As a lady of a certain age, I spent too many of my teen years zoning out to Saved by the Bell on Saturday morning. As a young adult, I spent much of my twenties drunk and watching reruns of said show on TBS and other stations. But despite watching countless hours of Zack, Kelly, and the gang, there were some questions that were never answered, and I find that years later I still ponder them. (Hey, some people study particle physics. Others of us study the inner-workings of teen feminist Jessie Spano. Is that so wrong?) So here now are the top 10 things I never understood about the greatest show to ever air on network television.
10. Why Didn’t Mr. Belding Have a Secretary?
Presumably, Bayside High was a large, coeducational learning facility with many students. Yet somehow, Mr. Belding was denied a secretary. Even stranger was the fact that his office was located in the hallway by some lockers. I don’t know about you, but in my four years of high school, I never saw the principal’s office. It was locked away somewhere, down cavernous hallways, protected by secretaries and assistant principals and deans of instruction. Yet at Bayside, any student could just open the door and saunter in to find Mr. Belding at his desk. There wasn’t even someone to field his calls? (Also, why the hell did he keep saying, “Hey, hey, hey, what is going on here?” You know, maybe if he’d had a secretary, he wouldn’t have had to ask so much!)
9. Why Were The Nerds So Intensely Nerdish?
Saved by the Bell was so fundamentally classic in its understanding of high school, so by-the-book in its peer group analysis, so trapped by outmoded stereotypes, that the writers of Saved by the Bell made John Hughes look like Jean-Luc Godard. (Did I just type that?) Regardless, what I never understood about the nerds at Bayside was that they were the kind of nerds you dress up as if you are going to be a nerd for Halloween. The pocket protectors, the glasses with the tape in the middle, the high-waisted pants. What people, nerds or otherwise, actually dress in this fashion? They were even named things like Maxwell Nerdstrom and Melvin Nerdly. I mean, come on. I recognize that The Bellwasn’t aiming for complete reality, but most nerds I knew in high school looked like ordinary people, except they were, like, obsessed with D&D and never looked up when they walked. Would it have killed the creators to do a little research?
8. Wither Tori Scott?
Genius pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman has written quite eloquently on the so-called Tori Paradox before, but I’ll go ahead and restate it here. Wasn’t it strange that in the final season, a new character named Tori Scott (played by Leanna Creel) was a sort of substitute for Elizabeth Berkley and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, both who had refused to renew contracts? What was strange about this is that the final season took episodes starring Creel and mixed them in with episodes that had already been shot which featured Berkley and Thiessen. What were we supposed to think? That while Tori Scott was hanging with her new pals at Bayside, Kelly and Jessie were doing lines in the bathroom? Of course not, because Kelly and Jessie would never do such a thing (I think). Still, they could have at least mentioned them. And in the final episode where they all graduate, Tori Scott is nowhere to be seen. Maybe she got expelled.
7. Was There An Upstairs? And If So, Why Didn’t They Have Classes There?
It was not an infrequent event to see the Bayside kids trotting down the stairs to the first floor. Yet there seemed to be no classes upstairs. All coursework took place in one classroom conveniently located across the hall from Mr. Belding’s secretary-less office. History, economics, English, mathematics. It didn’t matter. It all took place in the same room. What was this, Bayside One Room School House? Utilize the full space, Mr. Belding.
6. They Did it ALL! Are We Supposed to Believe This?
Track, cheerleading, newspaper, football, planning Homecoming, planning Prom, organizing the visit of drug-abusing anti-drug speaker Johnny Dakota (the irony!) — oh, were the Bayside kids in the thick of it all. But not all the Bayside kids. Just our pals Zack, Slater, Kelly, Jessie, Lisa, and Screech. Granted, all of us remember that coterie of elitists in our own high school that seemed to run the place and garner 23 pages in the yearbook every year, but even they shared duties with some of the plebeians once in a while. I seem to remember one episode where they all packed into Mr. Belding’s office to talk with him about the Prom. What, did he bring snacks?
5. Where Was Mrs. Belding?
I suppose you could argue that Mrs. Belding was the Vera Peterson of children’s television, having stayed out of the limelight throughout the run of the series despite several mentions. Now while it was easy to see why Vera wouldn’t want the boorish, drunk Norm around all the time, I wonder what the hell Mrs. B thought about her husband spending the great majority of his days hanging around teenagers who manipulated him and made fun of him on a regular basis. I’m sure Mrs. Belding could have done a lot better…if there even was a Mrs. Belding!
4. Would Teenage Boys Actually Lip Sync and Dance Together to Barbara Ann?
Oh God, the infamous Barbara Ann dance moment. Now, I’ve known some teenage boys in my day, and I have a feeling when they got together it was more like a scene out of Superbad than Saved by the Bell You know, trying to score booze, chicks, and maybe some porn. But Zack, Slater, and Screech were apparently so innocent in their desires that their spontaneous fun consisted of dancing around in their neon-colored shorts, pretending to lip sync to a hit by the Beach Boys. Oh, and acting out a guitar solo on an electric broom and trying to surf the couch. Even as a 14-year-old, I recognized this scene as complete BS.
3. What Happened to Max of The Max?
One minute Ed Alonzo is a magician slash waiter slash adult confidante at The Max, the next minute he’s gone. Like Coco the chef from the pilot of The Golden Girls that little girl on Family Matters who went on to star in porn, their characters disappeared into the sunset with not even a hint of an explanation. You would think Max of The Max would have demanded a name change of the restaurant to something else.
2. The Girls of Bayside Calendar…Really?
Ah, Bayside, a school where feminist dreams can come true. Like appearing in a Girls of Bayside calendar or competing in a swimsuit for Miss Bayside! I love how the writers created a feminist-ish character in Jessie Spano who essentially made teenage feminists look like ranting loons except for when they decided to forgo their principles by appearing in a bathing suit or short cheerleading skirt.
1. If Anyone Was Going to Get Addicted to “Drugs”, Wouldn’t It Have Been Screech?
Ah, yes. You knew I was going to end with this one. The infamous “I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so…scared,” moment, an iconic event in television history, fer sure. But why write Jessie Spano as the “drug” addict who couldn’t stop gulping caffeine pills? Seriously, don’t you think Screech was the better candidate? Here’s a young man who is essentially ridiculed by his group of friends on a regular basis and constantly shunned by the woman of his dreams. If anyone was going to ride the dragon, wouldn’t it have been Screech? Besides, his jerky movement and weird vocal inflections tipped us off that something illegal was definitely lurking under that curly head of his.
(Originally published on Heartless Doll.)