Before I get started, I just wanted to take this opportunity (especially since it won’t come around again for another six months), to thank everyone who reads this blog. As I write this, I’m up to record page views. I love writing this blog and I couldn’t do it without you. Thanks especially to Pablo, Mark Moore, and Jennie B who consistently comment almost every week. I love reading comments and hearing feedback and I generally approve almost everything I receive, positive or negative, unless it’s just not constructive at all.
With that, season two of Saved by the Bell.
Season two of Saved by the Bell was probably when the show finally started coming into its own. It wasn’t really trying horrible gimmicks yet to attract viewers, and there are some very good episodes in this season. I feel like this was the season that kept the franchise afloat for another nine years.
Yet, mixed in among great episodes like “The Prom” and “The Fabulous Belding Boys” were atrocious episodes like “Running Zack.” As always, the Saved by the Bell grab bag has to be a mixed one. And this isn’t even considering the fact that two out of season episodes made it into the mix. The show may not have jumped the shark this season, but the fin was definitely waiting to come out.
On top of all this, the DVDs for both seasons one and two were absolute, utter messes. I could forgive putting all four out of season episodes on the season one DVD. There’s actually some logic to that when you think about it. What I can’t forgive is the fact the episodes are advertised as in airing order but are definitely not in airing order. On top of that, three season two episodes are actually on the season three DVD: “The Fabulous Belding Boys,” “Breaking Up is Hard to Undo,” and “The Glee Club.” This is just messy and unforgivable. On top of that, The Summer of Morris, another Saved by the Bell review blog, has pretty much confirmed that what we have are cut episodes after that blog was able to dig up a lost scene from “The Zack Tapes.”
This is just unforgivable. What the DVDs are essentially saying is that they know we’ll buy these episodes no matter what crap they put out because they know we want the episodes. At this point, I have nothing but disgust for Lionsgate for doing this.
Let’s talk characterization.
Oh, Zack Morris. You started off the season with so much promise when you actually did something admirable for Kelly in “The Prom.” You had to go and ruin it by being yourself, though, didn’t you. Between his racist portrayal of Native Americans, his desire to cheat on Kelly with the school nurse, and his attempt to sabotage Kelly’s chance to go to Paris, Zack Morris continues his trend of douchebaggery and takes it to new, unheard of levels. Zack Morris shows no growth this season, and he just becomes the kind of character you want to punch in the face.
Speaking of punching people in the face, Screech’s character this season shows the beginnings of the annoying character who’s going to be with us for the next nine years. He’s a complete moron, totally unlikeable, and yet the gang still lets him hang around with them. He gets a girlfriend this season but forgets about her unless it’s convenient to the plot. We meet his mother but only so it can be established she’s as much an idiot as her son. Peter Engel wasn’t lying: Screech’s point on this show is to try and salvage really bad scenes, and it shows.
Oh, Kelly, you showed so much potential this season. You were the focus of one of the best episodes of the season and you carried over your likeable bits. Unfortunately, Kelly is defined by men, and I only realized it this season. Without men to fight over her, she has no character. I mean, really, the only things I know about Kelly other than her being beautiful and attractive to the male characters is that she’s poor, she is either tone deaf or a musical genius, and she has lots of siblings, and none of these things are mentioned unless they’re directly needed for the plot. This is an instance where the writers could replace a character with a toaster oven without effecting the show.
Poor Elizabeth Berkley. You will always be remembered for two things: Showgirls and being a caffeine pill addict. Jessie doesn’t have a lot to do this season outside getting over her addiction and pursuing Slater like a psychopath. She has minor subplots in other episodes but they never amount to much. Though Jessie has more characteristics than Kelly, she’s still defined by her pursuit of Slater which, in itself, is a pretty minor subplot this season.
Lisa’s on the show a lot, but she never does anything. She’s usually only there to get in on the antics of the gang, to insult Screech, or to act as the voice of reason, which is quite sad considering this is the girl who, last season, thought it would be a good idea to let Zack Morris prostitute her out to pay back her father. I can’t think of a single memorable Lisa scene this season and that’s quite sad, especially considering she’s been around since Good Morning, Miss Bliss.
If there’s a character this season who really has no purpose, it’s Slater. The biggest plot he’s a part of this season was in “Save the Max,” and there he doesn’t even have a large role. The writers wrap up his infatuation with Kelly pretty early in the season and, without Zack Morris to fight with, the writers don’t seem to know what to do with Slater. He off and on pursues Jessie this season but that’s about it. Everything else is relegated to minor sub-plot status. Of course, they did find an excuse for him to take his shirt off this season for fan service, but there’s no reason for him to be there other than to be a pretty boy.
