Saved by the Bell is an American television sitcom that aired on NBC from 1989 to 1993. The series was a retool of the Disney Channel series Good Morning, Miss Bliss. The show follows the exploits of a group of friends and their principal, and although the series primarily showcases light-hearted comedic situations, it occasionally touches on serious social issues, such as drug use, driving under the influence, homelessness, divorce, death, and environmental issues. This made Saved by the Bell a precursor to later shows (such as Beverly Hills, 90210, Dawson's Creek, and The O.C.) that introduce young audiences to critical moral dilemmas.
Saved by the Bell stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Dustin Diamond, Lark Voorhies, Dennis Haskins, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley, and Mario Lopez.
Saved by the Bell was named one of the "20 Best School Shows of All Time" by AOL TV. The show's popularity spawned two spin-off series to follow: Saved by the Bell: The College Years (1993–94), a prime time series that follows several of the original characters to college, and Saved by the Bell: The New Class (1993–2000), a Saturday morning series that follows a new group of students at Bayside High School. The series also spawned two TV movies and a short-lived comic book series.Saved by the Bell also aired in Australia on Channel Seven, and from 1990 until 2004 on Nickelodeon. Reruns have aired in local syndication and on TBS, MTV2 and E!.
Good Morning, Miss Bliss
Saved by the Bell originated as an NBC pilot entitled Good Morning, Miss Bliss, which was inspired by NBC president Brandon Tartikoff's childhood teachers. When NBC decided not to pick up the series, the Disney Channel agreed to air the series for one season. The original intention was for teacher Miss Bliss, played by Hayley Mills, to be the main character. The characters Zack Morris, Samuel "Screech" Powers, Lisa Turtle, and Mr Richard Belding all originated on this series; other main characters, including classmates Nikki Coleman (Heather Hopper), Mikey Gonzalez (Max Battimo), and maintenance supervisor Mylo Williams (T. K. Carter), were discontinued when the show changed direction. Jaleel White, Brian Austin Green, and Jonathan Brandis all had roles in the pilot episode.
When the show was dropped by Disney after 13 episodes, the rights were acquired by NBC, which decided to revamp the series as Saved by the Bell (Executive Producer Peter Engel originally wanted the show to be called When the Bell Rings, but Tartikoff convinced him to go with the title Saved by the Bell.)
NBC rebirth – Saved by the Bell
As Saved by the Bell, the focus of the show shifted toward the exploits of the students themselves, and Zack Morris became the show's lead character. Three of the teens from the original cast—Gosselaar, Diamond, and Voorhies—remained on the show, playing the same characters as they had in Good Morning, Miss Bliss, and Haskins also stayed on as Mr. Belding. However, the setting was changed from Indianapolis, Indiana, to the fictional "Bayside High School" in the Palisades in Los Angeles, California. The two students dropped from the original series were replaced by three new additions. Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Thiessen) and Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) were introduced as longtime friends of the original three characters, and A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) rounded out the group as the new transfer student. Max (Ed Alonzo), the proprietor of the local restaurant hangout, The Max, was also a cast member in early episodes.
After the show's second season, NBC sold the series into syndication with the Good Morning, Miss Bliss episodes included to pad out the syndication package, despite the plot-continuity problems and production changes. The Good Morning, Miss Bliss episodes were edited to include openings to match the Saved by the Bell episodes. These episodes are sometimes billed as Saved by the Bell: The Junior High Years. Before each of the earlier episodes, Mark-Paul Gosselaar provided in-character commentaries explaining that the episodes occurred in "junior high".
The show performed extremely well for NBC and quickly became the highest-rated show on Saturday mornings. At the height of its popularity, the cast did road tours to malls and other public venues, where they interacted with fans and signed autographs. The show's popularity on Saturday morning led NBC to shift from airing mainly cartoons to more live-action, teen-oriented shows (California Dreams, Hang Time, etc.) under the TNBC banner.
In the show's final season, NBC doubled the number of episodes ordered, despite needing to re-sign the entire cast to new contracts in order to film the extra episodes. Thiessen and Berkley refused to sign a new contract for these new episodes, resulting in a block of episodes that feature a new character, Tori Scott (Leanna Creel), in Thiessen's and Berkley's places.
The final episode of the series aired in prime time on May 22, 1993. The episode, which featured the cast graduating from high school, was filmed before Thiessen and Berkley left the show, and no mention is made of Tori Scott. The series finale was followed by a special airing of the Saved by the Bell: The College Years pilot episode, setting up the next phase of the characters' lives.
Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is a charming schemer who often opens episodes by breaking the fourth wall and addressing the viewers. He sometimes temporarily freezes all of the characters around him by calling "Time out!" and discussing with the viewers what his next plan of action will be before calling "Time in!", unfreezing the characters as they were. Zack's schemes always seem to backfire, resulting in unexpected outcomes and chaos.
Zack's best friends since grade school include Lisa Turtle, next-door neighbor Jessie Spano, and Samuel "Screech" Powers. Transfer student A.C. Slater initially enters the scene as Zack's rival for the affections of Kelly Kapowski, though the two eventually work their way up to being best friends. (Zack is often referred to as "Preppy" by Slater.)
Despite Zack's playboy persona, his main love interest is Kelly; they have an on-again, off-again relationship throughout the series' run.
Zack's father is a hotshot computer salesman who was played by two different actors. His mother is a kind, overly-permissive homemaker. Upon graduation, Zack is slated to go to Yale because he scores 1502 on the SAT, the highest of the gang (despite his slacker reputation), but he ultimately attends Cal U. with Slater, Screech, and Kelly.
Kelly (Tiffani Thiessen, then known as Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) is a cheerleader and has been described by creator Peter Engel as the quintessential "All-American Girl". She serves as the love interest for both Zack and Slater in the first season, forming a love triangle between the three; but it is Zack who eventually wins her heart and ends up marrying her. Much of the show's storylines revolve around their on-again/off-again relationship.
Considered the most popular girl in school, Kelly is very kind and also has a squeaky clean reputation. Despite this, she did have to serve a couple of detentions.
Initially, Kelly was not a member of the show's core clique. At times, Kelly and Jessie argue due to their differences, such as Jessie believing that cheerleading is demeaning to women (although Jessie herself is a cheerleader in several episodes). Kelly is on the volleyball, cheerleading, and swim teams and is also a trained lifeguard. Zack has been obsessively in love with Kelly for years, as evidenced by a life-size poster of her in his bedroom. His pursuit of Kelly leads to her joining the gang.
Upon graduation, Kelly does not have enough money for college, so she attends community college. She later transfers to Cal U. with Zack, Slater, and Screech.
Both Elizabeth Berkley and Thiessen, as well as Jennie Garth, auditioned for the role of Kelly Kapowski. Thiessen and Garth later worked together on Beverly Hills, 90210.
Lisa (Lark Voorhies) is trendy and talkative. She is the clique's fashion expert and the gossip queen of Bayside High. She comes from a wealthy family; her father and mother are surgeons.
Originally, Lisa's character was written to be multi-ethnic (of Caucasian and Jewish descent); however, Voorhies aced the audition and was given the role. Because of her upbringing, Lisa always has access to the latest fashions and knows when something is "in" and when it is not. Like Jessie and Screech, Lisa has been Zack's friend since grade school, and some episodes hinted that she harbored a small crush on him. Lisa's goal is to become a world famous fashion designer (Voorhies later played fashion designer Jasmine Malone on The Bold and the Beautiful). For the majority of the gang's years at Bayside, one of the running gags was Screech's fruitless attempts to woo Lisa. While his romantic feelings for her are never returned and often rejected with insults and jokes, eventually she realizes she has developed a soft spot for Screech and even attends the Bayside Senior Prom with him. Upon graduation and after a successful fashion show, Lisa was accepted into the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Samuel "Screech" Powers
Screech (Dustin Diamond) is the nerd of the group. Screech has tagged along with Zack since they were in elementary school and is extremely loyal to him. In exchange for doing Zack's homework and being roped into Zack's various schemes, Screech receives protection from school bullies and a general boost in his confidence; but Zack's affection for Screech is evident in spite of this. Screech is very comfortable with his geekiness and even fancies himself a "ladies' man". The rest of the gang affectionately humors Screech for his eccentricities (e.g., hiding in his locker, wearing extremely loud and mismatched clothes, and obsessing over science and chess).
A recurring storyline in the series is his unrequited love for Lisa Turtle. During the series, Screech briefly has a girlfriend named Violet (Tori Spelling); it was never revealed why they broke up. Kelly also dates Screech in an episode from the first season as a token of thanks for helping her study for a science test. In several early episodes of the series, Screech has an anthropomorphized robot named Kevin, which he programs. Screech is the class valedictorian but gives that title to Jessie, as he knows how much it means to her. However, Jessie learns what Screech has done for her and returns the honor on graduation day. Screech is accepted to many colleges, although he is rejected from an all-women's school that is his number one choice. He chooses to go to the fictional Cal U. after graduation and shares a dormitory suite with Zack, Slater, and Kelly. Screech is also the only character to appear as a series regular in every incarnation of Saved by the Bell. He joins The New Class as an aide to Mr Belding.
