Monday, June 15, 2009

Maybe High School is Better...

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

...than college. At least the gang at Saved by the Bell seemed to think so. I mean, after all, they did 87 high school episodes but only 19 in college (I don't consider the middle school 13 episodes to really be SBTB due to the completely different settings, but that's another story). And that's not even considering the sequel show, The New Class.

I seriously doubt that anyone who reads a television blog has never seen Saved by the Bell. It ran on Saturday mornings originally, and I'm not sure if it's EVER been out of syndication on early mornings and afternoons on channels like TBS. In fact, one of my favorite episodes was on this morning (in the 8:30am slot), the one where Zack and Jessie do Snow White and the Seven Dorks.

The show was one of those late eighties-early nineties pioneers into teenage programming, and while it never explicitly dealt with sexual relationships, vague references were made here and there. I never thought the material was that deep, but I did have a friend in sixth grade whose parents wouldn't let her watch the show because of its themes. It was immensely popular during its run, and the final episode aired in primetime (it might have been the very first series finale I ever had to ask my parents to stay up and watch... I was only 9!), with the pilot for The College Years running right afterward.

I really enjoyed SBTB:TCY, and thought it did a lot toward addressing the characters getting older and handling more mature situations. My only real gripe about the setup of the new rendition was that the guys and gals shared a suite, which kinda gives the idea that boys and girls could/should live together. (Minor nitpick, I think it was rude of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen to NOT do the "final thirteen" episodes of SBTB, but then she signed on for TCY... but whatever.)

There were a lot of continuity issues (which really seem apparent when you watch the "Graduation" episode and the College pilot back-to-back), mainly the fact that the gang was going to different colleges originally, but somehow Kelly, Screech, Zack, and Slater all end up at the same place (I'll be nice and not touch the fact that there's no way Kelly would've found housing that easily). I was upset that they wrote out Essence Atkins' character (I loved her later in Smart Guy) out of the show, and that took away a big diversity factor (well, as big as it could be when you remember that in the original series, Lisa was the richest girl in school with very successful parents). I included the only photo of her on the show I could find, seen with RA Mike. TCY didn't do well, and was canceled after one season (allowing Tiffani-Amber to do 90210 and Dustin Diamond to do SBTB: The New Class).

Why was it canceled? It had really bad ratings... as in, every single episode finished in the bottom five of all primetime network shows every week. But why would it have bad ratings if the high school edition was so popular? There's a few different ideas on this issue... one of which is the stories. They weren't as cut-and-dried as the original series, and many longtime fans didn't appreciate the fact that Zack was going after Leslie when Kelly was available! Another idea: when it was airing. First of all, it started running against Full House, which was ABC's family powerhouse of the time. Another reason: it got move3d around a lot... it kept being moved (Saturday night is never going to be a good time slot for a show about college kids!), and was preempted at least five times for other broadcasts.

One last nitpick: the two-hour "Wedding" special isn't included on the SBTB:TCY series DVD set.
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