Saturday, June 03, 2006

So I recently realized that my posts have taken a turn towards the political and controversial in nature...

... and we can't have that now, can we? After all, the last thing I had in mind when starting this online Bitch Niche was to say anything insightful and/or pertinent. This isn't to say, of course, that I give a rat's ripping fart in hell if what I write in my blog pisses you off. I can't -- and won't -- cater to everyone, but rest assured that if something I say makes you hurt on the inside, sometime soon I'll take a figurative dump on a viewpoint you also despise, you petty hypocrites.

Uh, no offense, you understand.

So, with that in mind... on with my reminisces of TV's "Saved by the Bell!!!"

For those of you unfortunate enough to have completely missed this milestone in the history of television excellence, the "Saved by the Bell" series followed the adventures (or should I say, misadventures! LOL!) of a ragtag group of kids in a middle-class Midwestern high school while covering every teenage stereotype known to man, and perhaps creating a few new ones for good measure. Presiding over this hoary collection of cliches was a wise and benevolent and sass-talkin' prissy old bitch named Miss Bliss.

Yes, her name rhymed. It was supposed to be cute. It was not.

Miss Bliss was played with a complete lack of memorable qualities by British stalwart Hayley Mills. Hayley Mills is best remembered as... er, as the -- the, uh, the identical cousins? Was she the identical cousins on that one black-and-white show about the horrors of indiscriminate genetic cloning? No, wait, that was Patty Duke. Or did Patty Duke play Helen Keller in that black-and-white movie about a blind, deaf-mute girl named Helen Keller? Maybe she played both girls. Or all three, since the identical cousins counted as two different people, I guess. So then Hayley Mills must have played a pair of twin girls in some movie about sighted girls who were always meddling in adult affairs, the li'l fucking scamps. I think it was called Double Trouble or Two for the Price of One or Disney Presents The First in a Long Line of Family-Friendly Horseshit or something. Look, the point is...

Nobody liked this adult-heavy freshman version of "Saved by the Bell." The kids were almost uniformly unattractive and the show had the audacity to present teachers as real human beings with feelings and foibles and positive traits.

Obviously, this wasn't doing anybody any good.

So the executive masterminds in "Saved by the Bell"-Land gave the failing series a life-saving overhaul (by the way, I know all this because I watched some "Behind the Camera"-type show about it. Let it not be said that I do not dedicate myself to fact-finding research. In the field of trite pop culture, at any rate). The school in question, Bayside High, was ripped up brutally from its quiet roots in Ohio or Iowa or someplace and transplanted wholesale in sunny, surfy, health-conscious, Moonie-conducive, prick-infested Southern California. Oh, and all but one of the adult actors, including former twin Hayley Mills, was given the ol' heave-ho with absolutely no apologies or regrets.

And thus began the immortal legacy that would be .................

"SAVED ... BY THE BELL."

THE STARS

> ZACK MORRIS

-Stereotype covered: The preppy, popular, lazy, scheming, girl-crazy blonde metrosexual (before metrosexuals were hip or even known to exist) with a coif that defied physics.

-Position in the fictional social hierarchy: The top, naturally. Everyone at Bayside wanted to either be Zack Morris or at least learn the secret behind his unshakeable mane.

-Position in an actual social hierarchy: Alas, probably very near the top rung as well. Although not known for his athletic prowess, a person with such financially-successful parents would have access to all the friends that money could provide.

-Did I know any Zack Morrises in school?: Yes. Though we were led to believe that Zack was a lovable charmer, I found all of his versions in the real world to be despicable, inconsequential twerps.

-Trait(s) he was known for: That eerily-perfect hairdo and his habit of saying self-congratulatory crap straight to the camera. Respect the fourth wall, asshole!

-How badly did I want to see this character come to a bloody, untimely end (on a scale from 0, meaning not at all, to 10, meaning oh-so-badly)?: 9

> A.C. SLATER

-Stereotype covered: Beefy, preening, sexist, meathead jock with latent homosexual tendencies.

-Position in the fictional social hierarchy: As Zack's sworn enemy and rival, A.C. held a position of power roughly equal to the "Preppy." This was illustrated by the fact that the bevy of shallow girls who had final say in such matters swooned whenever he flexed. Which was disturbingly often.

