I'm convinced that we're all put on this planet for a reason. The reason doesn't have to be epic...it doesn't even have to be important, its just gotta be there. I'm sure whomever invented that soap dispenser that has the little plastic sharks swimming around inside it was destined to do that. I'm sure the person who coined the phrase 'yup' couldn't escape his fate if he tried. Me? I was put here to explain to the world exactly why Saved By The Bell was so fucked up.
All right, so you all know about Saved By The Bell. Often times it'll come up in conversations I'm having, and the other person will be like.. 'Oh yeah, I remember that show. It was kinda stupid.' NO! No no no no NO! It wasn't kind of stupid. It was blatantly stupid. It was so stupid that it morphed into something unbelievably monstrous yet endearing all the same. With every little plot twist, forgotten character, or mishap that took place on this show, it kept etching its way deeper, and deeper, and deeper into our hearts forever. It acted like a virus, attaching to its host and absolutely forcing it to remember every awful line and piped in hooting we've ever seen. Today, yes TODAY we stand upon the threshold, we look in the face of the sitcom television devils and laugh - NAY MOCK - them to pieces. Yes, friends, TODAY, we review an episode of Saved By The Bell.
Is your blood boiling? Are you riled up yet? GOOD, because you need to be. You cannot analyze Saved By The Bell with even the slightest hint of complacency...you've got to look at this as the most crucial moment of your life. And readers...it is. Put on your helmets, grab the guns, the MREs, the tanks, ammo, and sarcastic jokebook. You'll need 'em all for this. You'll need anything you can get...and more.
While choosing an episode to review, I considered a few things. I wanted to make sure the episode truly captured everything that was wrong with the show. So I made a little checklist...
[ ] - Kids apparently live at the school, and even when its obviously past 3 PM, find ways to somehow remain in school.
[ ] - The stars of the show are proven, once again, to be the only people who go to the school.
[ ] - The kids must find a reason to stage some zany adventure inside the principal's office.
[ ] - At least one wacky dream sequence.
Checkmarks - CHECK. This episode has it all, and a whole lot more. Its got more action packed into 22 minutes than a war movie, and its pretty unfortunate because you'd really wish people were getting bombs thrown on them in this case. But they don't. They don't die...they just keep talking. And talking and looking to the camera and winking. And eating hamburgers inside a school cafeteria that looks like a fucking 50s diner.
Today's episode is fittingly titled... Screech's Birthday. Brace yourselves.
The first sign of trouble occurs only seconds into the episode: we're not at the school. And if we're not at the school, there's only two places we can possibly be. Kelly's bedroom....or Screech's bedroom. If we're at Kelly's bedroom, it usually means the episode is going to be about how poor Kelly is too poor to afford a dress to go to the school dance. You know, I see how that can happen, since Bayside appears to have a school dance every single week. I'd be poor too if I had to buy a 200 dollar dress every Thursday afternoon. Luckily, we don't start off in Kelly's room on that somber note...we start off in Screech's room....a dismal notation that Screech is going to be a focal part of this episode. Strike one of 255,000.
But the problems don't end there...this is also an episode that features a rare cameo by Screech's roommate robot, Kevin. I love robots, especially robots who wear Slinkies around their neck...I really do. But not Kevin. I can let it slide that Zack and Slater have horrible lines. After seeing them in every episode, I've grown used to it. But when you stick an outsider into the mix and give him horrible lines too, its just too god damn noticeable. Kevin's job is to let Zack know that he's done the unthinkable: told a pretty homeless girl and her father that they could come live with him, and totally forget they existed a half hour later. Just kidding, that doesn't happen until season 38. Actually, it appears as though Zack forgot all about his best buddy Screech's birthday.
For a guy who gets insulted anytime he speaks, Screech is taking this pretty hard. Screech is like one of those psychotic friends we all have in our little social groups. The kind of person who you could shoot in the stomach with little complaints, but so be it if you disagree on the best baseball team to come out of Canada with him. He's one of those selectively angry people. Personally, I think this whole birthday thing is nothing more than a crux for Screech to release his pent up angst over being the most annoying person on the planet. To his credit, this episode is from the earlier years, before Screech decided that the best way to get over with the audience would be to add the word 'zoinks!' after every sentence. He's much less annoying at this point. But just as ugly, so he still has no shot getting with that oh-so-fine Lark Voorhies.
Ahhh...back to Bayside. For a second I thought I was watching a different show. Bayside's an interesting high school. It appears to have around 22 students, and over half of them are mutes. There's only one hallway ever shown, which leads me to believe the school only has two classrooms and a principal's office. The lockers seem to have inherited Optimus Prime's theory of subspace, being able to hold everything from the school's football players to Lisa's entire wardrobe. All in all, its definitely the reincarnation of the Twilight Zone.
