Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Review: ‘Saved By the Bell’ Perfectly Mixes Old School With New School

One of the most popular series in the late 1980s and early 1990s was NBC’s Saved By the Bell. Starting out as Good Morning, Miss Bliss on Disney Channel in 1987, the series was picked up by NBC in 1989 and rebranded as Saved By the Bell, the show fans know and love today. It followed a group of friends at a California high school, dealing with everyday teenage issues. The series lasted for a total of four seasons, spawning two made-for-TV movies and two spin-offs, Saved By the Bell: The College Years and Saved By the Bell: The New Class. NBCUniversal’s Peacock has a new Saved By the Bell with a brand new class but still the same feels.

In Saved By the Bell, set nearly 30 years after the original ended, California Governor Zack Morris, who scammed his way out of a $75 parking ticket by running for governor and then winning, finds himself in hot water for closing down underfunded and underprivileged schools. As a result, those students are sent to the higher-performing schools, including Governor Zack’s alma mater of Bayside High in the Palisades.

Warning: Mild spoilers for Saved By the Bell!

Mitchell Hoog, Belmont Cameli, Josie Totah, Alycia Pascual-Peña, and Haskiri Velazquez in ‘Saved By the Bell.’ Image courtesy of Peacock.
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The new characters, although not like the old gang, are still in some way similar to the ones that we knew and loved in the ’90s. Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez), Aisha (Alycia Pascual-Peña), and Devante (Dexter Darden) are transfers from the underfunded and now-closed Douglas High. They befriend Zack and Kelly’s son, Mac (Mitchell Hoog); Jessie’s son, Jamie (Belmont Cameli); and Lexi (Josie Totah). Meanwhile Bayside alumnus Dr. Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley-Lauren) is a guidance counselor and A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) is the athletic director at the school and the two always reminisce their Bayside days and try to help the kids as much as they can. There are also a few surprise cameos from characters who were in the original series, but that you will just have to watch for yourself.

The new gang have their own individual personalities that stand out and in some ways, resemble the old gang. Mac is much like his father, always scheming, pranking, and hitting on girls. Daisy, just like Zack, breaks the fourth wall and does “Time out” every so often to talk to the audience. Aisha is the football star of her former high school. Jamie is the complete opposite of his mother. Lexi, like Totah, is transgender; and Devante struggles to find a club that fits him. Jessie and Slater haven’t changed too much, with Jessie still fighting for what’s right and following her heart while Slater is still living in his high school days. The two of them are still close and even could still have feelings for each other. 

Mitchell Hoog and Elizabeth Berkley-Lauren in ‘Saved By the Bell.’ Image courtesy of Peacock.

For anyone who grew up watching the original series, Saved By the Bell on Peacock is full of references that any fan will notice. For starters, eagle-eyed fans will catch that all 10 episode titles of the reboot are reminiscent of the original: “Clubs and Cliques” is the title of a season 1, or Miss Bliss, episode; “The Bayside Triangle” is a season 5 episode; and “House Party” is a season 3 episode, just to name a few.

Any die-hard fan of the original Saved By the Bell will also catch some references to previous iconic scenes. In the fifth episode, Jessie sees Mac holding up a bottle of caffeine pills and she proceeds to tell him about her experience with them, saying how she was anxious about a test and she ruined her girl group’s chances at a record deal, she was so excited. The appropriately named “House Party” episode of the reboot also includes a recreation of the scene in the original where Zack, Slater, and Screech are dressed up and lip-syncing to “Barbara Ann.” However this time, it’s just Slater and a few students. He even brought back his outfit that he had evidently been keeping in the trunk of his car.

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It should be pointed out that the main hallway of Bayside High where the gang’s lockers were and the staircase are back and look identical to the original. However, fans get to see more of Bayside in this reboot including the entrance, different classrooms, the football field, and the gym, which is now bigger than it was in the ’90s. The Max is also back in all its former glory, with an expansion as well but still looking like it used to and still used as the teen hangout before, during, and after school, with Ed Alonzo back serving burgers and doing magic as Max.