-Position in an actual social hierarchy: The top, even above the Zack Morrises. In fact, these far-from-complex future engagers in corporate nepotism were the kind of guys that the Zack Morrises I knew obsequiously sought to befriend, as the beta wolf does the alpha male of the pack.

-Did I know any A.C. Slaters in school?: Please. A.C. Slaters are more prevalent in our educational institutions than asbestos or lead paint. Which, to me, seems like a stunningly accurate analogy.

-Trait(s) he was known for: Possessing dimples and biceps, both of which he would display at the drop of a goddamned hat.

-How badly did I want to see this character come to a bloody, untimely end: 10

> SAMUEL "SCREECH" POWERS

-Stereotype covered: Snivelling, frail, gawky, uncoordinated, brilliant nerd with enough eccentricites to irritate an unmedicated homeless guy.

-Position in the fictional social hierarchy: Rather propesterously, Screech, though representing the social undesirables of Bayside High, was allowed to co-exist peacefully with his physical and socioeconomic superiors. For the price of his homework assistance, comic relief "abilities," and complete lack of self-preservation instincts, of course.

-Position in an actual social hierarchy: Rock bottom. Might as well be linoleum tile on the cafeteria floor.

-Did I know any Screech Powerses in school?: Yes. I may even have, erm, err, *coughcough* eaten lunch with several of them. Daily.

-Trait(s) he was known for: His unrequited love for Lisa Turtle and colossal inability to not fuck things up in royal fashion. He, uh, he may also have mugged atrociously on occasion.

-How badly did I want to see this character come to a bloody, untimely end: 9

> KELLY KAPOWSKI

-Stereotype covered: Effervescent, superficial, sanguine bubblehead cheerleader with a four-year-old's grasp on the real world.

-Position in the fictional social hierarchy: Top. The female equivalent of a Zack Morris. Every male I knew considered Kelly Kapowski to be Venus Incarnate. I personally never understood what all the fuss was about until Tiffany-Amber Thiessen blossomed into adulthood. And, man, what a blossom...

-Position in an actual social hierarchy: Top. Although the cheerleaders at my high school were built more like linebackers than Kelly Kapowskis.

-Did I know any Kelly Kapowskis in school?: I guess, but the ones I knew who fit this basic mold were far more demonic and homicidal-thoughts-inducing than the fairly benevolent Kelly.

-Trait(s) she was known for: Her mundane cheers and teeth-grating optimism.

-How badly did I want to see this character come to a bloody, untimely end: 9

> JESSIE SPANO

-Stereotype covered: Intense, neurotic, strident, humorless, perpetually hard-to-please uber-feminist.

-Position in the fictional social hierarchy: Like Screech, brainiac Jessie was improbably admitted to the inner sanctum of coolness at Bayside High. This was understandable, however, due to the fact that Elizabeth Berkeley was (is) so smoking hot as to make every guy want to go professional with that pocket pool thing.

-Position in an actual social hierarchy: Bottom, or as close as makes no matter. Jessie Spano's supermodel looks were distressingly misleading, as it is a well-known -- if cruel -- fact of nature that all true hardcore feminists are eye-crossingly ugly and, therefore, social pariahs. She did, however, have their inherent unpleasantness down to an art form.

-Did I know any Jessie Spanos at school?: Oh, Christ, yes. I'd even venture to say that these future grandstanding champions of O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson were every bit as vile as your standard A.C. Slaters. And not one of them looked a shade as do-able as Bayside High's resident malcontent. Which is a shame, as it would have made their gamy rhetoric slightly more digestible.

Hmm. It occurs to me that that previous paragraph may be seen as being slightly political in nature. It also occurs to me that I frankly don't give a good goddamn.

-Trait(s) she was known for: Protesting in a shrill voice and her witty rejoinder of "Sexist pig!"

-How badly did I want to see this character come to a bloody, untimely end: Well, on the one hand she was aggravating, ironically narrow-minded, and forever unappeasable, and on the other she was a walking male fantasy who went on to star in Showgirls. So... 10+

> LISA TURTLE

-Stereotype covered: You know, I honestly don't know how to answer this one. I mean, she was the vain, materialistic, fashion-obsessed, poised, spoiled little rich bitch we all knew and reviled, but she was also a minority. And the minority is usually presented in the world of teen television as sassy, brassy, carefree and crazy-cool, which she was not. I am tempted to say that this character was "Saved by the Bell's" sole creative conceit...

