Saved By The Bell: life lessons from its special episodes

In its special episodes, Saved By The Bell wasn't afraid to get real. Or kill ducks. All together now, "I'm so excited! I'm so excited!..."

Saved By The Bell wasn’t just Zack and Slater having a dance off. Yes it was. However, the show also tried its hand at a number of ‘very special episodes’. These typically featured problems encountered by all teens at some point, like drinking half a can of beer, dead ducks, and getting off your tits on Pro Plus.

I grew up watching Saved By The Bell, and thanks to its teachings I am a well adjusted individual. Not like those weirdos who only ever make one joke about how they’re a bit odd, and everything they ever write is a rubbish variation of that joke mixed in with jokes about Bungle.

Let’s have a look at how Zack, Josh, Twinkie and Billy Bob Bob John tackled the hard hitting issues of the day. Also, because it’s Saved By The Bell, let’s have a look at how times the audience can go “woooooooo!” in what is supposed to be a serious episode.

A note before we begin: after watching The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story (seriously, watch it), I learned that the cast, Elizabeth Berkley in particular, lobbied the writers to include more hard hitting and ‘realistic’ storylines. So you have Elizabeth Berkley to thank for “I’m so excited!” And then she was in Showgirls.

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No Hope With Dope

Wooooooo count: 8. Weirdly, one is for Kelly running, and one is when Mr Belding comes into the room.

This episode is dedicated to the evils of doing drugs. Not proper drugs, not like Zammo did in Grange Hill, but wussy drugs like weed. Oh wait, I forgot to mention that in the Saved By The Bell universe, all drugs are equal to injecting heroin into a baby.

The gang get roped into doing an anti-drugs PSA. Because, you know, they are the only teenagers in the world. Whenever something requires 30 year old actors teenagers to do something, Bayside High is the first place you look.

The star of the PSA, famous ‘heartthrob’ Johnny Dakota, is dithering over filming at Bayside, so the kids try to win him over with a shit rap. This still doesn’t clinch it, so they thrust Kelly’s maracas at him, prompting the first ‘wooooo’ of the episode. Also, if Johnny Dakota didn’t pick Bayside, there probably wouldn’t be an episode.

Everything’s going swimmingly until the guys are invited to one of Johnny’s mega swish Hollywood parties, where adults are. People are drinking and having casual hookups, and the guys are somehow fine with that. The problems start when Johnny and his friends break out the smallest joint in the world. Kelly promptly shits herself. Also, what is it with Kelly wearing orange in this episode?

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The guys make their excuses and leave. The next day, Zack puts Johnny firmly in his place by declaring “I thought you were real cool.” Johnny is now a social leper, albeit only with the cast of Saved By The Bell, which I think most people could live with.

So it looks like the PSA is off. But wait! Luckily, Mr Belding picks that moment to suddenly remember he’s ‘best friends’ with the head of NBC, and they do their own stupid anti-drugs PSA. This renders the whole episode pointless.

Moral of the story: I can’t decide if it’s ‘pot is evil’ or ‘hypocrisy is worse than pot, which somehow makes pot not as bad, which makes anyone who thinks pot is worse than hypocrisy is evil, which makes them more evil than pot, even though pot is evil.’ I’ll go for the first one.

Also, ‘Screech from Saved By The Bell doesn’t smoke weed, so neither should you if you want to be just like him.’ Which applies to no one on the planet.

Pipe Dreams

Wooooooo count: 1 (and that’s only Slater taking the piss out of Jessie’s stupid plastic earrings)

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This episode is all about the evils of oil, and the fact that dead ducks are a bad thing.

Oh, spoiler, a duck dies.

Bayside has struck oil! And they say Saved By The Bell never tackles realistic topics. The oil revelation happens to coincide with the class learning about the wonder of pond animals (or ‘pond pals’ as the teacher calls them). We learn that ‘pond pals’ are slimy but fun.

Zack strolls into the class carrying a duck, as you do. “I’m sorry I’m late but I think this duck is hurt!” he cries. This is stupid and irrelevant to the episode. Everyone knows that ducks don’t live in ponds, but in nests and in Joey and Chandler’s flat. Also, as if Zack would give a shit about a living creature he couldn’t make money off or have sex with.

That sentence has led me down a hideous mental alleyway.

Anyway, Zack offers to take the duck home for the weekend (this isn’t helping). But wait, the plot thickens as we discover that Mr Belding is friends with the duck, who he calls ‘Becky’,

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Back to the oil, which they have struck, because things like that happen to them. Zack and co are transported into one of Saved By The Bell‘s famous dream sequences, in which they personally get all the oil money, Mr Belding is now their butler, and Screech has inexplicably become Middle Eastern, complete with terrible accent.

