Bayside High ruined high school for me. If you grew up in the early to mid nineties then I feel fairly certain that we could sit down and have an intense conversation about the greatest Saturday morning show ever — Saved by the Bell. I’m not talking about the Miss Bliss Years or the College Years and especially not The New Class. I’m talking about the OG SBTB with Zack, Kelly, Slater, Jessie, Screech, Lisa and Mr. Belding.
I don’t know that I can compare it to anything on tv now because it didn’t center around wizards or web series stars or famous singers pretending to be normal like certain Disney shows my niece and nephew are now growing up on. This show centered around a group of normal high school friends in the southern California town of Bayside trying to navigate high school while still pulling the most awesome pranks and generally being the coolest people ever. And while it was about high school, it was silly and not too grown up. It was something for those of us not quite old enough for 90210 but not quite young enough to still watch Tiny Toons.
But back to SBTB ruining high school. You see, eleven year old me really thought that this what was high school was going to be like. I thought the coolest boy in school was going to be as handsome and charming as Zack Morris and that it was absolutely possible that his best friend would be the dorkiest guy in school because they grew up together and you don’t just walk away from that.
You could imagine my disappointment when I slowly started to realize that life was going to be more complicated than what kind of shake to order at the Max and that the brainiest girl in school wasn’t going to be dating the class jock. Or that the coolest guy isn’t a jerk and is best friends with a huge dork.
There was a character everyone could relate to or at least have their first crush on. There was the cool, charming, excellently coifed and handsome Zack, the nerd with a heart of gold Screech, the beautiful and cool fashionista Lisa, the brainy and competitive Jessie Spano, the wholesome, kind, prom queen Kelly, the well meaning, sexy meat head jock Slater and the tough but loving Mr. Belding.
I was more of a Zack girl than a Slater girl but I fancied myself a Jessie Spano since Lisa was too cool of a dresser and Kelly bored me to death. I recall squealing with delight when Jessie and Zack “accidentally” made out during Snow White rehearsals (twice!). Let’s face it y’all – it was totally the hottest kiss ever on the show – just see the youtube clip below – sorry for the sort of crappy quality – it was all I could find.
There was totes tongue going on. And Jessie was a role model for young girls – showing us that it was cool to be smart and competitive and a feminist who yells at her boyfriend for calling her “mama”.
This show explored serious issues such as addiction (via the super famous “caffeine” pill addiction breakdown compliments of Jessie Spano), drugs (that episode where the movie star pulls out a joint a party), drunk driving, broken hearts, and failure.
But it also was fun and gave us an Oklahoma! themed prom, a rapping/hip hop school play in Snow White and the Seven Dorks, a dance-off hosted by Casey Kasem, and other amazing hi-jinks that I was sure I’d be getting up to once I was sixteen. The show never really talked much about sex, except for the occasional “ooooohs” that would happen when two characters chastely kissed. It was good wholesome fun that didn’t seem like it was pandering to my very mature eleven year old self.
I know this sounds silly to say, but man – they just don’t make em’ like that anymore. While there were romances (notably between Zack and Kelly and Jessie and Slater) – it never felt like that was what the show was about. It was about friendship and having fun. The characters didn’t always all get along and they didn’t always do the right thing, but they learned from their mistakes. Plus, they had the fatherly figure of Mr. Belding who was guiding them, disciplining them, and provided the sort of eye rolling “Oh adults. So out of touch” moments for us.
So yep, My name is Erin and I am a Saved by the Bell addict.
Things I learned from watching Saved by the Bell
1) Caffeine pill addiction is no fucking joke. It will make you think you missed the geometry test you already took, be late for Hot Sundae’s gig at the Max and will result in spontaneous singing of “I’m So Excited”.
2) Zack Morris’s hair was perfection.
3) Even though he had a mullet perm – Mario Lopez was bound for future hotness
4) There’s No Hope (clap) with Dope!
5) Just because you say “Time Out” doesn’t mean that everyone is going to freeze like you’re Zack Morris. Trust me, I’ve tried.
6) There is nothing cooler than high-waisted jeans, Cosby sweaters and giant cell phones.
7) Access to the Principal’s office is as easy as opening a door that looks like it should be a storage closet.
8) Bayside rules and the Valley Bulldogs suck.
9) Meat heads will always have nicknames like “Ox”.
10) It’s entirely possible for a tv show to introduce a character (Tori) and then make her disappear like she never happened in the next set of episodes.
11) When guys have a sleepover they wear coordinating neon socks, tank tops, and sunglasses and do choreographed dances to “Barbara Ann”
12) Oil spills are something that can happen on your high school football field.
13) Dating or crushing on older guys never ends well (cough – Jeff)
14) Don’t use your first name as part of your band’s name – you’ll jinx the band and then they’ll break up. I have a Zack Attack t-shirt to remind me of the better days.
15) If you want your opening credits to be amazing – use as many “cool” clip art pictures as possible (skateboards, sunglasses, ice cream, etc) – along with a catchy theme song.
16) You knew something dramatic was going down when the electric guitar background music got real sad and intense (the youtube clips prove this). Conversely – awesome things happening meant amazingly upbeat electric guitar music.
-The famous caffeine pill episode because it also featured Screech dressing as a woman janitor to secretly record the girls singing in the locker room. Also it features a music video by Hot Sundae (Lisa, Kelly, and Jessi) which mostly looks like a workout video.
– The episode where the boys take the girls for granted and the girls get pissed – prompting a dinner at the Max and the boys performing “What I Should Have Said Theater”. Extra points for this because Screech plays Kelly in drag and Slater rips off his clothes to reveal a unitard and dances ballet.
– The Dance-Off episode where Lisa sprains her ankle before Casey Kasem comes to town and opts to perform with Screech and they invent “The Sprain” dance and win the contest.
– All of the episodes where the crew works at a beach resort for the summer. It introduces my favorite of Zack’s girlfriends – Stacy Carosi – an east coast college broad with a mouth of sass and a secret vulnerability.
– The Zack Attack episode – which I am pretty sure inspired VH1’s Behind the Music.
– The graduation episode because it made me cry when I was a kid.
– Snow White and the Seven Dorks episode – for the above stated reasons. That kiss. Woot. You just KNOW they had to have been doing it in real life.