'Saved By the Bell': We're so excited... to revisit the classic teen series


Image Credit: Everett Collection

We all loved Zack Morris. That scheming smile. His blond-streaked hair. His penchant for color blocking. And, of course, that rad, cutting-edge cell phone. In the minds of all children of the ’90s, the only way to be cuter and cooler than Zack Morris was to be named Jonathan Taylor Thomas. But since I began watching TBS’ Saved By the Bell reruns about a year back, I’ve grown to develop a deeper appreciation for its less heralded characters. There’s Slater, the dimpled army transplant with a soft spot for strong women. There’s Jessie, the caffeine pill-popping feminist who still takes advantage of any opportunity to wear a revealing outfit in front of the boys. There’s Lisa, the spoiled yet mature fashionista who’s just way too big for Bayside. There’s Screech, the squeaky shrimp that’s so insecure, you kind of believe that he would grow up to make a sex tape. There’s Kelly, who’s a bit like a manila envelope — but the hottest manila envelope ever. And, of course, Mr. Belding, the authority figure so desperate to recapture his youth that he puts a little too much “pal” in “principal.” (Remember that episode when Mr. Belding, having trouble with his wife, came to hang out with Zack and the boys in Zack’s room?!) Sure, Zack might be the coolest character of Saved By the Bell, but the fact that a kids’ show managed to deliver such disparate, multi-layered personalities is a feat unto its own. There was a character everyone could identify with, and not just on a Breakfast Club-esque jock/brain/basket case level. Many of us grew up with the Bayside clan — during the show’s four-season run, we were able to watch our own personalities mature as theirs developed.

Not that we should take Saved By the Bell too seriously. When it comes down to it, Saved By the Bell is just a terrible series book-ended by two horrendous series. (Here’s looking at you, Good Morning, Miss Bliss and Saved By the Bell: The College Years.) But any child growing up in the ’90s felt a certain kinship with the Bayside kids. We wanted to be them. Hell, when we were going through our neon-filled, horrible awkward stages, we were them. We might not have ever created buddy bands, but, no doubt, we all feuded with pals during an enterprising group project. We might not have ever worked at a country club over the summer, but we remember crushing on a cute new friend during summer camp. And we might not have ever solved an oil spill crisis, but, well… we could solve the times table? Yes, Saved By the Bell offered up plenty of ridiculata — Jessie’s famous caffeine pill freak-out, of course — but its best episodes showcased the simplicity and goofiness of adolescence. Think: “Dancing To the Max” (the episode that brought us “The Sprain”), “The Fabulous Belding Boys” (in which Mr. Belding’s brother, Rod, shows up… and ends up proving how good a principal Mr. Belding is), and, one of my favorites, “The Senior Prom,” in which Jessie and Slater find themselves locked in a storage closet during the dance.

Since I was a Jessie (who desperately wished she was a Kelly), that particular episode led to many a teenage fantasy. If only I could find myself locked in a closet with a handsome boy — surely, he would have no choice but to submit to my wit and charm, right?! Sadly, though, unlike The Girl That Would Be Nomi Malone, the teenage dream never was, I didn’t get my first kiss until I was 18, and am now the type of person who watches Saved By the Bell weekday mornings on TBS. That being said, I’m not licking stripper poles, so I think I turned out okay.

But now I want to know, PopWatchers: Which Saved By the Bell character did you most identify with? Vote in the poll below and share your favorite Saved By the Bell memories in the comments! (UPDATE: For those of you wondering, the bespeckled man in the picture is Max, owner of The Max. Did his magic tricks make no impression on you all?)

Follow Kate on Twitter @KateWardEW

Comments (98 total) Add your comment
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  • Chelsea

    Ohhhh…I was a Jessie. No pills, but definitely a Jessie.

  • Southerner

    Whoa, whoa, WHOA! Did you just say Jonathan Taylor Thomas was cuter and cooler than Zack Morris? You should be ASHAMED of yourself!!!

    • Chelsea

      Yeah, no way does JTT have Zack Morris beat! Come on now. Honestly, I was more of a Devon Sawa girl. How many times I watched “Casper” I’ll never know.

      • Ace

        I used to pause the VCR right when Casper turned into Devon Sawa and just stare at him. Good lord, I was a strange child.

      • Katie

        I have seen “Wlid America” with both Devon Sawa and JTT a million times! I used to show the VHS in my classes at work!

      • Kylie

        I totally had a Devon Sawa ‘viewing party’ when I was 13, I love Zack Morris and JTT was alright, but Devon Sawa was the one for me!

      • steph

        Ace – I did the SAME thing.

      • Kay

        Devon Sawa in Now & Then. Love that movie anyways, but wow, he’s cute in it. I was always jealous of Christina Ricci for getting to be in two movies with him.

    • Liv

      Whatever happened to JTT?

      • whatnowsucka

        Dropped off the face of the Earth.

