Yeah, you didn’t really think I’d forget about this one, did you?
I have so been looking forward to doing this episode, but I put off doing it until the end because, frankly, it’s only loosely related to the Saved by the Bell universe. The only character who appeared in this pilot who would be carried over to Saved by the Bell is Mr. Belding, and he’s played by a different actor and even has a different first name here. But I’m actually quite impressed with the casting of the pilot. In fact, the pilot has only been aired one time and has never been rebroadcast, and was not a part of the Saved by the Bell syndicated package. It’s a miracle we have a copy of it at all and, despite the bad quality, I’m just thankful that someone, somewhere actually taped it.
A little background: NBC commissioned a pilot for Good Morning, Miss Bliss in 1987. In an interesting move that I can’t remember ever happening before, NBC aired the pilot in prime time before the series had even been ordered. On July 11, 1987, the world was introduced to Good Morning, Miss Bliss in the time slot normally reserved for The Facts of Life, which was never a ratings powerhouse for NBC but always got respectable numbers. I’ve not been able to find ratings for this airing of the pilot but it’s safe to assume that, even in the summer months, it got some pretty good exposure.
So let’s talk about the episode. Our opening is dramatically different from the one used during the actual series. Our opening is essentially a set of drawings of Miss Bliss during various times in her academic career overlaid with the credits.
The song is different, too: this song is upbeat like “These are the Best of Times,” but that’s about the extent of the similarity. It makes me appreciate “These are the Best of Times” all the more as the choice of opening song for the series.
Now I said that the cast was almost completely changed after the pilot so I’ll be indicating where it appears they originally intended a character to be a regular.
We open at unnamed grade school (yes, grade school, as established by Mr. Belding later on in the episode) where Miss Bliss is greeting students on the first day of school. One girl is really upset because she grew really tall over the summer. Another is breaking school rules by having headphones on at school but he argues that it’s alright because it’s Beethoven, which Miss Bliss totally buys. Maybe Zack Morris just was trying too hard and should have tried more believable excuses.
As Miss Bliss is about to enter her room, we meet the first kid who was evidently supposed to be a regular, Georgie Winslow (Matt Shakman). Georgie, though the power of exposition, lets us know this is the first day of sixth grade for the class and that he’s been looking forward to Miss Bliss’s class so that he could perv on her legs inappropriately. Strange enough, Miss Bliss likes this. Creepy.
In the classroom, we meet our female students, Janet Hillhurst (Britton Elliott), who is telling another female student, Wendy (Samantha Mills) about how she is wearing a bra despite the fact she doesn’t need it. This is a strange gag, especially since it has nothing to do with the rest of the episode.
Next, we see Georgie trade sandwiches with Bobby Wilson, played by…OH MY GOD IT’S MOTHER FUCKING STEVE URKEL!!!! Yes, that’s right. It’s Jaleel White before he became famous on Family Matters, ironically befriending someone else named Winslow! Jaleel White on Saved by the Bell…just imagine the possibilities!
Our next student is dressed in a business suit, carries a briefcase, and hands Miss Bliss a business card: “Adam Montcrief, Student.” And he’s played by…Brian Austin Green! Wow, another actor who would become famous just a few years later! In case you don’t remember him, he became famous for playing the incredibly hot geek eternally chasing Tori Spelling in Beverly Hills, 90210. Apparently, Adam was intended to be the lead student originally, the Zack Morris type. It’s probably a good thing they switched to Zack Morris because I can’t imagine this character being terribly interesting.
Miss Bliss tells the students she had a terrific summer in which she got married and she’s now Mrs. Davis, but will still go by Miss Bliss at school, completely rendering that line meaningless. Georgie nearly bursts out in tears over Miss Bliss marrying someone her own age rather than an eleven year old, and I continue to think this is the creepiest kid in the entire series, even creepier than the bully who was twenty years old in “Showdown.”
And in walks our final student, a tough kid with an attitude almost immediately. He takes his seat and props his foot up on a chair in front of him. Miss Bliss tells the class she has three rules: do your best, come to her if you have any problems, and you don’t put your motherfucking feet up in the motherfucking chair.
