Welcome to Back to School week on SnarkSquad.com. We’ll be recapping the pilot episodes of a few high-school-themed shows- shows that teach us super valuable life lessons.
Lorraine: When Saved by the Bell premiered in 1989, I was about to turn three years old. Through the magic of syndication, however, I can confess that I’ve seen every. single. episode that ever was. I’m not sure what this says about me, but Saved by the Bell was as much a part of childhood as climbing trees was.
LOL. JUST KIDDING! I never climbed any trees.
Sweeney: I watched the show occasionally in syndication, and felt like I knew so much about the show because of its general pop culture legacy, but re-watching it made me realize how little I actually knew. (And how desperately this needs to be corrected.)
Lor: I should probably also mention that I’ve decided to ignore Good Morning Miss Bliss and start with the retooled version of the show.
A school bell rings and here comes the theme song, which you know. I weirdly cannot find a decent version of it on Youtube, but that’s okay because you know it. Stop pretending. You know it. The opening credits are the epitome of early 90’s cheese. There’s all sorts of clashing colors and patterns, some high top sneakers, a plastic flamingo flying by (?) and some board shorts (?). The credits also offer such character fashions as a Cosby sweater, a curly mullet, Dustin Diamond in Michael Jackson-esque garb and jean jackets like woah.
Sweeney: And this music is ridiculous levels of fun. If hearing it doesn’t make you wanted to bounce around, you probably hate happiness.
Lor: We open the episode at The Max, with a lot of tragically dressed youth bopping around to music. 90’s bopping is still, to this day, my favorite kind of dancing. Read: never take me out dancing.
Sweeney: Correction: this means that we should absolutely go out dancing.
Lor: My kind of lady.
The owner of The Max, Max, comes out and stops the juke box because he just got a TELEGRAM. YOU GUYS, A TELEGRAM. The telegram(!!) is announcing some big dance show competition being hosted at The Max for the kids from Bayside. The telegram(!!) is signed by Casey Kasem. I mostly know the name Casey Kasem thanks to Saved by the Bell. For those of you still looking at the screen like, “WHO?” he is a radio personality and voiced Shaggy in Scooby Doo. Also, he’s currently 80 years old.
Sweeney: I’m so bewildered by the whole telegram thing. I’m trying to figure out if this means that I thought telegrams ceased to be relevant earlier than they did or if this show is older than I thought. In any event, telegram(!!) deserves that punctuation for sure.
Lor: Telegrams always remind me of Mad Men.
ANYWAYS, I’m not even going to pretend I don’t know who these characters are. AC Slater (Mario Lopez) and Kelly Kapowski (Tiffany Amber Theissen) get up and grab the telegram(!!) from Max. Kelly’s all COOOOOL, and Slater suggests they enter together and win. Let’s mention that Slater’s shirt reminds me of a onsie and Kelly has a scrunchie on the side of her shirt:
Zach Morris (Mark Paul Gosselaar) stands up too and makes a crack about Slater’s feet needing training wheels. Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) is so excited. Sorry, no, wrong episode, I couldn’t help it. (S: Fair.) She says that winning doesn’t matter and dance is about having fun.
Sweeney: Says people who lose stuff.
Lor: Kelly would love to go with both guys, but Slater suggests that maybe his dimples are the size of craters on the face of the moon. OH SORRY, WHAT? Damn, I apologize, those dimples are distracting as hell. He actually suggests that perhaps Kelly just go with the best dancer. He says, “hit it!” and there is someone conveniently near the juke box who is all, “I will now hit it.” Living in the TV must be awesome. Mario Lopez dances.
Sweeney: Growing up with 90’s television has left me constantly yelling out orders that are never followed. I keep hoping…
Lor: You and me both.
Everyone claps, and for the first time ever, I notice that Zach is doing a “woop-dee-freakin’-doo” finger twirl in the background. Some part of me feels as if this small, sarcastic reaction validates my entire early life crush on him.
Sweeney: As it should. Also, he has an epic super power. (his awesome monologues that freeze time, if you don’t feel like dedicating seven minutes of your life to watching this)
Lor: Kelly proclaims Slater’s dancing “hot” and Zach says he is totally better, but doesn’t actually demonstrate for us. It is determined that there will be a later dance-off… off. Thing.
During this time, Screech (Dustin Diamond) enters the frame. He tells Lisa (Lark Voorhies) that his horoscope says they are destined to dance together. Lisa snits, “my horoscope says, ‘beware of dorks.'”
And so we’ve met all the character tropes: the jock, the hot girl, the funny man, the square, the dork and the fashionable bitch.
