Can you believe Saved by the Bell came out 24 years ago today? These episodes didn’t seem so weird then, but they do now.
If you were like me, you grew up on the fantastically cheesy teen sitcom Saved by the Bell. While some episodes like the Johnny Dakota, anti-drug show encouraged young viewers to avoid narcotics even if everyone else is doing it, other episodes were just downright bizarre.
I’m sure this one started out as a nice gesture, but it got weird very quickly. What happens is that Zack decides Screech needs a girlfriend because he’s been working on their science project so much. On top of that, Lisa has been even more mean to Screech leaving him down and depressed. Zack tries to get him a date but when no one is interested he does the only logical thing; he dresses up like Reba McEntire and goes out with Screech. Why was this even an option? That’s not even the weirdest part of the episode.
Later, Zack is in the boys bathroom pretending to be “Bambi” on the phone with Screech. Little does he know Mr. Belding is pooping and thinks Bambi is talking to him. Why would a girl wander into the bathroom and confess her love to the principal while he’s on the toilet?
I always found it odd that Zack could yell “TIMEOUT” and freeze time. Is he a warlock of some sort? This wasn’t the only super power that was explored at Bayside High. In “The Gift” Screech gets struck by lightning and, instead of dying, he gains the ability to see the future! Obviously Screech and Zack use this power to win the lottery or prevent tragedies, right? Nope. Zack uses it to win tiny, stupid bets with Slater, including his bomber jacket. I feel like Screech being a soothsayer should have been explored more deeply.
For some reason the gang is deemed qualified to counsel troubled teens with no training other than Tori telling them not to ask for a last name or to meet in person. That’s it, you’re a suicide preventer now! After Lisa calls an overweight female caller Shamu, Zack gets a call from a girl named Melissa. He tells her how to trick her parents into giving her a later curfew, which is probably not appropriate for a school program, and then he asks her on a date.
It’s chaos when it turns out Melissa is…IN A WHEELCHAIR! What? We’ve never seen such a thing! Zack makes horrible comments about her through the entire episode and even puts together a wheelchair basketball game as a fundraiser for their teen hotline because who wouldn’t want to watch that?
The most troubling moment in the episode has to be when Mr. Belding tosses up the jump ball and Slater immediately leaps out of his seat. Zack then has to explain to him that crippled people can’t jump. This is a life lesson we can all be grateful for learning.
Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind
Zack and Slater try to fool a supermarket tabloid magazine into giving them money for pictures of Screech pretending to be an alien. Don’t worry though, they were going to use the money to pay for the school’s camera they broke. Not only are the photos convincing, but a government agent comes in and tries to abduct Screech to take him in for testing.
Where is the security at Bayside? This random guy who said he was from a magazine was allowed to wander around the school and kidnap students? Maybe take 30 seconds to draw his blood and conclude “Oh, nope, not an alien. Oh well.”
The Zack Tapes
During class, Zack and the other students are taught about subliminal advertising. What class is this? Apparently in the world of Saved by the Bell “subliminal advertising” is a code word for “complete brainwashing.” Zack uses his newly learned powers to trick Kelly into going to the big dance with him by recording messages behind a song. It’s so powerful that it also convinces Lisa that she is in love with Screech.
Eventually Zack’s scheme is figured out and the whole school joins in on a prank to get him back. The whole school is involved. Forget class today, gang, we have to teach Zack Morris a lesson!
Everyone pretends to be in love with him, including Slater, so Zack finally confesses his sins. Didn’t he just use what he was taught in school? Who is in overseeing the teacher’s curriculum? Not Mr. Belding, he’s too busy pretending to be in love with Zack. Does anyone actually work at this school?
Here’s a weird one. In some sort of high school version of the movie Taken, Mr. Belding informs Zack that his niece, Penny, is in town and then threatens him with detention if he doesn’t take her out on a date! Is Belding a pimp? Zack has plans to go to Kelly’s party so he decides to have Screech pose as him and take Penny on a date. Is no one else really weirded out by this entire premise?
Eventually the truth comes out and everyone is mad at Zack. Why? Because he refused to be forced on some creepy date by his principal? I’m sure they would have had a great time seeing how he was being blackmailed into going out with her. Real nice work, guys.
This is definitely the most infamous episode of Saved by the Bell. Jessie is determined to get into a good college at any cost, even if it means taking over the counter caffeine pills! That’s right, Jessie is taking the capsule equivalent to a Red Bull. (that had to have been speed in the first draft of the script, right?)
Slater first tries to confront her about the Dr. Pepper-like addiction to no success. Finally, after Jessie oversleeps and misses her gig singing with Kelly and Lisa as part of the vocal group “Hot Sundae,” Zack reaches a breaking point. He grabs Jessie and tells her that it’s time to fix her broken life. She is an addict and needs help. Imagine what she would do if she came across some Xanax.
The Video Yearbook
Instead of doing a traditional yearbook, the group decides they’d rather have a video yearbook because VHS will never die. Zack decides to take the videos of the girls and turn them into an escort service. He takes their yearbook footage and dubs it over with a male voice talking about how horny the girls are and how you should call them. The gang finds out what Zack did and decide to get him back. Zack is so distraught that he makes a video for everyone to watch where he announces that he has enrolled in military school and is leaving forever. Can you enroll in military school? Is that how it works?
Zack is, once again, dressed as a woman. He wants to see how everyone will react, but he is recognized right away. Out of all the times he has cross dressed, how was this one the dead giveaway? This is one of many times that Zack has attempted to be an actual pimp.
Why is Zack so upset? The school decided to do a date auction to raise money for new uniforms for the cheerleaders. This is yet another parallel between Saved by the Bell and Taken. A date auction should be right up Zack’s alley, right? It was, until an overweight girl wins a date with him. Of course he could never date anyone the least bit chubby and begins avoiding her because he’s so #@&*ing perfect.
Eventually he takes time to get to know her and realizes that, get this, even chubby girls can be enjoyable to be around! This episode also featured Jessie protesting the auction and gave Slater plenty of moments to give some sexist remarks. Classic Slater!
Student Teacher Week
The entire faculty of Bayside get a paid week off as students literally run the school for a week. Zack is the principal and immediately begins verbally belittling Mr. Belding. Eventually Zack must choose between supporting Kelly as a student teacher or letting Slater and the other jocks play in the big football game. On a side note, why did Slater become an idiot jock for a few episodes? Eventually an angry mob of students demand that Zack makes a decision. They break down the door to his office while yelling and screaming! What does Mr. Belding do? He gives Zack a thumbs up and slips out in his denim jacket. [Editor’s note: you have no idea how hard we looked for a GIF of Belding peacing out in Zach drag.] How about you call the police and have someone pay for the damages these hooligans just caused? You’ll be happy to know that it all worked out in the end and Zack and Slater remained friends.