... were it not for the fact that the behind-the-scenes special I watched let slip the fact that Lisa Turtle was originally conceived as your stereotypical snotty little Jewish princess.

Ah, well.

-Position in the fictional social hierarchy: Just below Kelly Kapowski, and justifiably so. Passably attractive and, more importantly, wealthy beyond fairness, Lisa's unassailable status as the offspring of a member of the privileged elite guaranteed her all the popularity that Daddy's money could buy.

-Position in an actual social hierarchy: Depends. On the region of the country the school is located in, on the racial makeup of its students, on the general political leaning of said student body. I'm telling ya, this character is throwing my entire rant against teen television cliches off-kilter.

But if she were white, at my school she'd definitely be at the top. Again, just below the Kelly Kapowskis, because, in the formative years, looks always trumps money.

This theory tends to reverse itself once you exit college.

Did I know any Lisa Turtles at school?: White, yes; black, no.

Trait(s) she was known for: Her obsession with fashion and her completely understandable revulsion for all things Screech.

-How badly did I want to see this character come to a bloody, untimely end: 9

> PRINCIPAL RICHARD BELDING (Note: This was the sole adult survivor of the Hayley Mills' "Saved by the Bell" massacre of yore)

-Stereotype covered: Balding, middle-aged, unhip, easily-fooled, stern but good-humored and fatherly figure of authority whose office, for some unexplored reason, doesn't have a receptionist area and connects immediately with the most heavily-trafficked hallway in the school.

-Position in the fictional social hierarchy: N/A

-Position in an actual social hierarchy: N/A

-Did I know any Principal Beldings at school?: Kind of. I knew plenty of stodgy, power-mad goosesteppers in the administrative office, and I knew a few well-meaning, good-natured, genuinely concerned mentor-types as well. Principal Belding, sadly, was a not-entirely-successful mix of the two.

-Trait(s) he was known for: His memorable high-pitched chortle and as Zack's ever-game foil. And the bizarre architectural layout of his office. Man, I never got over that...

-How badly did I want to see this character come to a bloody, untimely end: Just to show you what a social leper I was.... 0. Yes, that's right. The only adult regular on the show was the only character I could stomach. Fact is, it's just plain hard not to like the avuncular Dennis Haskins.

The fact that his character wasn't a self-centered prima donna, grating loudmouth, or mugging jackass may have helped some, too.

WE SAW THEM AROUND THE HALLS

> Max: Max. You know, Max. Max! The magician who ran the eatery that the kids hung out at! In fitting with the show's high standards of imagination, I believe the diner was called... The Max.

Max was actually a series regular during the first season, but execs figured that having one cast member over the age of 20 was chancy enough; throw in another fella who's closer to the grave than the cradle and you might as well be remaking "Golden Girls."

Also, Max was a painfully unfunny magician who served no purpose that anyone could divine apart from marginally owning the teens' fast food place of choice and offering the ladies bouquets of cheap ugly flowers he produced clumsily from his sportcoat.

How they should have killed him off: Incorrigible prankster Zack slips a foreign substance (obtained by henchman Screech from the science lab) into Max's dribble glass. Tragically, Screech screws up -- as ever -- and Max dissolves into a screaming puddle as the effects of hydrochloric acid run their course.

> Violet Bickerstaff: Oh, yeah, you remember her. All I have to do is say the words "a pre-90210 Tori Spelling" and it should all come flooding back, whether you like it or not. Yes, Tori's Daddy Aaron had a heavy hand in producing "Saved by the Bell" and it assured his much-maligned daughter a brief recurring role as Screech's equally nerdy paramour.

As a member of Bayside's intellectual elite, Violet was consigned to thick, black-framed glasses, an outre snort whenever she expressed amusement, and fucking the most physically repulsive male in her immediate radius.

How they should have killed her off: In an all-too-intense chess match, Screech's trademark clumsiness and excitability come together in a horrific apex as he tosses two bishops aside, both of which implant themselves firmly in Violet's eyes, piercing her impressive brain cavity.

