DVD Review: Saved By The Bell (The Complete Series)

People like to make fun of network executives meddling in a show since 99% of the time, the suits from ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS are pinheads that screw everything up. But there’s that 1% of the time that they get it right. In 1988 a former Disney star appeared as a teacher in a sitcom on the Disney Channel that didn’t last a full season. But instead of outright canceling the show the network president had the executive producer retool the show so it could work as a live action Saturday morning show without the star, but keeping the students. This move led to a generational defining series that is still going strong on Saturday mornings. Saved By The Bell: The Complete Collection contains the original failed prime time sitcom, the Saturday morning sensation, the TV movies and the season they sent the cast to college.

Good Morning, Miss Bliss was supposed to be a Disney return for Haley Mills who had become iconic in The Parent Trap as the twins that wanted to reunite their parents. The show tried to balance the teacher (Mills) with her students. She wants to reach Zack Morris (NYPD Blue‘s Mark-Paul Gosselaar). He’s the student with potential that’s always looking for the easy way out. Also in the class is rich girl Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) and super nerd Screech Powers (Dustin Diamond). The show only lasted 13 episodes as Disney didn’t want to renew the series that was produced by NBC. While the show might not have worked for the Mouse, the Peacock had a place for it. NBC’s Brandon Tartikoff knew that Saturday morning programming was starting to change as the ’80s were coming to an end. He wanted to get out of the animated shows and was eager to bring live action to kids. Executive producer retool Miss Bliss by getting rid of the teacher element. He also brought on more teen girls with the casting of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (Beverly Hills, 90210) and Elizabeth Berkley (Showgirls) as Kelly and Jessie. There was also the boy hunkiness of Mario Lopez in the role of Slater. Since Miss Bliss got cut out of the action, they renamed the show Saved By the Bell. Although Miss Bliss wouldn’t disappear since they just put the Saved By the Bell opening credits on Good Morning, Miss Bliss episodes to make it part of the syndication package.

Saved By The Bell did save one adult from the slaughter with Dennis Haskins back as Mr. Belding, the principal of Bayside High. He would be the comic foil to Zack’s plans. The new show immediately went big with star power by having a dance part at the local hang out hosted by Casey Kasem (American Top 40) in “Dancing to the Max.” The kids did have problems on the show. “The Lisa’s Card” has her max out a credit card given to her by her dad. “Screech’s Woman” has Zack do his best to find his annoying pal a date. When everything goes bad, Zack dresses up as a girl and Screech falls in love with him. This is an important lesson in not using drag to emotionally toy with your friends. “Beauty and the Screech” actually mentions a George Michael concert. “The Mamas and the Papas” has the kids not happy when they have to fake being married to each other for a class assignment. “Rockumentary” brings back Casey Kasem to recount the glory of Zack’s band. “Screech’s Spaghetti Sauce” has Screech date Punky Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye)! The boxset even includes Saved By the Bell: Hawaiian Style that sent the kids on a trip to the island paradise where they have to save a hotel from a greedy developer. The show wrapped up with the gang actually graduating from high school at the end of season four. That’s almost real time. But the network wasn’t done with the graduates of Bayside High.

Saved By the Bell: The College Years took Zack, Screech and Slater to the university. Mr. Belding was stuck back at Bayside so the adult on the scene was Mike Rogers (NFL star Bob Golic, the brother of ESPN’s Mike Golic). While the boys got to go wild with new girls in their lives, Kelly (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) arrived in the second episode to keep an eye on Zack. Although very quickly, Kelly finds her eye on another person on campus. He’s got to win her back. The show only lasted 19 episodes before get the prime-time ax. Fans weren’t completely left hanging as NBC produced Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas that brought a bit of closure with Zakk and Kelly trying their best to get hitched.

While not in the boxset, Mr. Belding and Screech ended up on the not quite as beloved Saved By the Bell: The Next Generation that lasted seven seasons. The only thing kinda missing is the original pilot to Good Morning, Miss Bliss, but since none of the kids nor Mr. Belding were cast at the time, what’s the point? It’s the original Saved By the Bell that captured the fancy of young kids looking for a reason to stay on the sofa.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The standard definition transfers look fine enough that you can make out the early ’90s fashions. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. You will hear Screech’s voice clearly. That might not be a good thing. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

Audio commentary on “Dancing to the Max” from Richard Dyball, Jessie’s Song, Snow White and the Seven Dorks, has Dyball and Tara Wibrew, “All In the Mall” includes executive producer Peter Engel, “No Hope With Dope” rounds up Dustin Diamond, Dennis Haskins and Lark Voorhies with Engel. “The Last Weekend,” “Zack’s Birthday,” give us more Engel. Graduation has Dyball with Henry Weintraub.

Past Times At Bayside High: Making Saved By The Bell (51:45) digs into the history of the season. They talk about Good Morning, Miss Bliss just didn’t click on so many levels. There’s a lot of secrets including where the names of the students came from. The interviews include plenty of creative crew members and actress Lark Voorhies.

Bayside’s Greatest Hits: The Music Of Saved By The Bell (4:45) has Scott Gale talk about doing music for the show. His wife left him the morning they gave him the call. He wrote the theme song shortly after he hung up the phone.

Saturday Morning: From Toons To Teens (10:28) has a discussion about how Saved By the Bell was embraced by the kids who felt too old to watch cartoons on Saturday morning.

It’s Alright: Back To The Bell (16:57) talks of how the show was supposed to be from the opening bell on Monday morning until the go home bell on Friday. Dustin Diamond talks of being Screech. Mr. Belding thanks you for watching.

The First Of Its Class: From Sit-Com To Icon (14:44) reflects on its impact on viewers and legacy.

Photo Galleries are included from the show and both movies.

Shout! Factory presents Saved By the Bell: The Complete Series. Starring: Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mario Lopez, Dustin Diamond, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley, Lark Voorhies, Ed Alonzo, Dennis Haskins, Hayley Mills & Bob Golic. Rated: Not Rated. Boxset Contents: 114 episodes & 2 movies on 16 DVDs. Released: October 2, 2018.

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