The assignment for tomorrow is a written essay on the most important person in their lives which I’m sure won’t play into the plot at all. Wendy wants to know if it has to be a real person or if it can be one of the kids on The Cosby Show and I wished it was a few years later so Miss Bliss could reply, “Only if it’s about Raven-Symoné.”
Now Miss Bliss wants the students to tell us about their summers, and we first get Bobby, who tells us his father packed his family into a minivan and drove cross country. Thrilling stuff. Our tough guy student pops a bubble with his gum and Miss Bliss decides that he’s a volunteer.
His name is Michael Thompson and he just moved to Indianapolis. And he thinks it’s the pits, which, as a person from Indiana, I agree with him on one hundred percent. He’s played by Jonathan Brandis, who was most famous for being in The Never-Ending Story II and seaQuest DSV. And, before I get comments on it, I’m very aware he tragically killed himself a few years ago. I have a lot of compassion for him and his family. He was a very talented and underrated actor and it’s terrible that anyone should get to the point they decide to kill themselves.
After a cut, it’s time for lunch and Miss Bliss stops Michael on the way out. She tells him that she’s the head honcho in this class and he better fucking get on board before the spankings ensue. He’s like, “Yeah, whatever.” She says she knows something’s up and she wants to help him but Michael’s all, “Fuck off and mind your own business lady!” and walks out to lunch.
And then in walks ‘ole Miss Tina Paladrino, in this iteration played by Maria O’Brien. This Tina is dressed even shittier than the Tina we’ve come to know and loathe, and she’s apparently just got back from a summer in Europe where she was almost engaged twice. Miss Bliss tells Tina she got married on a whim this past summer and it’s apparently the first Tina’s heard of it. Yeah, apparently this Miss Bliss is much more spontaneous than the Miss Bliss we know.
In the office, we meet our next character, Lonnie Maple (Julie Ronnie), Mr. Belding’s secretary. It might have actually been nice to have Mr. Belding’s secretary as an actual character rather than a background extra. I can imagine many scenarios she could have been involved in. Alas, though, we’ll never know, as she only gets one scene in the pilot and it isn’t a crucial scene.
Miss Bliss comes in and snoops around Mr. Belding’s files looking for Michael’s file as Mr. “Gerald” Belding enters and tells Lonnie that someone has already written graffiti about him in the boy’s restroom. And this Mr. Belding looks much different, being played here by Oliver Clark.
Mr. Belding sees Miss Bliss in his files and tells her to back off his confidential information that his secretary is just letting anyone who walks in read. She tells him that she has a student who needs her and Mr. Belding is like, “Girl, you gots some boundary issues! Go back up off those students and relax before you give me a migraine!” This Mr. Belding has already been more useful to Miss Bliss than the other Mr. Belding was in thirteen episodes.
We cut to Miss Bliss’s house and meet our last main character, Miss Bliss’s husband, Charlie Davis (Charles Siebert), as he’s moving his things into Miss Bliss’s house, some of which she’s shocked to discover include a parachute, a chair, and a pinball machine as the writers obviously want to emphasize how little Miss Bliss knows about Charlie. And there’s a quick gag where Miss Bliss gets stuck in Charlie’s chair.
The doorbell rings and who should it be but Tina, dressed as Ursa from Superman II, who wanted to just come over and meet Charlie unannounced. And boy am I glad they didn’t keep this Tina. She makes me appreciate the Tina we knew for thirteen episodes, and I hate her for that.
The doorbell rings again and it’s a flower delivery man. It’s fucking dark outside. Why is someone delivering flowers this late? In any case, the flowers are from Georgie, who manages to be creepy even off camera.
And, because the whole fucking city is showing up at Miss Bliss’s house tonight, the doorbell rings again and it’s Michael. This happened in “Summer Love” too. How the hell do Miss Bliss’s students find out where she lives on the first day of school in the thirteenth largest city in the nation? Does she hand them business cards like Adam, except they say, “Miss Carrie Bliss, Boundary Crosser?”
Michael says he’s running away. His brother is dying and we cut to commercial break as Miss Bliss embraces Michael.
The next morning Charlie finds Miss Bliss already up and making breakfast.He wants to know where she was last night because he was looking for some hot fucking and she says she never came to bed because she was staying up cuddling with Michael until he fell asleep. Wait, say what?! She let a student spend the night at her house?! I think she just took boundary crossing to a new, weird place!
