The pain of returning home

The release on DVD of “Saved by the bell” marks a bittersweet remembrance for young adults.

by Keri Carlson

When I wake up in the morning, my alarm gives out a warning, I don’t think I’ll ever make it on time. By the time I grab my books and I give myself a look, I’m at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by!” The opening lines of the theme to “Saved By the Bell” probably need no introduction to those of college age. Our generation grew up with the show’s six high school friends and their dopey principal. But “Saved By the Bell” is not simply a Saturday morning sitcom that we have a vague recollection of watching. Thanks to heavy syndication, most of us watched the show every day after school and saw every single episode (including the Jr. High years, the Malibu Sands summer and the college years). Beyond simply remembering the plot of each episode, we can recall the most minute details of the show such as the name of Screech’s robot (Kevin), why Kelly did not go to the prom (her dad lost his job), who played Screech’s girlfriend (Tori Spelling) and the name of the night club the characters snuck into with fake IDs (the Attic).

With the release of the first two seasons of “Saved By the Bell” on DVD, it is easier to understand exactly why NBC’s low-budget teen series became a cult hit with Generation Y and the younger segment of Generation X.

First of all, the show depicted high school life to a large chunk of viewers much younger and not yet in high school. The appeal came from idealizing high school. “Saved by the bell” is set in Bayside High School, right near the beach, the mall and the Max, the coolest hang out burger-and-shake joint. The characters seemed to enjoy what every 10-year-old could not wait for, freedom. Hardly any episodes feature the characters’ parents and the one consistent authority figure represented is principal Mr. Belding who continuously falls for the tricks of the gang lead by the Denis the Menace for the early 1990’s, Zack Morris. Adults were seen as irrelevant or easily duped, leaving Zack, Slater, Screech, Lisa, Kelly and Jessie to roam freely.

“Saved By the Bell” made high school seem pretty easy. Sure a conflict arose every episode that Zack would attempt to fix with a self-serving scheme that would of course backfire; but basically everything at Bayside made perfect sense. The characters stuck to their stereotypes.

Zack: the get-rich-quick dreamer with a sleazy game-show host attitude and the first high school kid allowed a cell phone. Slater: the muscular jock. Screech: the nerd and always willing side-kick. Kelly: the perfect popular cheerleader and homecoming queen. Lisa: the spoiled daddy’s girl and excessive shopper and gossiper. Jessie: the brainy and whiney feminist and environmentalist.

Every character stuck to their role, never stepping over the boundaries. The jocks dated the cheerleaders and the nerds chased the cheerleaders and the jocks stuffed the nerds in lockers. It made things unfair for the nerds but it helped to maintain an order in the high school so confusing issues such as race and homosexuality never challenged the system.

It is certainly strange to go back and watch “Saved By the Bell” after all these years and notice the show’s blatant stereotypes. But if you do not want to spoil your childhood memories of the show it’s easy to ignore what the show fails to say about society and instead focus on Lisa’s fabulous ruffled jean skirts with matching cowboy boots.