A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez)—better known simply as "Slater"—is the jock of the group. As an army brat, he was an outsider, having transferred to Bayside in the first episode (which aired later as a flashback episode). Slater mentions that he has been to Bolivia, Italy, Iceland, and Berlin among other places. He becomes the school's star athlete, excelling as a wrestler and the quarterback of the football team. He is on the basketball team in one episode, even though the basketball season coincides with the wrestling season. Slater was originally written as Zack's rival for Kelly's affection before becoming Zack's best friend in season two. Slater develops an attraction to strong-willed feminist Jessie Spano (a running gag throughout the series is Jessie constantly bickering with Slater over his insensitive, chauvinistic remarks about women, referring to him as a "pig").
He refers to Zack as "Preppy" and when he starts dating Jessie, calls her "Mama". Lopez is a drummer and dancer and some episodes include Slater showcasing these "hidden talents". His father (a Major) appears in two episodes, but his mother never appears, though mentioned throughout the series. He also has a younger sister named JB whom Zack briefly dates, much to Slater's chagrin. In the season four episode "Love Machine", his ex-girlfriend from Berlin, Jenifer, visits and calls him by his real name, "Albert Clifford"; but the meaning of the abbreviation "A.C." periodically served as comedic fodder during the show's run.
The issue of Slater's ethnicity is addressed in an episode from The College Years, where it is revealed that 25 years earlier Slater's father changed his last name from Sanchez to Slater so he could get into the military academy. Although the episode reveals that Slater does not fluently understand Spanish, he is seen speaking broken Spanish to the kitchen staff of the Malibu Sands Beach club. Slater receives a wrestling scholarship to the University of Iowa, but ends up going to Cal U. with Zack, Screech, and Kelly.
Jessica Myrtle ("Jessie") Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) is the gang's resident know-it-all crusader. She is often seen pursuing a variety of causes, such as environmentalism, while keeping up her position of class president as well as her reputation for being one of the smartest students in her class. Like Lisa and Screech, Jessie is Zack's childhood friend (despite the lack of continuity with Good Morning, Miss Bliss). She and Zack live next door to each other and Zack routinely climbs into her room via a tree outside her window to visit. From the second season onward, her main love interest is A.C. Slater, who disagrees with her feminist views. Jessie's parents are divorced and both are remarried during season three. Her mother's remarriage introduces a conniving stepbrother from New York named Eric (Joshua Hoffman) in a two-part episode, although neither her mother nor her stepfather are featured. In another two-part episode, her father marries a much younger aerobics instructor named Leslie, whom Jessie initially disfavors.
Jessie also struggles with drug addiction at one point on the series, taking caffeine pills in order to stay awake for longer study hours. Jessie fully expects to be crowned valedictorian, but finishes a fraction of a point behind Screech. The race between the two figured as a significant plot point in the episode, with Screech yielding the honor to Jessie, knowing its importance to her. Jessie, however, finds out about her second-place status and uses the opportunity to highlight the caring relationships between the show's core group of characters. After graduation, Jessie attends Columbia University, although she long expressed a desire to attend Stanford University and likewise displayed interest in the fictional Stansbury, as well as other elite universities.
Richard Belding (Dennis Haskins) is the principal of Bayside High School and the show's resident authority figure. However, when "Mr. Belding" attended high school, he was an anti-authority hippie whom, in one episode, Jessie described as "The Zack Morris of the '60s". According to an old copy of the school paper, Belding once mooned the school board. He mentions that had he been allowed to return for a fourth tour of duty, "the war would've been won in a week". He is known for his catchphrase, "Hey, hey, hey, HEY, HEY! What is going on here?" as well as his high-pitched laugh. Belding has frequent run-ins with Zack and his friends as either a foe to be outwitted or a friend to turn to for help. Despite being a responsible authority figure, Belding is unique as he genuinely seems to care what his students, particularly Zack, think of him. He is married to Rebecca "Becky" Belding (née Flugelman) and has an irresponsible younger brother Rod. Rod Belding appears in one episode, volunteering to take the class on a rafting trip but backing out at the last minute to go on a date with a stewardess. The resulting argument is overheard by Zack, who initially liked Rod's light-heartedness, but comes to appreciate Mr. Belding's more responsible manner. Belding remains the principal at Bayside (along with Screech as his assistant) until he leaves to become dean of students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (Haskins' alma mater in real life) in the final episode of Saved by the Bell: The New Class.