Here we find our pals engaging in a friendly argument over who's wearing the worst outfit. Jessie suggests that she should score some huge bonus points for wearing a pumpkin-colored shirt covered in tiny music notes. Slater counters and reminds Jessie that he spent the entire previous season walking around the school in either his wrestling tights or a towel. Then all heads turn to Kelly...today's obvious winner. Unfortunately, these reindeer games and silly contests don't last long...because there's an enemy on the prowl!
THE EVIL BAYSIDE HALL MONITOR, COMPLETE WITH OFFICIAL BAYSIDE HALL MONITOR ARMBAND. Its Nasty Neil! Hall monitor from Hell! You know, I'm looking at all of this, and I'm saying to myself...these kids are not in high school. They've obviously in their mid to late twenties. Neil looks like he's 28. I don't understand it. You've seen the show, so we all know that no money whatsoever went into paying a viable writer or director. Couldn't they have shelled out just a little cash to get actors who at least looked remotely young enough to be sophomores and juniors in high school?
Anyway, Nasty Neil has it out for our friends. All major epics have a supreme villain, and Saved By The Bell is no different. Its obvious that if the kids are going to do anything successively stupid in this episode, they're going to have to take care of Neil. More on that later...first, its time for the Max!
Oh yes...The Max. Bayside's cafeteria. For years I thought this place was actually outside the school, so while it appeared to be the only eatery in the universe, it still kinda made sense. NO. This place is in the school. This diner, fronted by a magician, this diner that has a jukebox and can easily be converted into a party room for any of the stars who so desire to rent it out...its in the school. EVERYTHING. IS IN THE SCHOOL. I'm sure I missed the episode where it was explained that all the kids' bedrooms are actually converted stock closets. Remember the episode where they sleep inside a tent inside the camping store of an unnamed mall? THAT MALL...WAS INSIDE THE SCHOOL. LOOK AT THE FACTS!
* Mr. Belding's wife - GAVE BIRTH IN THE SCHOOL.
* Earthquakes cause people to get stuck in elevators - INSIDE THE SCHOOL.
* Kelly broke up with Zack after meeting a hot college student - INSIDE THE SCHOOL.
* CASEY FUCKING CASEM detailed the trials and tribulations of the all-star Zack Attack band from atop an ominous staircase with a red handrail - INSIDE THE SCHOOL.
The list goes on and on. In fact, the only time something happened outside the school was the time Slater and Zack managed to crash a car through the front of a house after taking a sip of alcohol. So, as you can see...its not the school that's causing the stupidity. Its friggin' everywhere.
Anyway, the kids are at the Max. They're talking about how bad they feel about their combined efforts to completely forget Screech's birthday. They have to find a way to make it up to him, and fast! So Zack hatches a plan. A plan so ludicrous and insane, I feel guilty even writing about it. A plan that defies logic, sense, intelligence, and everything else that we aspire to achieve in our daily routine. A plan the devil himself couldn't conjure up on his best day. Zack's plan? Throw Screech a surprise party...during school hours...inside Mr. Belding's office.
Now its time to implement the plan. They know that its going to be hard to infiltrate Belding's office while Nasty Neil is patrolling the corridors, so Zack and friends catch him on tape calling them 'jerks' and 'idiots'. At first, I thought I had it figured out. It actually made sense. They'd let a teacher listen to the tape, and Neil would be fired for abusing his power, right? Well, that's what should've happened...if Saved By The Bell wasn't so god damned ridiculous.
Instead of that, Zack starts playing the tape while they're all inside Mr. Dewey's math class. Everytime Mr. Dewey, one of the four teachers at the school, turned his back to write something on the chalkboard, he'd hear 'Neil' call him a jerk or an idiot. Of course, Zack is pressing the play button on the polar opposite side of the classroom, but Mr. Dewey falls for it.
Mr. Dewey, like Screech's robot, was another one of those rare SBTB recurring characters. Unlike Kevin, everybody loves Mr. Dewey. But I'm gonna skip the rant on him, because I'm trying to do one article here, not write a novel. The point of the matter is, Mr. Dewey not only sentences Nasty Neil to a grim fate in Bayside's Detention Hall (which will later be revealed as the same classroom they're in now) ...but he also strips him of his hall monitor title!
The kids make their voice heard, and Bayside's new hall monitor is Screech. Remember, Screech is still pretty pissed that everyone forgot his birthday. That's important to the plot, believe it or not.
The girls use phony accents to lure Belding away from his office. You'd think by this stage in the game, Belding would be a little suspicious. In one out of every three episodes, a student somehow manages to call his private office line from inside the school, and tell him that they need his help. And, in every case, Belding runs off to find a problem that doesn't exist, never quite realizing just how strange it is that students who are in peril inside the school are somehow managing to call him on the phone. There's a simple way to explain why Belding doesn't notice this...he's got more important things on his mind. Think about it...how many times has Mr. B been shown outside the school? ZERO. Then how'd his wife get pregnant? When Mr. Belding finally returns home in 20 years, she's going to have an awful lot of explaining to do. Anyway, the girls accomplish part two of their mission. Belding's out of his office, and they're free to turn it into Party Central. We'll overlook the fact that the kids would have to not only cut class to accomplish this goal, but somehow leave the school to go buy party supplies, cakes, and ice cream later on. What kind of revolving door policy does this place have? When I was in high school, it was like Fort Knox to get in and out of the place. These kids literally waltz out of the place to go buy a cake with no problems whatsoever....but then I realize...
