Obscure television trivia: Judge David Johnson was cast to play Mr. Belding's illegitimate son, but held out for more money and the character was nixed.
Our reviews of Saved By The Bell: Hawaiian Style / Wedding In Las Vegas (published August 15th, 2007) and Saved By The Bell: Seasons One And Two (published September 15th, 2003) are also available.
Kelly: Can we still be friends?
In the early nineties a television show came along that offered groundbreaking insight into the day-to-day lives of teenagers, from the heartache of fractured relationships to the pressures of narcotics to the unending quest for identity. Enough about My So-Called Life.
What about the real hard-hitting issues that so many high school students have to face? Like solving a murder mystery? Dating the princess of an Eastern European country? Dealing with the petty jealousy and bickering that threatened your superstar rock band?
For this, my friends, turn away from the documentaries and the after-school specials, and gaze deep into the halls of Bayside, where spun were tales of the trials and triumphs and tragedies of the six kids from Saved by the Bell.
Facts of the Case
Bayside is a seemingly sprawling high school on the West Coast, but surprisingly, once one enters the building, it's pretty damn tiny. Comprised of only one hallway, a small gym, one multi-purpose classroom (that rotates between English, Art, Science, and Driver's Ed), a stairway that leads to nowhere, an oft-rumored but never shown pool, and a principal's office with no secretary, BHS is a miracle of educational engineering.
Despite its obvious cramped conditions, Bayside boasts the most activities of any institution, anywhere, ever. With either a BIG DANCE or a BIG GAME or a veritable smorgasbord of extracurricular activities (date auctions, radio telethons, wheelchair basketball games, ROTC obstacle courses, sock hops, girls-versus-boys competitions) happening every week, Bayside sports more social events than all the Six Flags theme parks combined. Which is good, because its student body is insatiable. And by "student body," I of course mean "the six friends that are involved in everything." So let us now meet our cast of characters, shall we?
Zack AKA "Token
Slater AKA "Token Jock"
Screech AKA "Token Nerd"
Kelly AKA "The Token Cheerleader"
Jesse AKA "The Token Feminist/Sophisticate"
Lisa AKA "The Token Minority"
Here we have our six chums, ready to embark on two more years of high school hilarity, their adventures chronicled on this four disc-set, covering seasons three and four of Saved by the Bell.
Out of Saved by the Bell's storied run, the seasons contained on these discs hold the, shall we say, "experimental" episodes. Here, the writers deviated a bit from the bubblegum and romance formula they rode to the bank in previous years and mixed things up a bit. For some of you SBTB fans, the diversionary trips to the mall, Palm Springs, and the surreal Zack Attack rockumentary may offer a refreshing change of pace to the one-set locales of Bayside; or they may strike you as utterly contrived and pointless. Oh, and for all you who are apathetic or flat-out loathe Zack and the gang, I'd guess you would just as soon solder your toes together than watch any of this. As for me—I love them all.
You see, folks, I'm what is called a "Saved by the Bell Connoisseur." This can also be translated as a "humongous moron." Fair enough. Whether it was the fact the show was (and still is) ubiquitous—always on a cable station all the time—or maybe I was just a bored young man, I have absorbed hours and hours and hours of the show. I know there are others out there just like me. (You may just have the dignity not to admit this to your friends and loved ones; it's like a depraved cult you were involved with when you were a teen and now you don't want anyone to know about it—I understand.)
As such I'd consider myself a "purist," meaning I dig only the show as it ran during the NBC Saturday lineup and with the original cast. The previous incarnation, originally titled Good Morning Miss Bliss was a yawn-inducer. The "College Years," NBC's misguided stab at bringing Zack and company to prime-time, suffered from similar, sophomoric writing and a blatantly over-exuberant audience. The oft-retooled Saved by the Bell: The New Class sucked many, many times over, no matter how many casting shuffles were made.
Yes, I know the show was cheesy. Yes, I know the show has not aged well. Yes, I know Screech needs to be placekicked through the Bayside gridiron. For whatever reason—perhaps too much mercury in the water—Saved by the Bell was compulsively watchable. It's a phenomenon that can't be described in any kind of empirical attempt. In fact, on paper, SBTB holds all the draw of a canker sore, but draw me it did.
Now seasons three and four are here, and contained within are some of the most memorable episodes ever. Let's take a look at some highlights:
"The Fabulous Belding Boys"
"Breaking Up is Hard to Undo"
"The Last Dance"
"The Wicked Stepbrother, Parts 1 and 2"
"Palm Springs, Parts 1 and 2"
"No Hope With Dope"
"A Home for Christmas, Parts 1 and 2"
A bounty of delights in this set, and a must certainly for any fan. Lions Gate delivers an okay presentation. The packaging is bright and catchy, but there is no handy-dandy informative inset. The picture quality leaves a bit to be desired. The reruns on television actually look brighter to me. The stereo mix is typical TV-show transfer stuff, functional and that's it.
What the set really lacks is substantial bonus materials. There are commentaries strewn about, and those are interesting enough, but they're all done by cast members who are obviously hard-up for work. Dustin Diamond (Screech), Lark Voorhies (Lisa), and Dennis Haskins (Mr. Belding) supply the tracks. They are joined by producer Peter Engel once in a while. Mainly the commentaries consist of Voorhies falling silent, Diamond doing his best to illuminate and entertain, and Haskins basically creeping the heck out of everybody. At one point, during the Fake I.D.'s commentary, he notes how the girls have started to develop cleavage. The awkward silence that follows is worth the price of the set itself. Unfortunately, these commentaries are it. No featurettes or documentaries. Bolstered with the fairly bare-bones packaging, it's obvious the studio felt the three or four extra buyers drawn to lots of special features didn't validate the effort to drum some up.
Over a decade old, but Saved by the Bell certainly retains that Saturday morning cheese-ball vibe. This set has all the must-haves, but with the lack of bonus materials, Lions Gate has made it clear this is for fans only.
Hey, I dig it…but I might be deranged. Class dismissed.
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