  • jones

    Definitely Jessie. I had an interesting talk with a friend about SVTB once. She asked me if I had a crush on Zack or Slater when I was younger. She said that she realized girls had different taste in guys when she was a teen b/c some of her friends liked Zach while she preferred Slater. I always think of that comment when I see something about SVTB.

  • C3PO

    Tiffani Amber Thiessen was the hottest thing since sliced cheese way back when.

    • themusicaddict.blogspot.com

      Amen brother!

      • Pie Thrower

        Tiffani Amber Thiessen was the only reason to watch Saved By The Bell. You could watch her with the sound off. A smokin’ smile with an a$$ that looked like a peach in those capri pants.

        Do any of you notice that on all of these kids shows the nerd of the group always looks the same? They have a dorky name. They are white. They have a dorky curled afro. They wear bright colored clothing that does not match. They like insects and or mice.

        All versions of Saved By The Bell had this character, Suite Life Zack and Cody, etc.

  • TV Junkie

    I don’t really identify with any of the characters, but Zach Morris was my first celebrity crush – not Mark Paul Gosselar, he didn’t exist in my mind, Zach Morris.

  • Karate Pants

    Who’s the one in the back left corner??

    • Southerner

      Max. He was terrible.

      • Liv

        Was he a student? He looks too old. I don’t remember him either. Perhaps my brain blocked him out because he was a terrible character?

      • lefty

        come onnnn you guys, that’s Max. He owned The Max!

      • Jess

        No, he wasn’t a student. He ran the diner.

      • Karate Pants

        I totally forgot about him. Thought it was just some Big Bang Theory geek photo bombing the kids.

  • Jeremy

    I really hated the “Tori” Episodes. I was always disappointed when the Tori episodes were on tv instead of the Kelly/Jessie episodes.

    • Daisy

      my feelings exactly

    • Captain

      I KNOW! Every time a “Tori” episode comes on television I roll my eyes. I want Kelly!

    • Ann

      Yep, I still feel disappointed when they have the Tori episodes on cable. Jessie and Kelly disappeared with no explanation, then they returned and Tori went missing. I also thought it was strange that Zack and Lisa were a couple for all of one episode and it was never mentioned again. They made such a big deal about Zack ‘stealing’ Lisa from Screech.

      • Mike

        I was in the audience for that episode.

    • DocRules

      I appreciate the mention of Tori in the poll, though. Hate her, but she’s a part of Saved By the Bell.

  • dublin

    Why don’t I know who the guy w/ the glasses is in the backrow by Zach in the picture? I don’t remember him at all!

    • dane

      that’s the owner of the max

    • Zoe

      That is Max (Ed Alonso?), who ran “The Max” in the first season. He was an aspiring magician and often did tricks at the gang’s table. I think his last episode was the one in which the kids opened the school radio station and used it to save The Max from closing (early season 2, IIRC).

    • Al

      Wasn’t he part of Britney Spear’s tour?

  • Little comment

    Why the hell is Max in that stupid photo? And how come no mention of The New Class?

    • Monty

      The less said about “The New Class”, the better.

      • Karen

        Amen Monty…

  • Jen

    SBTB is not a terrible series! Good Morning Miss Bliss was painful. I shamefully enjoy the College Years because Zack and Kelly get married and I feel like it makes everything alright in the world.

    • Zoe

      Yeah, I’m a huge College Years fan too. Love the Lasky subplot and the slow Zack-Kelly re-hookup. I’ve watched the College Years eps many, many times on TBS. (But I can’t bear to watch the Miss Bliss eps again!)

      • Ace

        Every time I see that actor on television (and he guest stars on EVERYTHING), I say “Hey! It’s Professor Jeremiah Lasky!”

      • Dactyl

        Professor Lasky was on Season 3 of Veronica Mars, looked super hot, Kelly should’ve been dating him then.

    • Jo

      But it IS terrible. Even as a kid I knew it was terrible.

      Fun? Yes. Terrible? Definitely.

      • Captain

        Yeah, it’s so 90s and so awesome but as a televsion series, it’s awful. There’s nothing Emmy-worthy about it but it’s good fun and growing up wouldn’t be the same without it.

      • Jen

        I think terrible is a little strong of a word. Yes, it is obviously nohere near Emmy-worthy or anything of the sort but its a classic!

      • umm

        It wasn’t supposed to be Emmy worthy. That was the beauty.

  • arielle

    he owned the max, and appropriately enough his name WAS max

  • MK

    The guy in the back is Max – as in the owner of The Max! The crazy magician-restaurant owner.
    I too hate the episodes with Tori. I loved when they went to Palm Springs and when they all worked at the beach!

  • Charlotte24

    Haha… That’s Max in the back left corner. Owner of The Max and also a magician. Love this show, but it really is so ridiculous

  • Kerri

    I miss those Saturday mornings so much! :)

  • Carly

    Violet Anne Bickerstaff

    • Al

      Wasn’t she played by Tori Spelling?!?!

      • TC

        Yeah she was!

    • katy

      Awww! I loved Violet!

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