They didn't leave the school, because EVERYTHING IS IN THE SCHOOL - EVEN RETAILERS OF BIRTHDAY CAKES. IT ALL MAKES PERFECT SENSE NOW.
Meanwhile, Screech is having a bit of trouble asserting his power as the school's hall monitor. What is this, grade school? What high school has hall monitors? More specifically - what high school that only has one hallway could possibly need a hall monitor? And even more specifically - why are the same ten god damned kids continually walking past him? What kind of school only has ten kids?! What the hell is wrong with this show?!
Mr. Dewey offers Screech some helpful, empowering tips. He tells Screech to imagine himself as his favorite hero. That'll help him overcome the butterflies. But more importantly than all that, its the perfect segue into this episode's fabled dream sequence...
NO NO NO! Je croie en toujour, en moi! NO! ROBO-SCREECH. In this sequence, Screech fantasizes about being the world's first cyborg hall monitor. He saves the day by zapping Nasty Neil, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt...even in their dream sequences, the production values of these kids' lives still sucks. Check out that pink border. I didn't add that with my nominal Paint Shop abilities. Its really on the show.
Production values like this would continue throughout the series. Drawing another example from the historic birth of Mr. Belding's son (inside the school) ...Zack delivered the baby. Was there ever any doubt? Rule #1 of SBTB = Zack Is God. We've been through this before, you know the rules. But the point is...Zack doesn't help deliver a baby. He helps deliver a plastic doll that comes out of the womb more well groomed than a rich old lady's poodle. Production values are all over this place. Ever see an episode where the kids from Valley High go up against our Bayside heroes? Pretty odd that they can walk right into the school cafeteria. Wouldn't they have to ditch school and bypass Bayside security to do that? Of course not. Because Valley High is in Bayside.
Zack's freaking out because the girls haven't arrived with the party goods yet. Well Zack, my first guess is that they got caught leaving after sixth period. I don't think telling school security that they had to buy ice cream for Screech's secret birthday party inside Belding's office would fly as a viable emergency excuse. Then again, since Bayside only had four teachers, I guess escaping wouldn't be too hard.
TROUBLE! Screech gives the girls detention for wandering the halls. A major misdemeanor when compared to the fact that they just ditched school to buy cake. Zack runs out of Belding office, but Screech is so drunk with power that he doesn't realize Zack's not the principal, and shouldn't be in the office. So while the rest of the gang gets sent to detention...God's still holding down the fort. And its a good thing, because I want this hellacious torment to end soon.
By my watch, Mr. Belding has been gone for at least two hours. I don't remember where they sent him off to, but I don't think it was the next state over. By all means, he should be back by now. But let's not get into that. Remember, during the graduation ceremony, Mr. Belding thought that Zack Morris was the last name on the list. He's obviously not the sharpest tool in the drawer.
Zack pretends to be Belding's (nonexistent) secretary, and calls all his friends to the principal's office, including Screech. Well, after all that trouble, looks like they'll be a birthday party afterall. In the principal's office of the school, during seventh period. I guess the rest of the teachers are blind, deaf, and stupid. Actually, they are, come to think of it. We had Mr. Tuttle, the fat opera singer who gave Zack detention in a later episode, which led to him getting blackmailed by Belding into taking out his niece, which led to Screech dressing up as Zack to take her out so Zack could attend Kelly's birthday party Friday night...at the Max...in the school. Then there's Ms. Colepepper, who walks into doors. These kids were not up against any real challenge.
SUCCESS! PAR-TAY!!! Screech is so touched by the gesture that he apologized profusely for sending everyone to detention. And they all share a tender moment. No, you're not seeing things...Screech's robot is there too. And what's that mean? It means that Screech's robot not only had to travel, by itself, out of the house...it means that a robot had to walk past the front desk of the school, and conjure up some explanation as to why it needed to be there. It means that the person working the front desk had to believe that a robot had some special reason to be at the school. It means that a robot is rolling around the high school. Or does it? Hey, everything's at Bayside, right? Screech's bedroom is just two doors down from the principal's office. This whole ungodly thing makes perfect sense.
Saved By The Bell is currently being shown in reruns on the TBS station early mornings. If you're wondering where the stars are now - so are we. Jessie got nude and disappeared. Lisa started hosting some Solid Gold show. She disappeared too. Kelly got giant breast implants. Zack dyed his hair black. Slater said momma. And Screech? Well, believe it or not...Screech is still at Bayside. He's now Mr. Belding's assistant for 'the new class'. Sometimes, he pays the newlyweds Zack and Kelly a visit. Hey, its not all that hard, their master bedroom is at the back of the gymnasium.
More SBTB Action: The SBTB Board Game!!!