Yeah, you know this group here. If you grew up in the 90s, you’re likely well aware of who they are. Kelly Kapowski, Zack Morris, Screech Powers, A.C. Slater, Lisa Turtle and Jessie Spano from “Saved By the Bell.”
At this point, the show really needs no introduction. This was my jam back in the day. Not ashamed to admit as a Black man who grew up in Baltimore. I’ve watched the entire series several times. I know each one just about inside and out.
While this show was fine in the early 1990s, it is painfully corny and ridiculous (to put it mildly) to watch in 2022. However, the nostalgia factor gives it that charm that makes it easy to want to watch again, as I’m doing for the most part. It’s kind of like any other time we go “back” to the good old days. It not only takes us back in time with the show and these characters, but also in where we all were in our lives at that time.
Life was pretty simple back then. I was in middle school when I discovered the show, and it was the first show I learned to record on VCR (look that up if you don’t know what that is). That may have something to do with why I started watching, because I wasn’t intentionally looking; the show just happened to be on while I was messing with blank video tapes. But of course, it hooked me and the rest was history.
With that being said, there are several aspects of the show that I simply just am/was NOT feeling. At all. Yeah, I get it…it was a show written for kids, so the same effort wouldn’t go into it as would have gone into a show for adults. Kids don’t always catch everything, right? Plus, it’s fictional, so some things are expected to not make sense. I get all that. And maybe it’s my older age (43) that causes all this to stand out more.
Since this is a very popular show among many close to my age, there isn’t too much that can be said about Saved By the Bell that has not already been said. However, I did my best to look around to make sure I wasn’t repeating what others have already said.
Here is a list of 10 aspects of “Saved By the Bell” that I just was NOT feeling:
1. They Made Screech REALLY Stupid at Times
Screech was a nerd, right? A geek, dweeb; whatever 90s terms you want to throw at him. Loves insects, rodents and all that good stuff. However, they also made him just totally stupid at times, which didn’t make sense to me even back in the day, but is even more cringeworthy to watch now.
I know what some of you are thinking; “Book smart people usually don’t have street smarts/common sense.” But these are not instances of Screech not using common sense. They made him Rose Nylund (“The Golden Girls”) stupid. Kelly Bundy stupid. Any show where a character exists for no reason other than to be a total airhead is how Screech acted at times and it made no sense for him to be that way.
For example, on the episode in which Zack was introduced to the Native American for his class project, there was one part where the teacher mentioned Jessie’s “forefathers” and Screech said to Jessie, “I didn’t know you had four fathers!” which would NOT come out of the mouth of someone who eventually became the school’s valedictorian. They could have gone in all kinds of directions with how to make Screech act, but stupid like this just wasn’t it. It was like they wanted to double dip; make him smart AND stupid at the same time. Just look at “The Big Bang Theory” to understand how they could have left the “extreme stupid” out of Screech and kept the nerdiness strong.
2. “Jeff” Was Only in Three Episodes (More Like 2 1/2)
We remember that “Jeff” was the reason Kelly and Zack initially broke up. However, how was someone who largely contributed to the breakup of arguably one of the most iconic fictional teenage relationships of all time only shown within three episodes?
Of course, the first two make sense, since the whole breakup was a two-part episode. However, after that, Jeff is not even so much as mentioned until the “Fake IDs” episode a short time later, and he’s basically there only long enough to get caught cheating at an over-18 dance club by the guys, then caught by Kelly, they break up and that’s it. Maybe they thought he would do more and decided after the fact that it wouldn’t work out. But Kelly could have at least mentioned him here and there. It was like they just wanted a reason to break up Kelly and Zack, and they only thought far enough to have someone come into the picture, but did not consider much after that.