> Mr. Tuttle: Arguably the most prominent in a long line of cartoon-like caricatures of teachers, Mr. Tuttle was the roly-poly, fast-talking business teacher and the biggest thorn in Principal Belding's side next to Zack Morris. He was actually good for a few self-conscious chuckles.

How they should have killed him off: He also taught Driver's Ed. Frankly, it's a wonder this character survived the show.

> Mr. Dewey: Arguably the best and most amusing of the kids' educators. Mr. Dewey was the bespectacled, rail-thin, monotonous math teacher (or was it science? The teachers at Bayside High had a tendency to pull double -- or even triple -- duty). I should also point out the very brag-worthy fact that my wife's science teacher in high school was the brother of the actor who played Mr. Dewey!

You may assume bowing positions ..................... now.

How they should have killed him off: Fuck you. Mr. Dewey ruled.

> Other teachers: Let's see, there was a Margaret Dumont-type who was hard of hearing; there was an owl-like middle-aged woman who couldn't see a goddamned thing, in spite of the bionic glasses plastered on her face; and there was a gym teacher/coach who was -- yes, you're way ahead of me -- a crude, chauvinistic, simple-minded lardass. I believe there was also a lone normal teacher, some woman who wouldn't put up with Zack's shit and had the gall to expect him to exert himself in his studies. Needless to say, this was too much reality for a show like "Saved by the Bell" and she quickly fell by Bayside's wayside.

How they should have killed them off: Failure to regularly practice fire drills results in a charbroiled nightmare when a fire alarm is pulled not in vain.

> Maxwell Nerdstrom: Here was a refreshing break from the nerd mold: Nerdstrom was an oily, sarcastic, pompous, conniving manipulator who unapologetically lusted after Jessie Spano and made no bones about the undeniable fact of his mental superiority.

Still, he was an annoying little dick.

How they should have killed him off: After finally procurring a date with the woman of his dreams, wealthy Nerdstrom pays his chaffeur to run him over when Jessie refuses to stop yammering about spotted owls and the ozone layer.

> Mr. Carosi and Stacey Carosi: Remember that summer the gang spent "working" at a country club on the beach? Wasn't that awesome? Or at least different? Anyway, during their tenure at the clubhouse, we got a chance to get to know their irascible and chubby boss, Mr. Carosi, and his no-nonsense, type-A daughter, Stacey. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, Ernie Sabella (later to find fame as the voice of Pumbaa the warthog in The Lion King) and Leah Remini (that lickable brunette who later married a fat guy on TV's "King of Queens") proved to be far more able actors than any of the series' regulars. I found this fact embarrassing and very, very funny.

How they should have killed them off: Hijinks and tragedy ensue as Mr. Carosi says "FU" to the local zoning commission and moves his entire clubhouse two hundred feet closer to the shoreline in an effort to allow guests to "dine among the fishes." He drowns when he realizes that he weighs far more than water. Stacey inherents the family business and is brutally stabbed to death by vengeful mobsters whom her father, heavily in debt, had been dodging for years.

> James, the actor: I will shamelessly admit that this was the only character who ever made me laugh openly and intentionally while watching "Saved by the Bell." James was some odd, random, thirtysomething, struggling theatrical actor who ran into the kids on occasion. We will ignore the blatant pedophiliac overtones of the character and focus instead on the fact that he was actually amusing at times. Whenever he showed up, he was inevitably recruited to impersonate some figure of authority, usually as an attempt to fool poor Principal Belding. His most memorable catchphrase, and one I am somewhat more ashamed to admit that I still use on rare occasions, came from his impersonation of a recruiter for an Ivy League school, when he would bellow out with true blueblood disdain: "Hhhhhhhhhhar-vard!"

As though any of those assholes at Bayside was destined for Harvard. Please.

How they should have killed him off: In an ill-advised attempt to help the kids convince Belding to give them a break from classes for the imaginary Diversity Day, James performs an immaculate impression of the prophet Muhammed. Muslims are not amused.

