Friday, March 23, 2018

My Top Ten Episodes of "Saved by the Bell"

Because I desperately need a break from writing about Oscar movies, let's go back to Bayside High School for a quick jaunt down memory lane. Now, I need to state a couple of caveats about this list. The picks below are unranked and ordered by airdate, but due to production snafus, a bunch of the completed episodes from the first season wound up airing much, much later in the show's run so this is obviously not in any chronological order. Also, I chose to ignore the quasi prequel series "Good Morning, Miss Bliss," which was used to pad out the syndication runs of the series, and all the sequel series.

"Dancing to the Max" - I identified with Jessie the most out of the kids, because she was brainy and had a non-conformist streak, but still worried about stupid teen stuff like being too tall. I also love that the actual dance contest puts everyone in silly costumes and choreographs silly dances for them. And did any kid still know who Casey Kasem was in 1989? I sure didn't.

"Cream for a Day" - There are a couple of good visual gags in this one, as Zach and Screech's homemade zit cream scheme blows up in their faces and threatens Kelly's chances at being Homecoming Queen. And a special shoutout to Crater Face Coburn, the show's best one-shot character, whose annoying laugh I can somehow still remember after more than twenty years.

"Beauty and the Screech" - The idea of a cheerleader dating a geek was apparently such an earth-shaking notion that Kelly and Screech's brief romance required comment by President Bush ("Way to go Screech!") and Mikhail Gorbachev. And Zack and Slater's nightmare of a world where nerds are heartthrobs is all the more hilarious now for being so woefully out of date.

"Jessie's Song" - I was young enough to take the caffeine pill addiction story at face value long before it became the show's most notorious example of over-the-top cheesiness. It was a drug episode that didn't even use actual drugs! So while the episode is entertaining to see now in a rubberneck-the-car-crash kind of way, I still find myself feeling for poor, pill-popping Jessie.

"The Fabulous Belding Boys" - There's really only one reason that I'm listing this, Screech's immortal line: "A building with two Beldings, one of whom is balding." I have no idea how Principal Belding didn't murder Screech during all those years during "The New Class" where Screech was his assistant. Anyway, humanizing the schlubby authority figure is always nice to see. Cheers.

"Breaking Up is Hard to Undo" - Zack, Slater, and Mr. Belding briefly swear off women and embrace bachelorhood together, before coming to their senses and winning back their respective mates. This involves Screech dressing up as Kelly for reenactments with Zack and Slater demonstrating his appreciation for ballet in a manner that no teen girl will ever forget.

"Rockumentary" - Casey Kasem returns! This is probably my favorite episode of the series because it's actually a successful spoof of "Behind the Music" rock docs of the era, and the band's signature song, "Friends Forever," is pretty catchy. Also, you've got to love the fake flash-forward reunion that sees Zack become the "male Madonna" and Lisa join an "American Gladiators" knockoff.

"Mystery Weekend"- Any episode where Larry Cedar guest stars and winds up in drag is a good episode. Anyway, sticking the cast in the middle of an extended mystery spoof is a nice break from formula. Screech gets to dress up and annoy people, horrible British and French accents abound, and the resolution really makes no sense whatsoever. But really, nothing does in this show.

"Snow White and the Seven Dorks" - The gang in a rap version of "Snow White" where Slater plays an eighth dwarf named Studly? How could I not love this? Of all the episodes about contrived love triangles (and there were lots), this was probably the most contrived, but also oddly the most satisfying. I guess I just liked seeing the fairy tale formula turned on its head in the name of love.

"Slater's Friend" - I swear the plot to this episode was stolen from "The Cosby Show." Anyway, Artie the lizard (obviously plastic) gets a glorious sendoff, marked by a rewritten version of "Danny Boy" sung with fearless gusto by Elizabeth Berkeley. It's really terrible and quite sweet at the same time. I guess that's how I still feel about "Saved by the Bell" in general. It's a mess, but a fondly remembered one.


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