Jessie throws a huge, boring spanner in the works by asking “But why do we need more oil? Why not focus on alternative energy like the sun?”

The sun? Jessie:

A) Have you been to Doncaster?B) Shut up.

The rest of them slap her down. Slater causes the only ‘wooooo’ by pointing out Jessie’s rubbish earrings are made of oil.

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Meanwhile, Zack is growing closer to ‘Becky’, who he definitely hasn’t tried to eat or have sex with yet.

The oil drilling goes ahead, despite Jessie’s whinging. However, the next day there is an oil spill on the football field and the pond. The pond! Where Becky is! Becky is covered in oil and dead!

This is quite upsetting until Screech says “She’s where the oil can’t hurt her now.”

The situation gets worse when all the ‘pond pals’ die from the oil spill.

Zack is now firmly anti-oil. The gang bully Mr Belding into calling off the drilling. But Mr Belding’s power with the school board is limited, unlike Zack’s. Zack makes a heartfelt speech about trees, and then everyone is perfectly happy to forgo the millions and billions of dollars they would have got from the oil. Zack and his friends celebrate losing all this money with a group high-five. The selfish bastards.

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Moral of the story: Oil is evil. Ducks are adorable. If you’re Jessie and you want people to listen to you, get Zack to say the stuff for you. Zack is supreme ruler of the universe, and all shall bow down before him.

Jessie’s Song

Wooooooo count: 1 (Jessie kisses Slater while off her tits on caffeine)

Possibly the most notorious Saved By The Bell episode ever, Jessie’s Song is about Jessie’s harrowing struggle with Pro Plus (really).

We start with Jessie drinking coffee like a reprobate, because she has to study in order to get into Stanford, like a reprobate. After 30 seconds, every single viewer gets that Jessie has a lot on her plate.

In his infinite wisdom, Zack decides Jessie hasn’t got enough on her plate, so emotionally blackmails her into forming a girl group with Kelly and Lisa. This is because his dad’s friend is a record producer, who’s looking for “a girl group like New Kids On The Block”. Enough said.

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Jessie can’t keep up with all this nonsense, what with having to stick her nose into everyone else’s business as well. As her grades plummet, Jessie decides that sleep is for losers, and starts taking the American version of Pro Plus. What follows is something I’ve never seen apart from on Saved By The Bell. Jessie begins a downward spiral into what Slater charmingly calls “drugs”, leading to psychosis and terrible singing.

This meltdown prompts everyone to immediately stop making Jessie do anything at all, even though all she needs is a bit of sleep and for them to stop nagging her. The girl group has a gig in front of the record producer, but Zack decides Screech will make an acceptable stand in. If I were Jessie, that would give me the confidence of a trodden-on Greggs pasty.

Moral of the story: It should be that Zack is selfish and you should just tell him to piss off. However, I think it’s the following:

1) Caffeine is bad, and you should just be able to do stuff without stimulants of any kind2) It doesn’t matter at all if you’re shit at everything and you fail

Clearly, the writers of this episode have never done writing for a living.

Home For Christmas Parts 1 & 2

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Wooooooo count: None. Not even when Lisa kisses Screech under the mistletoe.

One of the rare episodes where the gang venture outside of Bayside and The Max (apart from all of season 3 and loads of other episodes), Home For Christmas is a moving, heartwarming tale about Christmas.

After a billion shots of Christmas cards and stockings hanging up to establish that it’s Christmas, Zack informs us that it’s Christmas. Everyone conveniently has a job at the mall. Apart from Lisa, who is volunteering at a hospital. This prompts Zack’s mother to declare “sometimes the best gifts are the ones you can’t wrap.” For clumsy-fingered Sellotape dunce me, that would be any present at all, but I don’t think that’s what Mrs Zack means.

After a humorous montage of Slater breaking expensive gifts and Jessie scaring small children by threatening to be in Showgirls, Zack meets a hot girl who is shy and never eats anything. She runs away.

Later on, Zack and Screech meet a guy who turns out to be homeless. Could he be connected to the mysterious running away girl? Spoiler: yes.

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Later later on, Zack catches up with running away girl, who we find out is called Laura. He takes Laura to lunch, where she stuffs her face with as much food as Zack can throw at her. I must admit, this scene does get you in the feelings a bit.

