We Miss the 90s: Saved by the Bell – Part One

In this regular column, Justin Rozzero and Jen Engle exchange emails reminiscing about the greatest decade in history: the 1990s. Justin & Jen have been friends since 1997 and have been trading emails and instant messages about 90s nostalgia since the day they met. Now, they take it public. If you have suggestions for future topics, please email us at the addresses below!

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Justin: Jen…do you ever get that feeling? When you wake up in the morning, and the alarm gives out a warning…do you think you will never make it on time? I will give you a hint. You will. Because you were Saved by the Bell!

Settle in, because this is going to be a long, winding nostalgia trip. How big of a Bellie (coining that right meow!) were you at the time? Did you watch live or did you catch up in syndication later on?

Let’s start at the top…the premise. On a scale from Quite to Very, how awesome is the premise? But at the same time, how weird was Good Morning, Miss Bliss? I could never get into those episodes. And they were in Indiana! Zack, Lisa and Screech were there, and in a fun fact, the pilot episode is the only one of the series to not feature Zack or Screech.

Hayley Mills was clearly the draw here and the focal point of the show, but it was a great move to switch the focus to the kids and restock the lineup. Any thoughts on Miss Bliss? Or can we gloss over them as quickly as I did flipping the channels as a kid?

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Jen: Ahhh Saved by the Bell. It’s a wonder these 90s discussions made it this far without us tackling the zany adventures of Zack Morris. Time Out! I’d like to bring our good friend Chrissy, who is such a “Bellie” that she pretty much demanded that she be allowed to contribute to this piece. And since it was her birthday, I couldn’t deny her the opportunity! Time In.

I was a big fan from the inception of Saved By the Bell but I never really caught Good Morning, Miss Bliss until it was added to the syndication rotation. I am pretty sure I caught all of the episodes at some point, as I watched the Saved By the Bell reruns quite a bit through college. I know I can’t quote every episode like Justin but I was a pretty big fan.

Hayley Mills was mostly likely the only reason that Good Morning, Miss Bliss made it a full season. Hayley Mills was America’s Sweetheart at one time and was probably a big selling point to the NBC Bosses who grew up watching her in the Parent Trap (and hey, without that original version we might never have gotten the remake with LiLo).

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover here, so let’s get to it! Welcome aboard, Chrissy! Did you catch any of the pre-SBTB episodes of Good Morning, Miss Bliss? How did three students AND the principal make it from Indianapolis all the way to California?

Chrissy: Hi everyone! Pleasure to be here. Yes, Jen, I did in fact catch the Good Morning, Miss Bliss! episodes, although I gotta tell you, it was my least favorite version of SBTB (i.e. Junior High, High School a.k.a. the best one, Summer, and the College Years).

I am in fact a “Bellie”, so much so that I had the SBTB board game which I played frequently at sleepovers. I was in love with Zack Morris and wanted to be Kelly Kapowski, much like every 90s girl in America. Her off-the-shoulder sweatshirt was clearly on the cutting edge of fashion. I cried my eyes out when Zack and Kelly broke up because Kelly kissed Jeff (her older boss…what a creep btw) and then had one last dance with Zack to “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You”. Award winning stuff.

Speaking of awards, it still boggles my mind that Jesse Spano never got an Oscar for her portrayal of a teen addicted to caffeine pills. “I’m so excited, I’m so…SCARED!!!!”

So Justin which band did you like better, Zack Attack or Hot Sundae…or were you a bigger fan of Max’s magic tricks?

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Justin: Welcome to the team, Chrissy! Hot Sundae all day and all night, no contest there.

Let’s talk Max for a minute. So this dude Max owns this new wave looking…Diner? Was that it? Was it catered to teens? It’s like an old school idea but with a futuristic look. And he is a nerd that does magic. Like was that necessary at all? I feel like he was a brother of one of the producers and they said “well we have to get him into the show so he can showcase his magic act and pick up gigs…What if he owns a futuristic diner that all the teens hang out in!!!”