- Max (stage magician/comedian Ed Alonzo) is introduced in the first season as the owner of The Max, a favorite hangout of the gang. He acts as a liaison between the adult and kid worlds, serving as a guide and a friend to the gang. Max is known for his quirky sense of humor and his array of magic tricks. He stars in the first season, appears only once in the second, and then stops appearing in the third season when The Max is bought by a new owner. Under the new management, two new Max employees are introduced: Jeff, who broke up Zack and Kelly, and James, the actor.
- Violet Anne Bickerstaff (Tori Spelling) is introduced in season two as Screech's girlfriend, and appears in three episodes in seasons two and three. She appears in episode 21, "House Party", where Screech's parents leave on vacation for Graceland. She also appears in episode 34, "Glee Club", and episode 41, "Check Your Mate".
- Tori Scott (Leanna Creel) is introduced near the end of the series as the new girl at Bayside High. She is initially seen as a "tough girl" because she rides a motorcycle and is seldom seen without her leather jacket. At first, she's Zack’s nemesis, but the two eventually develop romantic feelings for each other. Tori replaced the characters Kelly and Jessie, after Thiessen and Berkley refused to renew their contracts, and Tori only appears in about half of the episodes in the final season.
- Stacey Carosi (Leah Remini) is introduced in the Malibu Sands Beach Club episodes, where everyone in the group, except for Lisa (who is a guest there), takes a summer job. Stacey is on summer break from attending school on the East Coast, and her father, Leon Carosi (Ernie Sabella), is the owner of the club. Stacey is initially disgusted by Zack's West Coast lifestyle and refers to him sarcastically as "Dude", but they later develop romantic feelings for each other. They must hide their relationship from Leon, as Zack and Leon are at odds from the beginning of the summer. Their relationship ends when Stacey returns to New York for school. In the final summer episode, however, Leon learns about the romance, and still finds himself liking Zack.
The show was popular enough to warrant two spin-offs, both of which premiered in 1993.
Saved by the Bell: The College Years
Saved by the Bell: The College Years continues with several of the characters as they deal with college life.
Saved by the Bell: The New Class
Saved by the Bell: The New Class continues the story of Bayside High School, after the original cast has graduated. The series, which aired on Saturday mornings, features a new set of students anchored by Dennis Haskins, and later Dustin Diamond. Diamond’s character "Screech" becomes Principal Belding's administrative assistant on a work-study program from California University (a reference to Screech's college in The College Years). While Saved by the Bell: The New Class ran for seven seasons, it endured numerous cast changes (including a second season cast purge that left only Haskins and three other original cast members) and never gained the popularity of the original series. Many of the New Class episodes were actually recycled plots from the original Saved by the Bell. Slater, Lisa, and Zack make cameo appearances in one episode in season two while trying to keep Bayside from being bought and destroyed. The Max remains as the hangout for the Bayside High students, although a fire burned it down in one episode, and it is given a new look.
On April 9, 2006, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim announced that Saved by the Bell would air at midnight as a two-week special starting April 17. On April 19, 2006, Adult Swim also posted on their website that Saved by the Bell was back in production. A week later, the announcement was exposed as a joke.
On March 27, 2009, NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon launched a campaign to get the cast on board for a Saved by the Bell reunion. Fans signed an online petition and pledged their support for the cast to reunite on the show. Dennis Haskins, Lark Voorhies, Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar agreed to a reunion. Gosselaar reprised his role as Zack Morris in a skit on Late Night on June 8, 2009, while promoting his then current TNT drama, Raising the Bar. The spoof interview closed with a performance of "Friends Forever," originally by Zack Attack, where Zack played guitar and sang with backing from Fallon's house band, The Roots. Tiffani Thiessen posted a parody video to the website Funny or Die, where she claimed she was too busy to join the reunion.
The cast reunited in August 2009 for a photo shoot in People Magazine. Diamond was not invited to participate in the photo shoot because of poor relationships with the rest of the cast. Diamond’s image was also edited out of the 1989 cast photo that was used on the cover inset of an issue of People Magazine to show how the cast looked 20 years later. In September 2009, Diamond published Behind the Bell, a "dirt-dishing" memoir about his time with the show (ISBN 0-9812396-9-2), and afterward, only Dennis Haskins was on speaking terms with Diamond.