Charlie gets pissy because Miss Bliss has a PTA meeting that night and he wanted some poon. He says he always thought being a teacher ended at 3:00 and walks out angry when she says her boundary issues are significant enough that she can’t just turn off being a teacher when the bell rings, and Michael comes into the kitchen.
Miss Bliss tells Michael that she spoke to his mom and she really wants to talk to him. He doesn’t want to talk to her because he feels like they’ve been lying to him about how sick his brother really was, and I’m with him on this. I get that this shit is hard to deal with, but it’s kind of insulting and scaring to not let someone know that a loved one is actually dying and not getting better. Miss Bliss tells Michael they were just trying to spare his feelings, and he needs to deal with them, to which he blows up and walks out. I do wonder why the family just moved to Indianapolis if Michael’s brother is dying. Maybe that would have been explained to us eventually. Maybe he was there for treatment. Or maybe the writers just didn’t give two shits about a pilot they didn’t know would be picked up.
Then, for some reason, Charlie’s pinball machine is delivered to the back door. I don’t get why so many people randomly went through backyards in eighties sitcoms. And why would you take a delivery to the backdoor anyway?
At school, Michael is conspicuously absent. Georgie and Bobby exchange sandwiches again, because that’s apparently their thing. Miss Bliss comes in and it’s time to read the essays. Janet gets started and, of all people, the most important person in her life is David Lee Roth. I’m just going to shake my head at this one. It may be the last time someone felt that way about David Lee Roth.
And, from what I gather, this unnamed boy is supposed to be Bradley, and he was intended to be a regular student in the class, despite the fact he wasn’t introduced earlier. He’s played by Gabriel Damon, who had a number of bit roles in the eighties and nineties in various shows and movies. Here, his only purpose is to antagonize Janet during her report and declare that Ozzy Osbourne is hella better than David Lee Roth. Hey, you can’t fault him for his musical taste.
We cut to Adam, whose fifteen minute report was on why Ronald Reagan shows us that old people can be useful, too. No joking. It’s quite obvious that most of Adam’s characteristics are ripped directly off Alex Keaton from Family Ties. Georgie is next and he’s about to read an inappropriate report on Miss Bliss but she shuts him down before he can talk about her naughty bits.
Michael comes in and asks if he can read his report, which he wrote on his brother. He gets emotional during the delivery so Miss Bliss gets touchy feely and helps him read it.
That night, Charlie meets Miss Bliss at school, apologizing for being such a jackass and they’ll just get it on at her convenience instead. Georgie comes walking in as they make out and Charlie finally gets to meet the creepy kids who’s trying to usurp his wife. Georgie wants his flowers back because he wants to give them to Janet but, instead, Charlie pays him $30 for them. Weirdness all around.
Charlie says he’s just going to have to get used to being married to all her students as well, which is kind of a creepy thing to say. And Charlie and Miss Bliss walk out arm in arm, as we conclude the pilot.
This isn’t a bad start to the series and I wonder what it would have been like if they’d kept these characters. There’s very little hint here for me as to what this series would eventually become in Saved by the Bell and it seems a much more mature show than the series we got on The Disney Channel. Amazingly, the kids also feel less one dimensional to me, with the possible exception of Adam. One of the criticisms of Saved by the Bell is that all six characters are completely one dimensional and based on one character trait each. We actually have some complexity here and Michael displays some character growth in the very first episode, even if it is forced. That’s quite impressive. And, of course, it has Steve Mother Fucking Urkel in it! In any case, Jaleel White, Brian Austin Green, and Jonathan Brandis each went on to do bigger and better things. Considering the career killer being on Saved by the Bell was for most of the cast, it’s probably better for their careers that they didn’t stick around.
Some fans have tried to place this series in the continuity of the rest of Good Morning, Miss Bliss, arguing it takes place a year before the series since Zack Morris once stated that Miss Bliss’s husband died. It’s a pilot, though, and obviously not meant to be taken as a part of the series proper since it’s never been reaired. I think, though, the best thing I can possibly say, though, is, to paraphrase Mystery Science Theater 3000, it’s just a show so you should relax.
And that’s really it this time for Good Morning, Miss Bliss. I’ll have a recap of the series this Wednesday along with an announcement of what’s next on Mondays.