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And the move from Indiana to California was a huge one and very much needed. I think they knew that they could sweep it under the rug because the show would benefit so much from it that nobody would complain. Where did Miss Bliss go anyway? Were Zack, Screech and Lisa so compelling that they ditched Hayley Mills for them? She must have walked.

So they arrive in SoCal and…enter…the warrior, today’s Tom Sawyer, Mister AC Slater! Hey Mama! You needed the successful jock, but in a weird twist, Slater was kind of a weird outcast early on because he was an Army brat. They quickly fixed that, but it was quite the undertaking. Kelly and Jesse also show up, but more on them later.

Girls, thoughts on Slater. Was he the cat’s meow as was pushed on screen? Or did you both prefer Zack?

Also… If you look at the cast in that first Cali season, which of the group would you have pegged immediately to become stars?

Jen: It’s kind of creepy that Max’s customers were all kids, isn’t it? Did any adults go to his restaurant? He’s like the GOB Bluth of SBTB! Max’s family is totally trying to keep him out of the way and just letting him do his magic tricks in some random diner.

I don’t remember them tying up the loose ends of the move and the departure of Miss Bliss…I agree, Hayley Mills definitely walked.

Zach was the one for me! I can’t recall anyone that thought that Slater was the cat’s meow, can you? I don’t think you do, otherwise you wouldn’t have asked the question. Mario Lopez is definitely easy on the eyes, but I was all about the blonde-haired California boy Zack back in those days.

Screech was totally going to be the break out star. All. The. Way. Haha okay, maybe not. I would have pegged Mark Paul Gosselaar to be honest. I guess if you think about it, he and Mario Lopez retained the most stardom thus far. So, Justin…Lisa, Kelly Kapowski or Jesse Spano? I’m going to guess Kelly Kapowski….

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Chrissy: Just to add to on, we don’t prefer AC Slater, he had a mullet, a curly MULLET!! Business in the front, party in the back, and that’s a party I don’t wanna attend. Not to mention he frequently graced the screen wearing a tight spandex wrestling outfit. Not my cup of tea, maybe some gals dug it, but I wasn’t one of em.

It is a lil creepy that Max opened a diner that only served kids, although at the time, I wished my town had one. I also think he was a kid at heart anyway.

I am anxious to know who Justin prefers, Jesse or Kelly, or there’s always Tori, who thought a leather jacket went with anything, or Screech’s dorky gf played by Tori Spelling, whose character name escapes me (I guess I’m not as much of a Bellie as a I thought). What about the summer years?? Add Stacey Carosi to that list, Justin.

Jen: Side note: Tori Spelling played Violet. Can’t believe you forgot that!
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Justin: Yes she was Violet! That was her proving she had acting range for sure.

Ok no doubt I am a Kelly man across the board…A running theme in my life, right? Kelly Kapowski…Kelly Taylor…Kelly Flynn (ugh)… And then right down to my wife…It’s been quite the run!

Jesse had her moments but I rank her only above Tori out the SBTB crew. And I am a little offended you didn’t think I would appreciate the beauty of Ms. Lark Vorhees! Lisa in the last couple of years really…ahem…broke out. If I had to rank (because that’s what I do):

Kelly
Stacy
Lisa
Miss Bliss
Jesse
Zack’s Mom
Tori

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Speaking of Lisa, I love the super serious Zack’s knee surgery episode where all of a sudden they are best friends! I thought he and Jesse were best friends?? Or Screech?? They changed that shit week to week.

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Ok, a couple of questions for you ladies:

Favorite teacher?
Best nickname?
Best out of school adventure?
Best fashion plate?

Also…Bonus points to which of you mommas can name the most dorks from the rap version of Snow White!

Chrissy: Favorite teacher…hmmm…Mrs. Simpson, the one that couldn’t hear anything. Best nickname…Artie, which was not only the name of AC’s chameleon but also what his hometown sweetheart called him when she came to visit.

Best out of school adventure would have to be the Dance Off at the Max hosted by Casey Casem. Lisa won for creating “The Sprain”.  Its still one of my go-to dance moves.

Best fashion plate…KELLY! My favorite was the tight top she had with a large floral pattern and a bow at the top. Loved it. If my memory serves me correct she paired it with a jean jacket. Fashionista for sure, maybe a Maxxinista.

