I used to watch “Saved by the Bell” religiously as a child, tuning in every afternoon after school, around five o’clock to catch the syndicated repeats. I never missed an episode, and I pity the fool who’d make me miss an installment. The show was true to the teenage experience in the 90’s, as “Leave It to Beaver” was to the familial experience in the fifties, but who cared?
It’s the 25th anniversary of “Saved by the Bell” apparently, so we took the time to compile a list of our top five episodes of “Saved by the Bell.” Mainly, because it’s a childhood favorite. Aw, who are we kidding? It’s still one of our favorite bits of television comfort food of all time. Whenever it’s on, we can’t help but watch, whether it’s the bland early years with Ms. Bliss, or the odd episodes without Jessie or Kelly. It’s up there with “Full House,” and “Fresh Prince” as a series so silly, but so damn funny and charming, you can’t help but be a fan.
Plus, Tiffani Amber Thiessen is still so damn hot.
5. The Fight
If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like if Zack and Slater ever fought, “The Fight” answers it! After a new classmate arrives, Zack and Slater compete for her attention, prompting the two to sabotage each other’s dates. When Slater confronts Zack about his underhanded antics, the two get in to a shoving match that turns in to fisticuffs and downright violent brawling in the school hallway. For once the rivalry between the two lady killers isn’t so interesting, and they end up losing the girl, and everyone’s respect. It’s an unpleasant episode, but one that finally shows what happens when the guys get too competitive. And how utterly egomaniacal these two are. Let’s face it, Zack started it.
One thing I love about this episode is that Zack’s phone is so obscenely large and awkward that it’s amazing he flaunted it around his classmates. Even watching in the early nineties as a child, I always marveled at how huge his cell phone was. One of the funniest episodes of the series involves Zack failing again in school, and being given the order to bring in his father for a conference by Mr. Belding. Not wanting to miss the school ski trip, Zack hires the new owner of the Max, James, to impersonate his father. For reasons never explained, Max is now gone, and in his place is James, an aspiring actor. Mark Blankfield is featured in one of two really hysterical guest spots, pulling double duty in Zack’s scheme as his father, and as Mr. Belding.
3. The Fabulous Belding Brothers
“A building with two Beldings, one of whom is balding!” One of the more iconic episodes of the series, we get to meet Mr. Belding’s hipper cooler brother, who is assigned to substitute when a teacher falls ill. Unlike Mr. Belding, his brother Rod is a cool guy with a slick blond mullet, whose approach to teaching is lazy and very appealing. The studying for the annual mid-term held by dictatorial teacher Mr. Dickerson is undermined by Rod, who has a easier approach to learning the material, and prepares to take the class on their annual River rafting trip. Zack acts like a dick to Mr. Belding, but realizes the error of his ways when Rod dumps the class to hang out with a hot date. It’s a fine slice of cheese, and one of the few explorations of Belding’s life.
2. Pipe Dreams
If Zack Morris can stand up to the oil companies, why can’t we? In either case, the episode is filled with laughable attempts at social commentary, and a tale about a duck named Becky. After a project about animals prompts the group to study swamp life, Zack gets attached to a duck he finds near the football field. The school strikes oil, prompting the PTA and the students to dream of a better school to go to, but it comes at a price. While drilling for oil, the swamp is drowned in oil, killing Zack’s duck, prompting him to stand up against the oil company interested in drilling in the school. While the episode is one of the best of the series, it’s also laughable that a public school would turn down potentially millions of dollars to help upgrade their educational facilities, because a student is pissed about a duck dying. I am a big animal lover, but even I’d ask security to remove Zack as he moaned about his duck. We’re talking millions of dollars to improve education, moron. But hey, at least we got to know Becky the Duck for a while.
1. All in the Mall
Oddly enough, the funniest episode of “Saved by the Bell” isn’t set in the school, and doesn’t even feature Mr. Belding, or Jessie, for that matter. We visit the gang trying to get U2 tickets at the local mall (a set piece that would become prominent in future episodes). When Screech camps overnight, he accidentally steps out of line prompting frustration from the group. When they try to get back in the running for the tickets, they discover a bag filled with thousands of dollars, and events spiral out of control. Now being stalked by two mysterious thugs, they run around the mall looking for a way to keep the money, and camp out together to garner a second chance at tickets to their favorite band. Some of the funniest bits involve the gang posing as mannequins inside a wedding store, Slater and Zack taunting Kelly and Lisa in a movie theater, and the group spending the night in a sports goods store. There’s also a cameo from Zack’s cell phone! You would think Jessie would have a Zeppo effect, balancing everyone out, but shockingly you barely notice she isn’t in this one. There’s not even a mention of her, and the episode is still hilarious, and my favorite of the series that I re-visit constantly