It’s a great way to bring in fans of the original series while also still giving the reboot a modern twist. Places like The Max and Bayside are iconic sets but at the same time deserve an update. It’s not so much so that they’re not recognizable, which is what happened. Blending in little references that fans will notice that coincide with the current storyline mixes the older generation with the newer generation.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani Thiessen, Mario Lopez, and Elizabeth Berkley-Lauren in ‘Saved By the Bell.’ Image courtesy of Peacock.

Episode eight is the big reunion episode where Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Kelly (Tiffani Thiessen) come back to Bayside High for the Homecoming gala. The gang is almost fully back together, with a FaceTime from Lisa (Lark Voorhies) who is thriving in fashion in Paris and a mention of Screech and his robot, Kevin, working on the International Space Station. And without getting too much into it, the four dig up a time capsule they had buried and in it is plenty of references that will make any SBTB fan nostalgic. Zack, Kelly, Slater, and Jessie also get their band, Zack Attack, together, wearing clothing that is similar to what the band wore in Zack’s dream in the “Mockumentary” episode. They even sing their song, “Friends Forever.”

The episode alone has plenty of references to the gang’s former Bayside days, while also making the storyline current. If fans listen and watch close enough, they may even recognize a couple of the songs used throughout the episode that are reminiscent of the original series. And while it would have been nice to see more characters from the past, like Tori Spelling’s Violet Anne Bickerstaff or Leanna Creel’s Tori Scott, who was slightly mentioned by Zack even though Kelly had no idea who she was, it was still nice to see the gang almost all together. Knowing what Screech was up to gave a great reason why he wasn’t at the gala, and the same goes for Lisa, who was simply in Paris but still made time to video chat her old friends. 

Dexter Darden, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Berkley-Lauren, Haskiri Velazquez, Mario Lopez, Belmont Cameli, Josie Totah, Alycia Pascual-Peña, and Mitchell Hoog in ‘Saved By the Bell.’ Image courtesy of Peacock.

Saved By the Bell on Peacock perfectly mixes old school with new school. Even though Bayside High is now pretty technologically advanced, there are still sign-up sheets for clubs as well as posters for events and clubs in the hallway just like in the original. And although there are some things in the series that could have been left out — like the new version of the theme song sung by Lil Yachty and a couple of jabs to Selena Gomez about her kidney transplant — overall the series was a great throwback to the iconic original. It takes place in the present day, but some of the storylines are similar, showing that even some of what was talked about in the ’90s is still relevant to today, even more so than before. And one doesn’t have to be a fan of the original Saved By the Bell to enjoy and understand this series. It works well on its own as well as a reboot.

Honorable Mentions of Nostalgia

  • Mac has a fantasy sequence with a pink frame, much like how it was in the original.
  • Jessie and Slater bringing up the oil protest, styrofoam cups protest, bikini contests, and Graham.
  • Kelly telling Mac that Zack is definitely his father, and not Jeff.
  • Freeze frame in reunion episode.
  • Slater bringing up former girlfriends like Ginger, Jennifer, and the princess from Lichtenstein.

All 10 episodes of Saved By the Bell are available to stream now on Peacock with a Premium subscription, while the first episode is free. The original series, as well as Saved By the Bell: The College Years, Saved By the Bell: Hawaiian Styleand Saved By the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas are streaming on both Hulu and Peacock. 

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Megan
Megan has been passionate about writing since she was little and has been passionate about all things pop culture and nerdy since almost as long. Joining Nerds and Beyond in 2019, she also graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Megan is constantly binge-watching shows and finding new things to obsess over. 9-1-1 and Marvel currently reign as the top obsessions. You can find her on Twitter @marvelstaylena if you ever want to discuss some certain firefighters.

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