I was the right age for Saved by the Bell.
I still remember being on a vacation, riding up on a trip from Florida, when the NBC series first premiered. Daily reruns on TBS were an always-scheduled part of my day in my high school years in addition to watching the new episodes when they’d drop on Saturday mornings. I am of the age to have once thought Zack Morris was cool. I graduated high school only two years after Zack, Kelly, Slater, Screech, Jessie and Lisa did. I even came in second place in a Saved by the Bell trivia contest that people were actually flown in for!
I recall, at age 16 or so, having a phone conversation with a friend the night the Saved by the Bell: The College Years series finale aired — where we both thought this was the last we would ever see of these characters…. little did we know that a “Wedding in Las Vegas” was on the way. I still can’t believe that Saved by the Bell: The New Class was on as long as it was. So, with Peacock premiering a new Saved by the Bell tomorrow (November 25)… I was, of course, going to have an opinion.
And that opinion is…. it’s great!
I’d imagine that the feeling I had when watching episodes of Peacock’s Saved by the Bell is similar to how fans of The Brady Bunch felt when The Brady Bunch Movie came out…. it skewers some of the most absurd parts of SBTB while at the same time being very loving about it. In the years since the show aired, we’ve admitted that Zack Morris was trash, and if you’re okay with that conceit, you’ll definitely be good for this show.
The pilot episode begins with a narration from Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), much like the original episodes did. We get a recap of where he’s been all these years and immediately they go in with a pop culture reference aimed at a certain audience. Younger people might not get it, but oh yes, we did. Zack is now Governor of California, and he thinks his schemes, which don’t benefit everyone, will make him slide right through. Spoiler: Not all of his ideas are good, and now because of him, schools are closing. The solution? Send some kids from a not-so-nice area to the fancy-schmancy Bayside High. And bam, you have a show!
This time around, instead of a blond-haired white boy, the lead character is a Latinx female named Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez). She’s one of the students new to Bayside, and she’s the “entry character” for a lot of people. It’s interesting to me as well; I have a younger friend who recently watched the original Saved by the Bell for the first time, and I feel characters like Daisy point out the ridiculousness of the world of Bayside and answer many of the issues one might have had with the original show. At the school, she meets characters such as chip-off-the-old-block Mac Morris (Mitchell Hoog), Jamie Spano (Belmont Cameli), and Lexi (Josie Totah), with the latter really stealing the show with every scene she is in. Mac’s “charms” don’t work on her… at least not yet. Jamie Spano is probably exactly what you’d expect from an overprotective mother like Jessie (Elizabeth Berkley Lauren)… even though that image is different from when you first see him. Daisy’s best friend Aisha () has different reactions from Daisy about this new environment… and that’s part of the fun.
Another great thing about this series actually is the aspect of not judging books by covers. One of the new characters, Devante (Dexter Darden), may have a destiny which is not necessarily the one A.C. Slater (the returning Mario Lopez) may expect. Josie Totah’s real life transitional journey is echoed in her Lexi character, and what I really appreciated there is that I know this version of the show will be sensitive enough that if her male crush finds out, I don’t think the story will be treated offensively at all. At least, that is my hope.
There are aspects of this new Saved by the Bell that are also pretty surreal. It’s fun to see the familiar Bayside hallway but now we get to see what is around the corner! Seeing Tiffani Theissen as “Kelly Morris” all grown up and married to Zack (and still married to him 20+ years later) is also something I don’t think I expected to see. It’s obvious there is a lot of love for SBTB lore in this show — at times you will be like “why would they reference this? That episode was a dream sequence!” and then the characters will say the exact same thing. Tracy Wigfield, who developed this new version of Saved by the Bell, also created and produced the series Great News which deserved far more attention than it got, including some great performances from folks like John Michael Higgins who plays the principal in this iteration. (And I hate to repeat myself, but he, too, is a joy.)
Longtime Saved by the Bell fans will enjoy seeing characters like Max (Ed Alonzo) or Mr. Dewey (Patrick Thomas O’Brien) again, and there is even an episode here Lisa (Lark Voorhies) makes an appearance! The show also cleverly includes clips from the original series from time to time. So far, I have seen about half of the episodes, and I can say that the only time I’ve seen Screech or heard him referenced is the new opening titles, and Mr. Belding gets at least one shout-out. Me? I’m still holding out for appearances by Mikey, Nikki, and Miss Bliss. It might be interesting to note that as far as I can tell, Saved by the Bell: The New Class is excised from the canon — the principal’s office is back to where it was on the original seasons of the show, and at least in what I watched, there are no references to “Tommy D,” Weasel, or any of those other characters that populated that multi-season revolving door of a sequel series.
But seriously. If you liked Saved by the Bell, you very well may enjoy this new version. And if you didn’t… there’s plenty in this series for you to chew on. Personally speaking, I can’t picture a better version of this new show – it is in capable and loving hands. It may have taken decades to get Saved by the Bell back, but it’s worth the wait. Look for it on Peacock November 25.