Sweeney: Life is so much simpler in a world where people can be nicely categorized like this.
Lor: A so called “Danny” comes over to ask Jessie to the dance contest. She seems enthused but then stands up, revealing she’s got a few inches on poor, vertically challenged Danny. She soon takes her “I love to dance!” back and basically says she has to wash her hair. Danny suggests just skipping the dancing and going straight to the kissing. Jessie Spano doesn’t believe in kissing.
Sweeney: At least not with short guys. Nowhere near as gross as fat people or poor people, but definitely on the “undesirables” list.
Lor: As Vertically Challenged Danny retreats, Zach turns to the camera and breaks the fourth wall, which as Sweeney mentioned, is part of his super power. What I wouldn’t give for life time out, every now and then, right?
In the girl’s locker room, Jessie is freaking out because she’s “grown an inch since lunch.” Probably not, girlfriend, but whatever. Kelly and Lisa make “everyone looks up to you” and “practice your slam dunk” jokes while I’m distracted by how short these gym shorts are. You know you’re getting old when you run a website where you watch old TV shows and you have to comment on the length of everyone’s skirt or shorts.
Sweeney: We have a #hosuspension quota to meet.
Lor: Music class, where I almost called bullshit on all the cool kids being in band, before I thought maybe there was a better time when music programs were cherished and not being unceremoniously cut from our education system. ANYWAYS, music class. This scene seriously gave me #punny whiplash. I both felt so sorry for my younger self and very much understood why I used to love this: all of the puns. The music teacher explains that he has has to watch over two classes today because contrivance called and said so. No, really, because a teacher slipped and fell into a tuba. Har, har. Slater says something about “fat Tommy” blowing her out, because apparently even in Saved by the Bell, we hate fat people.
Sweeney: There is no fictional universe too wholesome to hate fat people.
Lor: They all start playing a piece by Bach, pretty badly, until the teacher steps out to go check on his other class. They pick up the pace, and fake play their instruments shamefully. Teacher comes back in, they slow down. Teacher leaves again, they speed up. Jessie gets up to dance (also, this exists) (OMG so does this) and Vertically Challenged Danny stands up to dance with her and she’s all, “ew. Shortie” and sits down again.
Later that night, Zach is climbing in Jessie’s window to her room. Now I have to add Saved by the Bell to the list of things that taught us that climbing in a girl’s window is okay, and thus desensitized a generation to Edward Cullen being a fucking creeper. (S: It never ceases to amaze me just how long this list is.) Zach asks Jessie to help him, because he can’t dance and he’s been “faking it for years.” He demonstrates his best moves for us, Jessie says he should go with Screech, and we’re ushered into commercial break by the Horns of Jazzy First World Problems.
We see Mr. Belding sitting at his desk. I’m more familiar with Mr. Belding’s office than I am with any principal’s office of any school I actually attended. 90’s kid WIN. Casey Kasem walks in saying, “Mr. Belding, I’m Casey Kasem.” Uh, thanks for the intro. The laugh track becomes the screaming girls and applause track. Mr. Belding is sort of ridiculous and it makes me a little sad. He also does the twist in this scene, as he assumes Casey is there to include him in dance party hosting duties. Nope. Casey just needs a school banner.
Sweeney: Life is kind of sad for non-negligent adults. I’m starting to understand why so many fictional adults choose negligence.
Lor: Kelly asks Zach when he’s going to have the dance-off with Slater because she wants to know who her dance partner is going to be. Zach sets the date for two days and also feeds Kelly a line about being in dance camp every summer, while the other kids were busy playing baseball. Kelly gets excited, because so far her job has been to look (90’s teased hair) cute and to say WOW a lot.
Zach wonders why he lied about dance camp. Oh, you know. Because he’s a liar. Let’s just all be honest with our adults selves right now and admit that Zach Morris was pretty much a big, fat liar.
Sweeney: They recycled the shit out of this as a plot, too. Zach lies. Zach creates problems for himself with his lies. He wonders why he does this. Hijinks ensue. Zach “learns his lesson.” LOLBUTNOTREALLY, repeat.
Lor: Screech comes waltzing in with a doll, and I almost made a blow-up doll joke until I remembered that Dustin Diamond actually has a sex tape, right? And ladies and gentlemen, we have today’s Questionable Google Search of the Day. (S: WAS THIS REALLY NECESSARY?) Screech and his doll dance around a bit, trying to impress Lisa. Unfortunately, Lisa already said she’d go to the dance with some other dude. Screech is sad.