Meanwhile, the mall is putting on a production of A Christmas Carol, and Laura says she’d love to be in it. However, Laura’s boss, who is an evil capitalist, refuses to give her time off to dick about doing a fake Cockney accent. Somehow I predict that Zack will find a way to make her be in the play, if only so he can get to second base with her.

We cut back to the homeless guy, who collapses in front of Zack and Slater, and is taken to hospital. In the very next scene, we see everyone, including Zack and Slater, giving presents to sick kids at the hospital. When they’ve finished doing that they decide to visit the homeless guy who collapsed four seconds ago but is somehow already in bed there. When they arrive at him room they find Laura visiting him. But why?

He’s Laura’s dad, that’s why!

Continued after the cliffhanger.

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Part 2 can be wrapped up pretty quickly, now that we all know the big plot twist that none of us figured out at all. There is, however, still the problem of Laura not being allowed to be in the Christmas play. And the whole ‘they’re homeless’ thing.

Zack invites the Lauras over for dinner as soon as Mr Laura gets out of hospital. After dinner. Mr Laura explains that they’re respectable homeless people, presumably unlike ‘wrong’ homeless people who are off their baubles on smack and caffeine pills. Mrs Zack invites them to stay at their house until they’re back on their feet, so that’s that settled.

But all this is as nought compared to Laura not getting to be in the play, thanks to the evil capitalist. Long story short: Zack swings it so she can be in the play, but then evil capitalist falsely accuses Laura of stealing a jacket. Actually, Kelly had bought the jacket as a surprise for Mr Laura. When evil capitalist is proved wrong, he gives her the jacket as a present, and then everyone learns the meaning of Christmas. It’s a nice ending. Christmas specials always make me a bit weepy. It’s got nothing to do with the gin.

Moral of the story: I dunno. Homeless people have feelings too? Especially if one of them is hot. I wish it was Christmas. Stupid warm weather. Stupid flies everywhere and having a sweaty arse.

Drinking And Driving

Wooooo count: 1. For Zack topless, but not a single wooooo for Slater topless. What?

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I’m not going to tell you what this episode is about. Anyone who can’t figure it out is a fucking idiot.

I should point out that this is a ‘Tori’ episode. You remember Tori? She’s the one who was roped in to be the new ‘girl one’ after Kelly and Jessie left the show.

Just in case you start wondering where Kelly and Jessie are, and why Jon Bon Jovi is suddenly in Saved By The Bell.

On to the plot. There’s a big homecoming party! Lisa is homecoming queen because Kelly doesn’t exist anymore. They decide to have a toga party, because. At the party, we discover that someone has bought six whole cans of beer! Seriously, there isn’t enough beer at this party for each person to even have half a can each. But apparently everyone’s going to get hideously drunk.

Tori (who is inexplicably still Jon Bon Jovi, even while wearing a toga) is firmly anti-booze, but the others are all for getting rat-arsed on a thimble of beer each. I suspect Slater might have been drinking before the party, which would explain this awesome toga/white socks/trainers combo.

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After a night of boring debauchery, it’s time to leave. But no one can drive, because they’ve all had a teaspoon of beer. No one, that is, except Zack, who is superhuman and can do anything. They all pile into Lisa’s mum’s car with Zack at the wheel, and proceed to sing along to Wild Thing like no kid in the 90s would ever do. They’d be singing along to Kriss Kross.

I hardly need to point out that Zack ends up crashing the car, otherwise the episode would be called Drinking And Driving Is Fun And Perfectly Harmless. As a result of the crash, everyone enters into a tangled web of lies and general covering stuff up. The most pressing problem is that they need to raise money to fix Lisa’s mum’s car before she gets back from wherever it is she’s gone.

They raise $500 by selling advertising space on Slater’s shirt, which he will wear during the big homecoming game. However, this plan fails when Slater realises he’s too injured from the crash to play. The rest of the team aren’t angry, they’re just disappointed. And angry.

No one knows about the car crash, so the next ten minutes is filled with monologues about how brave Slater is, and how Lisa is a shining example to other teenagers.

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But the good times can’t last forever, and Lisa’s mum eventually finds out about the crash. She finds out because Zack breaks down and confesses everything to her and his dad. Everyone slopes off home, shamefaced, leaving Zack and his dad to have a ‘heart to heart’, all about how stupid it is to drive pissed. Even though he only sniffed an unopened can of beer.

Don’t get me wrong, I am massively against drink driving. It’s up there on my list of things to never do, along with saying ‘Wowcher’. However, they could have made the episode a bit more realistic by having Zack be actually drunk instead of completely sober except for having once seen a picture of a can of beer.

Moral of the story: Don’t drink and drive. Or, if you do, be better at lying.