What was your feeling about the Lisa and Screech love affair? I feel like she always had a soft spot in her heart for him, even though he was such a dork. Speaking of dorks, I couldn’t name you one of those dorks from Snow White, probably cuz I couldn’t take my eyes off Zach’s frosted tips.

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Also, I think things fizzled out during the College Years, it was like one of those 4th or 5th sequel movies that should never have been made. What do you guys think?

Jen: I had to look her name up, but Mrs. Culpepper. She was the one that couldn’t see very well and would bump into things. I am not 100% sure, but I think she was the art teacher, so naturally she had to be eccentric (I didn’t have an art teacher my entire life that wasn’t…). Does Screech count as nickname? Because it is a really good one.

Um, obviously I wanted Kelly Kapowski’s ENTIRE wardrobe. I dressed as her at an 80s party and kept my Bayside Tigers t-shirt. I still wish I could pull off her bangs (I’ve tried and I still can’t get them quite right). Lisa totally loved the attention that she got from Screech! Even if she wished it came from another source.

I wasn’t really a fan of the college years, although I loved the episode Jonathan Brandis (RIP) was on.

Chrissy…I met Mark Paul Gosselaar once. Actually, him and Jonathan Brandis AND Patrick Muldoon and up until this very minute I did not put it together but every single one of them were on SBTB at some point!

Justin: We will get to the College Years later, we still have some high school to mine through.

Seven Dorks: Dweeby, Nerdy, Geeky, Slimey, Shlumpy, Dumpy, and Norman

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Favorite Teacher – Mr. Tuttle, I loved that portly little bastard, always good for a laugh.

Best Nickname – Preppie I guess, because it really just made no sense at all. I also give points to Running Zack, which was the Indian name bestowed upon him by Chief Henry.

Best Adventure – The episode at the mall where they thought they found money but were on a hidden TV show FTW!

Best Fashion Plate – Lisa! She always maxed out (pun!) her dad’s credit cards to look hella fresh and hot so she could tease and torture poor Screech. Their relationship was an interesting one that often left you feeling very bad for poor Sammy Powers. But I am glad they kept things realistic as Lisa should, would and could do way better than Screech.

By the way, another underrated aspect of Zack’s perfection is his athletic ability. He is apparently nasty at basketball and track, two factoids that randomly pop up when least expected. Was he actually more athletically inclined than superstar wrestler Slater?

We also need to discuss the episode where Jesse and Zach try to get into STANSBURY, which I am guess was supposed to be Stanford? Not only is Zach an awesome athlete and a hunk but he also aced his SATs? Absurd.

Also, one of my favorite episodes ever is the Battle of the Sexes Challenge, which ended with the rigging of the oven timer. Trivia: What were the stakes?

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Other characters we have to discuss as well:

Rod F’n Belding
Christy Barnes
Slater’s Asshole Military Dad<
Leon Carosi
Jesse’s half brother Eric<

Chrissy: Zack Morris was definitely a multifaceted dude, hence why he was every girl’s heartthrob. How about when Kelly didnt go to prom because her family couldn’t afford it and he came and danced with her at her house? What a good dude.

Yes, I remember them trying to get into Stansbury, and how mad Jesse was that Zack did so well on the SATs.

I hated Slater’s dad, he was a dick! Poor AC. Leon Carosi was a plump man who got very angry but it always turned out to be endearing. Stacey Carosi was the only other girl I rooted for to be with Zack besides Kelly.

Another comment I would like to make is how okay everyone was with Screech popping out of file cabinets. How?? Where were the drawers? How did he breathe in there?

Jen: Battle of the Sexes…weren’t they competing for money for their sports teams? I can’t remember how much but I’m pretty sure that was it.

Rod Belding, aka Mr Belding’s asshole brother. Rod Belding came into Bayside High acting all cool and letting the students decide which grades they deserve, and then he went and ditched their class trip for a stewardess! How could you let the kids of Bayside High down?

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I’ll admit I had to look Christy Barnes up, but now that I have I do remember her! A girl wrestler? SBTB was so ahead of it’s time! Of course Jesse was jealous of her being on the wrestling team with Slater, but doesn’t she know any better.