3. Kelly and Slater Were Nicer to Screech Than One Might Expect
Maybe this one isn’t too bad. This might be a stranger one that I may be among the only who noticed. Kelly was the head cheerleader. Slater was All…EVERYTHING in sports. The classic jock. So looking at the series as a whole, these two seem to not be as mean to Screech as the others were. We know that traditionally, head cheerleaders and jocks were never kind to the nerds. Yet, Kelly was probably the nicest one to Screech and Slater wasn’t often unnecessarily cruel to Screech. So while kindness is never a bad thing, I just found it a bit odd that they didn’t go with tradition here.
This reminds me of the “Girls of Bayside Calendars” episode. At the very beginning, one of the other nerds walks over to Kelly as they’re in the school store. He stands there just smiling at her, and she hurries away, disgusted. Now THAT is more of what we would expect from a head cheerleader toward a nerd. But she was not often too bad to Screech, especially when Screech wasn’t being totally ridiculous and yeah…stupid.
4. Jessie Was Mean to Screech
This one surprises me because Jessie does not come across to me as someone who would be mean to someone if that person wasn’t being nasty to others. Jessie is today’s liberal, who would do everything in her power to stand up for a Screech-type of person every chance she got. So for her to just obliterate him sometimes when he was just being himself, was shocking. Not mention, during the graduation episode, she even put him down after Lisa (yes, LISA) kissed him on the cheek in one of the gang’s final times together. After everyone left and Jessie and Lisa remained, Jessie questioned why Lisa kissed him, looking utterly disgusted. Of course we know at that point that it’s because Lisa appreciated the secret Screech was keeping from them (he won valedictorian by 0.1 points over Jessie, but he knew it meant a lot to her, so he initially turned down the honor). After Lisa, of all people, said that she’s “going to miss” Screech because “he’s a real decent guy,” I figured Jessie’s type, or at least I thought, would commend Lisa for finally being kind to Screech, seeing him as more than just what’s on the outside.
Nope. Jessie reminded Lisa of something stupid Screech did in the past (getting dressed and then taking a shower) and then proceeded to call him a “still a dorky guy,” again, doing something more expected to come from Kelly or Slater in that situation. Lisa then embarrassed her and shut her up by telling her Screech’s secret. Thank you, Lisa.
5. Zack’s Steady Girlfriend (Stacy) at Malibu Sands
Again, not a “bad” thing, but there were only six “Malibu Sands” episodes. It’s surprising that Zack would get into a steady relationship with someone for that short of a time. Maybe this was another case of the producers expecting more and deciding to drop the storyline. But it’s hard to believe that they intended for Zack to be with Stacy for that short of time, especially considering how Zack is when it comes to women. I could bail them out by saying that this may be how it is in the summer sometimes. We might meet someone we become very close to only to realize that that’s the ONLY time we would get with them. Maybe that’s what drew them closer together. But then they also had clashing personalities. I figured they wouldn’t be able to wait to get away from each other. Not to say that Stacy wasn’t worth it, but Zack’s character and only six episodes just doesn’t seem like it would fit too much.
Maybe this could have been a good time for us to see Screech in a steady relationship with someone. In fact, considering the luck Screech had with women, this could be fitting, because this could be a case of “the only woman he could get would be a woman who couldn’t even stay long enough for them to get serious.” Like a teaser to him, if you will. Then again, in real life, there was about 7 years between the actors (Leah Remini was 21 and Dustin Diamond was 14 or 15) so I get why that wouldn’t be their first choice. I just didn’t really “get” it with Zack.
6. SO Much Happened During School Hours
Of course, the show would be boring if EVERYTHING happened in the classrooms. But they REALLY went overboard at times. Not to mention, Principal Belding’s office was RIGHT on the other side of this area. I understand that this has more to do with the size of the stage set and all that, but they could have at least added one more area so he wouldn’t just have to step outside his office and see all the shenanigans immediately.
But they did practically everything in the halls. Zack had his business ventures, they protested, and all kinds of other stuff. There were so many examples of them doing stuff during school hours for long periods of time that it made it more than clear that school served as nothing more than a backdrop. I would say maybe think “Boy Meets World” here or even “Girl Meets World.” Not being a hardcore fan of either, I believe those shows took place more in the classrooms, which of course makes sense for a school. I get that this is a different type of show, but maybe they could have had all this stuff happen maybe during lunch or some period where they would not be in class.