The cast convened again when Haskins, Diamond, Gosselaar, Voorhies, and Lopez did their own voices in a Saved by the Bell Saw parody, called "Sawed by the Bell", on "Boo Cocky", a season three episode of Robot Chicken. Gosselaar also provided audio commentary for the episode on the DVD.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment released all four seasons of Saved by the Bell broken into five seasons (season 4 split in two) on DVD in Region 1. However, several episodes from the first two seasons are syndicated versions and not the original broadcast versions. Lionsgate released the two feature length TV movies on DVD, in Region 1, on August 7, 2007. On March 13, 2012, Lionsgate (distributed by Alliance Films) released Saved by the Bell: The Complete Collection on DVD in Canada. The 13-disc set features all 88 episodes of the series as well as the two reunion tele-films.
On November 5, 2013, Lionsgate released a complete series set in the USA. It does not contain the reunion movies but does include some bonus commentaries.
On March 22, 2010, Fabulous films released season 1 on DVD in Region 2, and on February 10, 2010, Shock Entertainment released season one in Region 4.
|DVD name||Ep #||Release date|
|Saved by the Bell: Seasons One & Two||33||September 2, 2003|
|Saved by the Bell: Seasons Three & Four||29||April 27, 2004|
|Saved by the Bell: Season Five||24||July 19, 2005|
|Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style / Wedding in Las Vegas||2||August 7, 2007|
|Saved by the Bell: The Complete Collection (CAN)||88||March 13, 2012|
|Saved by the Bell: The Complete Series (USA)||88||November 5, 2013|
A CD and cassette tape soundtrack was released on April 11, 1995. It contained songs used throughout the series. The tracklisting is as follows:
- "Saved by the Bell" written by Lionel Richie
- "Don't Leave With Your Love"
- "Go for It!"
- "Love Me Now"
- "Make My Day"
- "Friends Forever"
- "Did We Ever Have a Chance?"
- "Deep Within My Heart"
- "Surfer Dude"
- "Gone Hawaiian"
- "School Song"
- "Saved by the Bell" with Michael Damian
Behind the Bell
In 2009, Dustin Diamond published an inside story of the show's cast and crew from his point of view, entitled Behind the Bell. The book paints an unflattering portrait of many of Diamond's colleagues and their alleged backstage behavior. Some of Diamond’s claims have been refuted by colleagues and questioned by critics. Diamond also alleges in the book that he had sex with 2,000 women, one of them being NBC's Vice President of children's programming, Linda Mancuso, who was 18 years his senior.
Bayside! The Musical! The Saved by the Bell Parody
In September 2013 Bayside! The Musical! The unauthorized parody of Saved by the Bell opened at NYC's Theatre 80. Bayside! The Musical! was called "Super Camp and Super Fun" by Perez Hilton and was named a NY Times Critics' Pick.Bayside! The Musical! was written and directed by Bob and Tobly McSmith, the same creative team behind Showgirls! The Musical! In contrast to the wholesome nature of Saved by the Bell, Bayside! The Musical! contains strong language and adult situations throughout. The show's run has been extended 6 times.
Bayside! originally debuted in 2005 under the title Bayside! The UnMusical! The following year a sequel was produced called Bayside 2! Electric Screechio The show then took several years off, reopening in 2012 at NYC's Kraine Theatre with a revamped script and new cast Following the success of Showgirls! The Musical!;; the show's creators Bob and Tobly McSmith revisited their script and reworked it from the ground up.
The show has had appearances from original Saved by the Bell cast members such as Dustin Diamond and Dennis Haskins.
Original cast recording
The original cast recording was released on March 17, 2014. The track listing is as follows:
- "Back to Bayside!"
- "Let's Go 2 The Max!"
- "Dream Sequence!"
- "Screech's Secret Sauce!"
- "90s Power Rock Ballad of Love! (The Trapper Keeper Song!)"
- "Geeky Freaky Action!"
- "All Girls Slumber Party!"
- "2 Poor 4 Prom!"
- "Malibu Sands!"
- "Stori of Tori!"
- "Geeky Freaky Reprise!"
- "Lift! Jump! Bend! Stretch! (Go 4 It!)"
- "Jessie's Song!"
- "Spiritual Advisors"
- "Beauty Pageant"
- "Wrestle U"
- "Only Students at Bayside High!"
- List of Saved by the Bell characters
- List of Saved by the Bell episodes
- at the Internet Movie Database
- at TV.com
- at epguides.com
- on TBS.com