> Tori: No, not Aaron Spelling's charmed daughter; rather, the tepid placeholder in the final season when Tiffany-Amber Thiessen and Elizabeth Berkeley went off to, er, employ their newfound "talents," as it were. Tori was a tough-talking, streetwise rebel with a heart of gold. We knew she was a rebel because she wore a leather jacket, and leather jackets are generally far more rebellious than windbreakers. We knew she had a heart of gold because she was a woman, and women are emotionally weak and fragile. Tori holds the dubious claim of being the sole female ever to inspire an actual fistfight between Zack and Slater. This was quite an event, even down to the sounds of fake punches landing. She also disappeared without a trace or word of explanation once Kelly and Jessie returned after their heart-breaking forays into the world outside of Bayside High. Nobody noticed.

How they should have killed her off: I 'unno. Hell, they may have, for all I know.

REMEMBER THAT TIME WHEN...?

> Kelly, Slater, and Jessie made an 80's Flashdance-style dance video to market their Buddy Bracelets?: No matter how many diseases these three actors may cure between them, the existence of this episode will forever taint their legacy.

> Jessie overdosed on No-Doz and started dancing insanely to "I'm a Maniac," only to end up falling into Zack's arms while sobbing, "I'm so scared!"?: "Saved by the Bell" taught us not to abuse drugs. Which is ironic, seeing as how the show is far more entertaining while one is abusing drugs.

> Jessie and Slater paired off?: Leading to a long string of hysterical "You're a sexist pig!" and "You're my bitch!" exchanges. This never grew tiresome.

> Zack and Kelly broke up while at Prom -- or Homecoming or the Sadie Hawkins dance or homeroom or something?: Tears were shed and laughter was heard (the former by the actors, the latter by everyone who wasn't a dewy-eyed teenage girl).

> Jessie was rejected at a college fair by the Ivy League school of her choice?: Because she was so fucking annoying. Ha, ha!

> Zack dated a fat girl?: Sure, he was all prejudices and intolerance at first, but he later came to appreciate the sweet girl for her far more valuable inner beauty.

And then we never heard from her again.

> Mrs. Belding gave birth to her first child -- in an elevator, with Zack Morris as midwife?: And what did the Beldings name their son? Zack. Naturally. *cue intense vomiting*

> Ever-horny Zack locked interracial lips with Lisa backstage at her fashion show, a sight witnessed by a jealous Screech?: Poor Screech. Poor Zack. Poor Lisa. Poor viewers.

> Casey Kaseem hosted a "What if?" episode about the success of the gang's garage band, which featured a glimpse into their future lives?: "What if?" episodes = lazy writers. Poorly dubbed singing voices for the stars of "Saved by the Bell" = comic gold.

> Zack got an excellent score on his SAT's, thus proving he was really just an unchallenged genius all these years?: Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me?

> As Jessie Spano, Bayside's first female quarterback, scored the winning touchdown at the Homecoming game, Screech and Lisa made tender love under the bleachers: Heh, heh. Gotcha.

Feel free to add to this incomplete list, and I will, in turn, feel free to pretend to give a shit.

SPIN-OFFS

The gang goes to Hawaii: And encounters a whole new island of stereotypes. And Dean Jones.

I don't really know who Dean Jones is.

The gang goes to college: Though none of them seems to have progressed mentally farther than fourth grade.

The gang is replaced by a brand new high school gang: Who quickly manage to get themselves cancelled.

____________________________________________________________

Ah, yes. Another too-goddamned-long entry fondly remembering a television show that had a great impact on my teenage years.

Actually, that wasn't too "fondly" at all, was it? Why the fuck did I watch that show anyway? And why do I feel compelled to watch it whenever they replay it on TBS? What the hell is the matter with me?

In closing, I ate with the Screech Powerses only because I felt sorry for them. Not for any other reason.
___________________________________________________________

Look at the size of that article I just wrote!! What are you looking down here for, below the line, expecting more free wit and snit? Gimme a goddamn break, people! I'm doing this pro bono, for Christ's sake! Jesus fucking Christ!

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2 Comments:

Blogger ali said...

wow..i think i relived saved by the bell,episode per episaode and now I'm up to speed on the ones I missed!

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank for saving us from ourselves. I know there will come a time when my defenses will be weak and I will want to watch 'Saved By The Bell' and I will think back on your words of wisdom and change the channel to something more educational and meaningful (like 'The Andy Griffith Show' or 'Sanford & Son')
and be saved.

Sgt Mellors

10:17 AM  

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