Slater’s dad was a jerk. I don’t really know what to add other than I’m glad he at least let Slater have a mullet. Leon Carosi was a big old softy at heart…and I also have to admit that Stacy Carosi was the only other girl I ever rooted for with Zach other than Kelly as well. Leah Remini was great! But she wasn’t meant to be Mrs. Zach Morris. If he and Kelly never got back together, we’d have an entire generation of people who would be unable to love on our hands right now.

Why are all these people on your list jerks? I really don’t remember Jesse’s brother at all, but I did look him up and he seems like a class A jerkface.

Screech was a freak of nature who could somehow fit in those filing cabinets, Chrissy! He probably did get hot though. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that was.

Justin: So maybe that was my overall point? That all the ancillary characters were douchebags for some reason. Although, you could argue that everybody on the show except Screech and Mr. Belding was a piece of garbage at their core. They all did pretty shitty selfish things at one time or another.

Jesse’s stepbrother was a real jerk, for sure. Although Rod Belding probably takes the official title of biggest SBTB Asshole. Or maybe Jeff.

Speaking off Jeff, we must talk about the fake ID scam that the guys used to get into The Attic to spy on Kelly. And then Zack’s mom shows up! The downfall of Zack and Kelly was the saddest episode of the show, agreed?

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Let’s talk about Hawaii. Memories of that episode? Did you like it more than the usual TV vacation specials?

Also, what the fuck was up with Tori? And why did Zack have to bed her too? She was barely around, did they really need to get involved? Do you ladies know the real story behind Tori?

Chrissy: Whatever the story was with Tori, it was something dark, that made her trust no one and nothing except a leather jacket. I never understood why she got with Zack but I do think he liked that she was the only girl who would call Zack out on his bullshit.

Jeff would def be my vote for dbaggiest person on the show, mostly because he was the reason for the saddest episode ever. I think I cried for a week after that episode (I may be exaggerating a tad, but it was sad – rhyme not intended). I mean that line from Kelly, “Can’t we just have one more dance? Just one?” to the saddest song ever, Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” Meanwhile they were in outfits that made them look like Romeo and Juliet. OMG heartwrenching. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way…not for us” Kelly says between sobs. I mean try and look at this picture without tearing up, I don’t think you guys can.

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Jen: Jeff wins as the worst character for breaking Zach and Kelly up, for sure. What a dirtbag for ruining the idea of romance for our generation. Zach and Kelly’s breakup was clearly the saddest TV event of the 90s, never mind the show!

I have to be honest, I don’t really remember much about Hawaii, but I DO remember that it started out as a movie but the networks divided it up into episodes so that they can play it with the reruns. I also remember that Belding showed up. How realistic is that? Do groups of principals really vacation together in Hawaii??

Ugh, Tori. I agree with Chrissy, I don’t know what her story is but back in the 90s, a leather motorcycle jacket meant “bad ass” (unlike today, it means “I’m trendy”) so she had to be bad news. I wasn’t rooting for her and Zach together, I wanted him with Kelly!  Okay, I’m going to go cry over Zach and Kelly breaking up. That photo did me in, Chrissy.

Justin: I guess I assume all high schools in Southern California visit Hawaii for school trips? I mean, it’s right there, makes perfect sense. Kelly & Jesse returned just in time for graduation, which makes sense.

Any thoughts on that final episode? Was it an upset that Screech edged out Jesse for valedictorian? Did you enjoy Screech and Lisa finally having THE talk???

Also…California University. Screech, Zack and Slater all attend and we get some new chicks in the mix plus Bobby Golic as the RA. I actually enjoyed the College Years, did you?

Did you also think it was weird that the 90210 class ALSO went to CU? At pretty much the same time? Did they hang out? Did Zack bang Andrea? Did Slater have eyes for Kelly Taylor now to satiate his Kelly Issues? Were they at the rave the night of the fire too?? Did Screech lose his virginity to Mrs. Walsh in a moment of weakness?? Give me answers!!!

Jen: If I went to high school in California and DIDN’T get to go to Hawaii on a class trip, I would have been pretty upset.

