The original cast have a cult following for a good reason, which I’ll be analyzing on Friday in my final recap for them. But, for all the highs of the series and the beloved episodes, there are an equal number of bad ones, some of them really bad.
In honor of reviewing every episode and film featuring the original cast, I thought I’d do two bonus posts featuring the best and the worst of the original cast. Anything featuring the original cast is fair game for these lists: Good Morning Miss Bliss, Saved by the Bell, The College Years, and both films. I plan on doing another list around this time next year when I complete The New Class since that’s a whole other animal in itself.
Today, let’s look at the ten worst episodes in order of badness. So, number one will be, in my opinion, the worst episode of the original cast. Without further adieu, let’s start with number ten.
I still hate this one so much. A former student of Miss Bliss’s who’s become a pop star returns to RFK Junior High. She makes the decision to quit music so she can go to college, delivering the message that, despite fame and fortune, college is an absolute necessity for everyone and giving unrealistic expectations to thousands of kids who will never attend college. Yeah, this cliche alone was enough for me to hate this episode.
But, on top of it, the actual episode was…wow. Zack Morris kisses the adult Stevie, and keep in mind he’s supposed to be in eighth grade in this episode. The song Stevie performs is just terrible and it’s obviously a recording, not the actress singing it. And the whole premise of Not-Jessie and the rest of the gang not believing Zack Morris kissed Stevie is boring and predictable.
I hate this episode with a passion. This episode takes Slater, who was a misogynistic uber-masculine guy in Saved by the Bell and makes him suddenly care about his Latino heritage when it may get him laid. This, despite the fact he never gave a shit about any of Jessie’s causes when they were dating. It’s completely out of character for Slater and comes the fuck out of nowhere.
And, it’s all for nothing. This doesn’t figure into the series at all following this episode and the girl is a one episode love interest; Slater gets together with Alex a few episodes later. It also foreshadows Slater’s transformation into an asshole for The College Years. Way to take a character and transform him without any real explanation.
I’ve never met a Saved by the Bell fan who thinks Zack Morris and Kelly’s break-up was handled well. Kelly is supposed to be the perfect girl but she becomes jail bait for her boss at The Max, a relationship that won’t figure into the series beyond one more episode. She’s the perfect girl, but she kind of acted like an asshole to Zack Morris.
On top of this, everyone in this episode except Zack Morris acts like a jack ass. I mean, how dare Zack Morris have emotions about his girlfriend cheating on and then breaking up with him. Kelly’s hurt by Zack Morris dating another girl in front of her? Fuck off with that shit. The moral of this episode seems to be that all of Zack Morris’s friends are judgmental pricks and need to fuck off. The “it’ll ruin Lisa’s birthday” bull shit is a thin excuse for the whole thing.
I wonder if the mishandling of the breakup is why The College Years were so desperate to get them back together?
I have a strong hatred of episodes that make Mr. Belding look like an asshole. Sometimes it seems like, for every “The Fabulous Belding Boys,” there are five episodes like this where Mr. Belding does stuff that would get him fired in real life. The plot is basic: Mr. Belding blackmails Zack Morris into dating his visiting niece, leading to Kelly jumping to lots of justifiable conclusions.
Of course, this is a plot that could have been resolved very simply with Zack Morris telling Kelly and his parents that a school administrator was blackmailing him. This will lead to the predictable conclusion of Mr. Belding being fired for abusing his authority. Instead, we get Zack Morris trying his best to flow along with the script for the sake of a really bad episode.
All the season one out of season episodes were terrible, but this one holds a special place in my hatred for managing to make a plot about Screech becoming psychic from a bolt of lightning look realistic by comparison. God, how I loathe every minute of this episode and completely understand why they held it over and didn’t air it in the first season.
The plot is simple: the government thinks Screech is an alien after he dons the most unrealistic looking alien costume ever. I mean, fucking hell, this makes the special effects on some episodes of the original Outer Limits look quite realistic by comparison. This episode is the epitome of one of Saved by the Bell‘s favorite plot devices: adults are fucking morons unless the plot calls for them not to be.
I was surprised when I looked back at my Good Morning Miss Bliss recap and found that this one didn’t make the list of episodes I hated. I guess it’s not aged well in my mind. Zack Morris wants to join a group of teenagers way too old to be hanging out with. They make him do stupid shit like jumping jacks on the stage, throw shit at Not-Jessie, and coming to class in nothing but a swimsuit. And, yes, the adults think nothing of one of their students attending class nearly naked.
The subplot about Miss Bliss and Mr. Belding trading jobs doesn’t help. It’s a stupid episode with a stupid plot and cements in my mind the idea that fraternity-like groups are idiotic, no matter how old you are. And I still find myself asking, nearly two years after I reviewed this episode: “What the fuck is a Rigma?”
The entire episode is Zack Morris’s dream. And you don’t find out until the last minute. That’s about all you need to know about this episode and how important it is to the series. Basically, Zack Morris imagines what it would be like if Zack Attack made it big. The result is a list of cliches that happen to famous bands, including Zack Attack’s own version of Yoko Ono.
Zack Morris’s Vanilla Ice-on -crack-like costume scores the episode a couple points, but they waste the second guest appearance by Casey Kasem, forget that Kelly can’t sing, and create a piece of shit filler episode that’s not needed at all for anything else in this series. I’ve never met anyone who believed this episode was good.
If there’s one thing this franchise proves time and time again, it’s that it has no fucking clue when it comes to drug abuse. They actually equate caffeine pills and marijuana with heroin. It’s like it was written by the same people who did the “this is your brain on drugs” commercials. They even throw in a short anti-tobacco message while they’re at it.
The shaming in this episode is just unbearable and Johnny Dakota’s hypocrisy doesn’t compare to the gang’s judgmental attitude and readiness to buy the “just say no” message hook, line, and sinker. I doubt any kid out there decided to not do drugs based on this episode. Unlike other ridiculous anti-drug episodes like “Jessie’s Song,” it’s not even unintentionally hilarious. It’s just preachy and annoying.
A couple episodes after one that did a really good job at developing character for Mr. Belding, they throw it all away for a series of fights that lead Mr. Belding into Zack Morris’s bed, quite literally. Did Derek and Melanie not think it odd that their son’s principal was hanging out in his bedroom, or is this Mayberry, where no adult ever does anything negative?
As I said, I hate any episode that makes Mr. Belding look like a jack ass. This one utterly wastes any character development that came from “The Fabulous Belding Boys.” On top of that, Kelly and Jessie take back Zack Morris and Slater just to bring back the status quo, once again proving that girls are nothing without the men they’re defined by.
I loathe this episode. I hate this episode with a passion for making light of Native American issues. A blonde hair boy is very unlikely to be a Native American, but they pull out every fucking stereotype in the book to keep pushing the whole “Zack Morris is a racist jack ass” motif. And we’re supposed to care about a guy we just met in this episode who dies and believe he made this much of a difference in Zack Morris’s life simply by spending a few hours together. This episode is the reason we can’t have nice things.
On top of that, the subplot about Jessie trying to make up slavery to Lisa is just idiotic. Yes, slavery was horrible, and there are debates about the legacy of this practice to this day. But no high school student today believes they’re personally responsible for their ancestors’ actions. Lisa should have slapped the shit out of Jessie and told her to go save a fucking tree or advocate t-shirts as being sexist or some shit and leave her the hell alone.
I find this episode personally painful to watch and I cringe just looking at that screenshot.
So those are my picks for the ten worst episodes of the original cast. Feel free to comment, agreeing or disagreeing with me. And tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the ten best.