Then again, they never once showed the cafeteria. For a teen show that largely took place in school, that is definitely odd.
7. Zack and Slater Physically Fought Over Joanna, But NEVER Kelly
Early in the series, Zack and Slater were both after Kelly. Of course, we know who ended up with her, but later on, when they are both obviously older and presumably more mature, they meet a girl by the name of Joanna and eventually, they get into a fist fight over her.
What?! So when they were younger, they never once fist fight over Kelly, someone Zack has supposedly been after for years, but this girl they both JUST met, and NOW they’re rolling on the floor?
Of course, whenever we think of this scene, many of us arrive to the painfully obvious conclusion that Slater should have practically murdered Zack in a fight/wrestling match. But think of it like this; they’re practically brothers. If you have siblings, you might understand that when you got into fights, you never went all out against them. Especially if you were the bigger sibling. You know you could seriously hurt them and you never wanted that (I hope). Anyway, Slater might have been more just trying to control Zack and his movements than actually trying to street fight him. They both know what the outcome would have been if they fought “for real.”
8. Jessie and Slater Dating
Of course, the show wouldn’t have been what it was if not for Jessie and Slater dating (heck, there almost was no Jessie at all). And I enjoy their interactions and relationship. However, it’s hard to believe that those two types would EVER date each other in real life.
Not to mention, neither really changed when they dated. In fact, they were both just as headstrong, if not more, than they were before dating. I get that opposites attract, but they seemed a bit too far on opposite ends of the spectrum. Here is another instance where I would say Jessie had more in common with Screech because of their studious ways. But then of course, we would not have the comedy of Lisa destroying him every chance she got. Lucky us, right?
9. The Start of Senior Year Happened Twice?
“The Fight” episode started with Zack stating that this was their first day as seniors. However, the following year, they did another “start of senior year” episode, as though the first never happened. At least that’s how I took it.
The second one featured Zack staying home from school because his mother supposedly said he needed a day off to rest. In that episode, Zack said more than once that it’s the “first week” of school, so maybe that could be seen as clever, since he didn’t say “first day” this time. However, it’s not as though a few days went by. Again, it’s like a different year all together. Especially the way Slater, Screech and Lisa end up coming in there. They don’t talk as though a few days had passed. It’s like a brand new year.
We know this is likely to sort of make up for the whole “Kelly and Jessie being absent” deal. I assume that because they could not get the actresses on for another year, but they were still a season or two short of a reasonable high school period of time, they needed to do more episodes. While I did not watch at the time these episodes were shown for the first time, I also assume that they held some of the senior episodes of Kelly and Jessie until later on, as they were shown along with the episodes with Tori. I conclude that because in looking online at the episode list, they’re all mixed together. Of course, in the Tori episodes, Jessie and Kelly are never mentioned.
So I assume that we saw some of Kelly and Jessie, they threw some Tori episodes in and then went back to the Kelly and Jessie episodes they filmed the previous year to complete that season.
With all that being said, it still confuses me as to why it seemed like senior year started two separate times. The second time was of course a flashback to the “Malibu Sands” period, which further adds to the confusion. The “Malibu Sands” episodes were shown before the “fight” episode. But in the flashback episode, Zack makes it clear that Malibu Sands just ended, rather than more than a year ago, as was the case in real life.
Was this another of the MANY instances where they just thought we wouldn’t notice?
10. Last, But Not Least…The GARBAGE Tribute to “Screech” in the Reboot
Of course we know that Dustin Diamond died early last year. While it’s great that the Saved by the Bell reboot did pay tribute to him after his death, I just cannot stand how the gang spoke of Screech before the video montage of his moments from the original series.
I call it “garbage” because as they’re all in their 40s now, they still talked about Screech like they were in high school with the insults. It was like the producers just have bullying tendencies. It seemed pointless for them to still poke fun at Screech at that point.