That night in Jessie’s room, Zach’s dancing is looking a little better. Jessie says she’s invented a new move. I’d love to describe it for you, but I tried and I came up with, “a cross to the front and a cross to the back and a hop, hop, hop” and that’s not very descriptive at all, is it? Zach does the move but then gets a little over confident and ends up flipping over the bed. I’d chuckle, but I’m once again distracted. This time by a GIANT HAIR CLIP that is smack dab right on top of Jessie’s head.
Zach asks Jessie why she isn’t going to be in the dance contest. She says, “I don’t want to talk about it!” but we’re treated to a day dream AND OMG, YOU GUYS REMEMBER ALL THE SbtB DAYDREAMS?? Even the way it bubble fades in magenta makes me feel all nostalgia-y. So, in her day dream, some boy I’m not entirely sure is Vertically Challenged Danny, but who is equally vertically challenged, asks Jessie to dance. She says she can’t because she’s bigger than him and “still growing at this very moment.” She gets taller no sooner than she finishes that sentence. Two more boys ask her to dance, and each time she gets taller.
Jessie snaps out of the daydream and tells Zach her problem is that she’s too tall. When Zach says that no one’s been measuring her lately, Jessie puns that it’s ’cause no one can reach her. She has a mini-wah fest about being a freak. Zach tries to comfort her but Jessie asks him to name one guy taller than her. “Kareem Abdul Jabbar,” he says with a shrug?
Boys locker room, Screech is trying to comb his Jew-fro and OMG the boys’ shorts are just as short as the girls’ shorts!!! WOAH. I’m not even going to pretend to know what happened in this scene because Mario Lopez sits on a bench really close to the camera in his shorty-shorts and I watched his thigh jiggle and then I was uncomfortably aware of his package on my screen. Moving on.
Zach shows up at Jessie’s house again for his final dance lesson. This episode is about 20 minutes long and I swear to you the break down is something like 13 minutes of dancing sequences, 4 minutes of puns, 2 minutes of laugh track and 1 minute of Jazzy Horns. So, Zach and Jessie dance.
Cut to school the next day as Lisa makes her away down the hall on crutches. Lisa explains to the gang that she kicked the TV because Revlon discontinued her favorite nail polish. Guys, I’m a nail polish collector (200+) so it is with full love of laquer that I say: she deserves to be on crutches. Lisa’s date comes up and says he really wants to win the competition so he’s going to dump her in favor of his back-up date. Zach gets defensive and threatens to pants the guy, which is a weird way to threaten someone. But, it is an adorable depiction of the type of group-dynamic-friendship I thought came naturally with going to high school. (Ha.)
When Kelly asks Zach to dance for her, so she can choose between him and Slater, Jessie cutely mocks Kelly’s hair flip. It’s great that all my favorite moments in this episode so far have been the sarcastic, mocking ones. Great, but probably not a surprise. This impresses Zach too, because he decides to ask Jessie to the dance instead, and she accepts. He nicely tells her not to slouch either, because she’s much prettier when she stands up straight.
It’s the dance party night. After some blah-blah-blah and a quick cut, we get to Casey Kasem announcing the top three finalists. The first are Kelly and Slater aka -get this- the Spandex Twins.
Have we ever given out a male #hosuspension?
Sweeney: It seems appropriate that he’d be the first, no?
Lor: Absolutely. I mean, just look at that spandex.
So, Kelly and Mario Lopez’s package dance.
Next up are “The Powerhouse Preppies” Jessie and Zach. Mostly Zach stands around Jessie as she dances.
Lastly are Lisa and Screech, because of course all our main characters are finalists, and they’ve “invented a new dance called the sprain.” Also known around these parts, since the dawn of time really, as hopping.
And so, of course, they win the dance competition with their rhythmic hopping. The end.
I feel like I’ve learned a lot in 20 minutes and this mostly goes back to never taking me out dancing. Oh, what? Back to School lessons? Not dance lessons? Okay:
1.) When in doubt, lie! Sure, shenanigans will ensue, but I’m sure you have fluffy hair and are lovable. You’ll get away with it for sure.
2.) Don’t be short.
3.) Most importantly, what the first episode of Saved by the Bell has taught us about back to school, is a lesson we cherish around here: forget school, bring on the dances. If TV, books and movies are to be believed, everything happens at dances anyways, and there’s one practically every week, so you’ll have prime time to solve all of you first world problems, self esteem issues, and social rank concerns, to the sound of a upbeat music. If you’re lucky, there might even be spandex. Back to school? Not so great. Back to school dances? Yes please!