I forgot all about Screech making valedictorian. If I remember correctly, Screech decided to let Jesse be valedictorian (would this happen in real life?) and when she found out she gave it back to him. Maybe she was really upset about it and that’s why she didn’t go to CU with most of the rest of the group?

Glad that those two crazy kids finally had the talk! Maybe Lisa was never going to be with Screech, but at least she let him know how she felt and even went to prom with him! Wonder if those two are married now? Screech most definitely ended up a dot com millionaire somehow. I bet he cashed in his stocks early and is sitting on a beach in Fiji as we speak.

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Didn’t Mike seem ridiculously old to be an RA? I never understood that. At my school, RAs were just juniors and seniors, not you know, 35 year old former football players. I enjoyed the College Years mostly because I just didn’t want SBTB to end. I haven’t watched it since it aired, unlike regular SBTB, which I’ll watch whenever I see that it’s on (it was always so easy to get sucked in when it was on TBS every morning…).

How did I know that this would turn into a conversation about 90210? They weren’t even on the same network, Rozzero! And I’m pretty sure there’s no way Zack banged Andrea, he totally would have gone after Kelly Taylor given HIS Kelly issues.

Chrissy: I’m sorry for my late response, I got sucked into a SBTB marathon on TBS and I couldn’t pull away. Not really, but it does sound entirely plausible. I agree with Jen, the best mornings were when I was able to catch a rerun before school while I ate my Eggo. “When I wake up in the morning, my ‘larm gives out a warning, and I think I’ll never make it on time…” It was the best when that came on as static came on the screen and then the intro of the cast. I almost always was let down and turned off the tv if it ended up showing the Miss Bliss years. Was that just me?

Anyway, Jesse absolutely should have been valedictorian over Screech, he couldve been saludictorian though. I however, never would be because I have trouble even spelling the word. And I’m sure Screech wouldve turned out to be a millionaire, while Lisa probably would be to by becoming a judge on Project Runway.

Ohhh, the college years. I was a sucker for them, almost as much as the summer SBTB. I completely agree that the RA was waaaaaay to old to be in that job position. He was always there with a punchline when necessary though, so I suppose thats how the show got away with it. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they had a reunion?

Jen: I was always disappointed if they ended up showing the Miss Bliss years on TBS too. It didn’t even come close to the greatness of Saved By the Bell.

A reunion would be amazing. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t officially happened yet. I do love when Jimmy Fallon gets involved and pushes for one, but it never seems to go anywhere. But based on the movies and all the spin offs, you’d think that some producer at NBC would start pushing for the Zack, Kelly and kids sitcom years down the road. Maybe Zach Jr. is a mini Zach! Or better yet, he’s a total Screech! If Girl Meets World can happen, so can this.

Justin: I am sure there will be a reunion someday, most of the cast has to be desperate for a payday. Hell, you see Dennis Haskins anywhere and everywhere nowadays! I am sure he could still rip off a mean “HEY HEY HEY WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!?” Speaking of Belding, we barely even mentioned him! We are officially now on the hook for a part two down the road because we have so much more to delve into.

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Mike as RA was a nice touch. This guy just wanted to head back to school and earn his degree and took on the gig to help pay the way. That’s the American Dream girls! There is so much more about the College Years I want to get into, but if we are headed to a part two, then we will cover it there as to not rush it.

Screech was clearly the smartest of the bunch. Jesse was a very close second, Zach third, followed by Lisa, Kelly and that dumbass Slater. Maybe if his dad wasn’t such an abusive jerk, he could have excelled a bit more in his studies.

And with that we are going to wrap up this edition of We Miss the 90s. With so much material left to dissect, we will return to SBTB at some point down the line. Until then, you mamas go hit the Max for a Max Burger and some Max Magic. I am going to work on my buddy bands!

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Author: JT Rozzero

JT Rozzero is a cohost of the Place to Be podcast and original member of the legendary Moliseum Video. He enjoys all sports. The only thing he hates more than traffic and customer service is people. He is a proud Svenjolly and has had a sinus infection since October 2013. Send Justin an email