Mr. Belding gets the most development of any character this season as we get an episode that shows just how much he cares for his students. Yet, despite this, we still get moronic plots involving him such as “Breaking Up is Hard to Undo,” where he shows pederastic tendencies. Most episodes he continues to be relegated to the background, which is probably how it should be since he’s meant to be Zack Morris’s foil.
With this recap, it’s time to say goodbye to the first Saved by the Bell cast member to depart: Ed Alonzo. We’ll see him show up in a couple more out of season episodes, but this is the last season he actually appeared in. I don’t know why Max was given the boot, but I can only assume it was because the writers realized he was the most redundant character on the show. He never did anything useful and gave horrible advice. He also apparently randomly snuck around Bayside taking pictures of all the students.
So what did Ed Alonzo do after Saved by the Bell? Not much, it turns out. He’s made a few sporadic appearances on talk shows and in sitcoms such as Murphy Brown, How I Met Your Mother, and Modern Family, but he’s never had another major role. He continues performing magic and, from what I understand, he completely whores out the fact he was a regular on Saved by the Bell for a season to get people to come see him. But, yeah, he’s a definite d-list celebrity at this point and most people don’t even remember he was a regular on this show.
Season two of Saved by the Bell is definitely better overall than season one, and I’d rather rewatch some of these episodes than much of what is to come. But it’s time to move on into season three as Saved by the Bell essentially becomes even more centered around Zack Morris than it already was.
As usual, I encourage you to agree or disagree with my picks in the comments section below.
Five Episodes I Loved:
1. “The Fabulous Belding Boys” (Episode 15): This is, hands down, the best episode this season. The plot is mostly realistic, we get some amazing characterization for Mr. Belding, and Zack Morris really does learn something in the end. It’s going to be hard to beat this episode as my favorite of the series.
2. “The Prom” (Episode 1): This could have easily given “The Fabulous Belding Boys” some serious competition had it not been for the stupid subplots. Still, it’s a really good episode and I found myself genuinely empathizing with Kelly. I wish there were more episodes like these two.
3. “Jessie’s Song” (Episode 9): Don’t get me wrong. This is not a good episode. However, it is absolutely hillarious how ludicrous it is. Even more, it’s amazing that the writers thought this was a good idea. It’s the most infamous episode of the series by far and lives on as fodder for Elizabeth Berkley jokes.
4. “From Nurse to Worse” (Episode 16): I love it when Zack Morris acts like an asshole and gets his comeuppance. It may be completely improper for the nurse to conspire with the gang for revenge, but it’s great to see him get what he deserves nonetheless. It’s slightly hampered by the “Slater doesn’t want a flu shot” subplot, but it’s solid nevertheless.
5. “The Glee Club” (Episode 18): Okay, if I have to pick one more episode, it’s this one. It’s a solid episode that gives us some characterization for Violet and really shows off how much talent Aaron Spelling’s money can buy. It’s probably the only decent episode involving Screech this season.
Three Episodes that I Hate:
1. “Running Zack” (Episode 13): I hate this episode. I hate every single solitary minute of this twenty-two minute piece of racist garbage. I hate that someone thought this was bringing up sensitive issues in a wise way. I hate that Zack Morris is even more racist when he thinks he’s being racially sensitive. I hate that we, the audience, are insulted by the idea that Zack Morris is deeply affected by the passing of a minor supporting character he met twice. I hate that this episode exists.
2. “Blind Dates” (Episode 6): This is an episode without a reason for existing. The entire thing would have been cleared up if Zack Morris had just told Kelly and his parents that Mr. Belding was blackmailing him. Instead, we get a half hour of insufferable nonesense that is insulting to two year olds.
3. “Breaking Up is Hard to Undo” (Episode 17): All the characterization Mr. Belding received in “The Fabulous Belding Boys” is thrown down the drain as he crosses so many professional boundaries. What writer thought the concept of a principal hanging out in his student’s bed and talking about his love life problems was a good idea?
“Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind” (Episode 12) and “The Babysitters” (Episode 14): It’s no wonder NBC choose not to air these episodes during the first season. They’re two of the worst episodes I’ve seen in the franchise, and that includes what I’ve seen of The New Class. These episodes are subpar, even by Saved by the Bell standards, and should never have seen the light of day.