without her consent. Zack's stuff towards Kelly is just slightly less bad, since they do end up in a relationship and Zack is always called out if he ever oversteps his boundaries.
    • As noted under Harsher in Hindsight, Screech's attitude towards Lisa. Essentially he acts as if they're already together, frequently refers to her as his woman and is often mentioned to have gone to some really excessive 'romantic' gestures (writing "I love you" in syrup on her mother's white couch). The dissonance is that Screech is portrayed as the Dogged Nice Guy while Lisa is framed as if she were a bitch for not reciprocating his affections. Except that she's incredibly up front that she wants nothing to do with him and never leads him on. Though the episode where Zack and Lisa hook up does finally seem to address this; Screech spies Zack and Lisa kissing, gets revenge by ruining Lisa's fashion show and is prepared to fight Zack over it. Lisa immediately calls Screech out and tells him he has no right to do any of this - "You're not my boyfriend. You never were" and is presented as 100% in the right.
    • The pot smoking episode. A sitcom these days featuring teens reacting like that to the idea that a famous person smokes pot would probably be used to portray the teens themselves as over conservative. The show would probably use a more serious drug like cocaine or heroin to get that message across.
  • What an Idiot: In the episode "Drinking and Driving", after the gang decided to drive home drunk, the (totally sober) Screech volunteers to drive them home, only for Lisa to shoot him down, saying "You can't even walk straight!" And obviously having no concerns that the "incompetent" Screech tried to do the smart and decent thing, they all (including Screech) give into peer pressure, let a drunk Zack take them home and subsequently crash.
  • The Woobie: Despite his Unintentionally Unsympathetic status, Screech doesn't deserve a good amount of the crap he gets.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/SavedByTheBell