First of all, if you’re just finding this blog, don’t start here. Read anything but this blog post. In fact, why don’t you go have a look at this complete list of my posts and pick one to start your journey. Then come back and read this post about three-hundred reviews from now. This is the end of a journey. There once was a beginning.
Two-hundred sixty-two episodes, four series, two films, and a scattered assortment of books, biopics, fan films, Saturday morning preview specials, comics, reunion skits, and even a parody musical…Saved by the Bell is reviewed!
Sure, there is more I could do. I could have continued the comics, but I’ve given my reasons why I’m not. I could have done the young adult novels, but I’m doubting the demand for those would be great and it would mean nearly a year of nothing but them. I could have done Dustin Diamond’s porno, but even I have to draw the line of self-abuse somewhere. The board games would have been fun to review but they’re out of print. I thought of reviewing the Saved by the Bell restaurant in Chicago, but I was so busy while I was there in January I completely forgot about it.
No, this is a good place to stop. If I were to continue, it would be out of a desperate attempt to keep this blog going well beyond its relevancy, and that’s not fair to you guys. Besides, it’s been a good run, and I’m quite proud of it. I’m the first reviewer I know of to tackle the whole franchise, including The New Class (may my experience be a cautionary tale to future imitators!), and that’s something at least.
It’s been an interesting mix between stuff I like, stuff I despise, and stuff that just fucking bored me. I totally get why this franchise has survived all these years in reruns. No matter how corny the misadventures of Zack Morris and company were, there was something about all but the worst episodes that just made me want to see what misadventures the gang would get up to this week.
Yeah, it’s cheesy as fuck, and it often made no sense, but there was heart in it, and that’s more than you can say for half the tween shit on Nickelodeon and Disney nowadays. I’d watch Saved by the Bell over Hannah Montana any day.
And, yet, the franchise went on way too long. I’m glad Peter Engel admits there came a time when his shows were more about quantity over quality because both The New Class and The College Years show a distinct hollowness over what the franchise once was. It’s no wonder neither of these shows air in reruns any longer and haven’t in years.
It’s sad really: when taken as a whole, the franchise becomes the story of Mr. Belding and Screech, the only two characters to appear all fourteen years. It’s a shitty story indeed, which probably damaged Dennis Haskins’s acting career and gave a platform for Dustin Diamond to believe he is more important than he is. No matter how much I enjoyed reviewing Good Morning, Miss Bliss and Saved by the Bell, I can’t get over that the majority of my reviews are of an inferior rip-off that forgot its way somewhere along the line.
Even post-franchise stuff has been dominated by these two, from the fan films that they starred in to Dustin Dimond’s public exploits and shitting on his co-stars. While the rest of the cast and even Peter Engel seemed to have moved on with their lives, there’s a sort of limbo these two seem to be stuck in, for better or for worse, where people can’t stop identifying them as Mr. Belding and Screech.
For his part, Dennis Haskins doesn’t seem to be too bitter over his less-than-stellar acting success post-Saved by the Bell. Though he’s never had a gig half as big as that of Mr. Belding, he’s been acting pretty steadily over the years, appearing in supporting and minor roles in a ton of movies. And he just seems like the nicest guy in the world, someone you’d want to have a bear with and just listen to stories.
Dustin Diamond’s post-Saved by the Bell career almost needs no introduction. He’s had virtually no success except in making himself look like an ass, in reality television, via his book, and in his real life encounters with people. He’s never grown up and I suspect he never will, ever wanting to relive those days of yesteryear and be the cool kid this time.
There’s another story I want to tell you before we go, and that’s about the genesis of this site. Around Christmas 2013, I was binge reading Full House Reviewed and in love with the style of writing I found on that site. Having read Television Without Pity‘s very similar-style (and hilarious) reviews of 7th Heaven, I knew it was something I wanted to try, and Ryan Alexander-Tanner inspired me that it could actually be done independently.