Screech did a LOT of nice things for just about everyone in the group. They could have at least focused on those times, rather than his weirdness. It was like they threw something together just to say they did it.
For example, Lisa stated that she was “still mad that Screech beat her in the Miss Bayside Pageant.” Really, Lisa? You don’t remember that that ENTIRE thing was Zack’s doing? Screech wanted no part of any of it. Zack was just trying to win a bet against Slater. And even with Zack lying his ass off (as usual) just to get Screech to win and when it looked like Screech was actually going to, Screech stood on stage and pleaded with the audience not to vote for him, KNOWING the school would never win “Miss High School California” if he were to advance. He even POINTS TO LISA, KELLY AND THE OTHER FINALIST and says to the crowd, “Any one of these girls would be better.”
Then he wins and Lisa and Kelly are still mad at him, NOT ZACK as they should be. I guess Lisa’s “I lost to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Dork” was just SO funny that the producers could NOT let it pass.
How about when Screech turned down valedictorian in favor of Jessie? They couldn’t talk about that?
How about when Kelly needed help in science so she could go to the George Michael concert? She was up in Screech’s room as he tutored her, and when any other guy in the school (to include Zack, as he proved multiple times) would have been inappropriate with Kelly, Screech was all gentleman and stayed focused on the schoolwork. Even when it looked like they were getting close, Screech didn’t lose his mind over it. Then when Kelly got a good grade on the science test and wanted to take Screech, Screech could have lied and said he liked George Michael just to get the date with Kelly, but he was honest with her, saying he didn’t care for George Michael. They realized they have nothing in common, and Screech is the one who steps away.
And Lisa, damn…hasn’t she been mean enough to him over the years? Especially since after Screech and Zack almost fought because of Zack and Lisa’s kiss, and Lisa was finally honest with him (not being ridiculously mean) about them never becoming an item. Screech left her alone after that and they were on better terms after that.
Here’s something else I noticed about Screech during the series. There were three occasions where Lisa expressed interest in someone (Eric in the “Wicked Stepbrother” episode, Brian in the “Date Auction” episode, and Darren, the freshman Lisa unknowingly invites to the senior party), and during those episodes, Screech did NOT bother with her. I don’t know if that was intentional, but Screech did not come after her AT ALL when those guys were in the picture. Maybe that was just Screech’s personality, but I found that interesting. Which also makes me curious as to why Lisa never lied about having a boyfriend just to get Screech to stop bothering with her, since it was clear that he had enough class not to when she was interested in someone.
You may say that Screech did NOT respond the same way when Zack and Lisa kissed. Well can’t we all understand why?
As for Zack, Screech was the butt of his schemes since the beginning of damn time. Zack couldn’t have shown some love over Screech being there for him as he had so faithfully been?
In the episode where Zack dresses as a girl to meet Screech, at one point, he (as “Bambi”) says that to become an item, “she” had conditions; two of which Screech had no problem meeting, but the third condition, “getting rid of his friend Zack Morris,” Screech mentioned that Zack treats him like garbage, but he’s still his friend, and not giving him up for anyone. So Zack could not shout him out for that loyalty?
The only thing the gang mentioned was the beauty pageant, Screech getting hit by lightning and that was it. Jessie said “He was so funny,” but that was all. It seemed rushed beyond belief. But it was cool that “Max” and Screech’s robot “Kevin” were there.
I understand that Dustin was pretty nasty to all of them with his book and many did not want much to do with him after that. But this was about “Screech,” right? They couldn’t have given him just a little bit more than something that felt like it was thrown together at the last minute? The characters were all pretty mean to him so often, so it was very strange to see them still try and force it now. A bunch of adults pushing 50, and still gossiping about someone from high school that they considered as their friend, no less, doing all this after he passes away.
Well, there you have it. Let me know what you think. What are some elements of Saved by the Bell that just don’t sit well with you?