Well, it turned out that was the perfect time for me to give reviewing a try. I was in the middle of a very stressful time in graduate school, and I needed something to take my mind off of it. I decided to be ambitious, though: I wasn’t just going to do a show; I was going to do a franchise that would keep me busy for a while. I also decided to adopt Ryan Alexander-Tanner’s rule from Full House Reviewed: it had to be a show I had not watched. Given that there was no one doing Saved by the Bell at the time that I knew of (turned out The Summer of Morris was going full-swing, but I didn’t discover them until later), and since Full House Reviewed‘s bonus post about Saved by the Bell background characters was a rousing success, I decided to go for it since it meant i would have four series to keep me going. Plus, I never really watched Saved by the Bell or its mutant offspring growing up because I was busy with Saturday morning cartoons and, later, anime and B-movies. On top of it all, I didn’t have cable to watch the tons of reruns.
I had no idea at the time Ryan Alexander-Tanner himself was planning on reviewing Saved by the Bell right after he was done with Full House, and I was ready to quit as I didn’t want to compete with him. He was very gracious, though, and told me to go for it, which I did, and I hope that each of our reviews have provided a different perspective on the franchise: his from a fan and mine from someone who knew very little about Saved by the Bell prior to starting this blog.
And what a ride it’s been. Since writing this blog, I’ve finished graduate school and lived in two countries along the way (yes, part of this blog was written in Canada!). In an ironic twist, I probably now know more about the Saved by the Bell franchise than most people. I can’t say it’s always been a blast, especially this last year when I’ve been mostly pushing my way through the last of The New Class‘s episodes. I think you can even tell I was becoming really bored towards the end. What I can say is that I’ve enjoyed getting to see the rise and fall of one of the greatest tween franchises of my generation, and it’s really been a lesson that a show doesn’t have to be perfect to be popular.
Even more, I’ve enjoyed the chance to get to read comments every week from one of the most passionate fan bases I’ve ever encountered. Somewhere along the way, a lot of you started reading my blog. Some found me via a comment I left on Full House Reviewed. Others saw some free advertising a random fan gave me on the IMDB and Sitcoms Online message boards. A few even found me via Google search. Really, sometimes I wonder why you all were reading my stuff when you’re the real fans, having grown up watching this franchise. I couldn’t help but admire how much you all love Saved by the Bell. Even those of you who disagreed with me were were usually respectful and showed so much love for the show I couldn’t help but stand back. (I’ll never forget the guy who gave a passionate nineteen comment defense of Good Morning, Miss Bliss‘s “Stevie,” an episode I found insipid, uninspired, and contrived, but which he found inspiring.)
You all are what has made this blog worth doing, and I feel honored that you’ve spent the last three years reading my ramblings. If you’ve ever chuckled a little or remembered some good nostalgia because of this blog, I dedicate it to you. And if you thought I was a twat who didn’t get the appeal of the franchise, well, I dedicate it to you, too. You all have been the best readers I could have asked for, and, for that, I’m grateful.
It feels sad to be saying goodbye. I know it’s not really goodbye. I’ll be seeing some of you on California Dreams Reviewed, but it won’t be the same. Yet, this was my first popular blog, and, as we’re parting ways, I can’t help but think it’s the end of an era for me. In the United States, we have a different president than when I started. Britain will soon not be a part of the European Union. Things are looking uncertain in the world. And I’m no longer in school but a working professional whose job would surprise all of you.
Time marches on, though, and this was a time limited project destined to come to an end eventually.
I hope I won’t be the last person to review Saved by the Bell. Someone else may even review The New Class one day! I hope I inspire some of you to try your hand at reviewing, just as Ryan Alexander-Tanner did for me. That’s the way it should be: new voices coming along to add new opinions to the mix.
As for me, I’ll finish California Dreams Reviewed and then decide what’s next. There might be a City Guys Reviewed and Hang Time Reviewed in the future, but it may be just as likely I’ll choose to move on to a non-Peter Engel related project before I become as typecast as Dustin Diamond. Whatever the future, though, know that I wouldn’t change these last three years for anything.
If Saved by the Bell is revived in the future in the same vein as Full House, I may be back. Whatever the case, may this blog ever be a testimony to one person’s insane decision to review a really bad and dated, but strangely lovable, franchise.
Chris the Geek