When Good Morning, Miss Bliss first aired on the Disney Channel in November 1988, no one quite realised the impact it would have on 90’s kids TV. Cancelled after only thirteen episodes, it was picked up by original producers NBC and rebranded as Saved By the Bell, becoming one of the most iconic, defining and important shows of the early 90’s.
And it also gave me (and the world I suppose, not that I’m willing to share) the definitive high school sweetheart in Kelly Kapowski.
With it being Nineties November here at That’s Not Current, what a perfect excuse to revisit a classic kids TV show.
Launching under its new guise in August 1989, the teen sitcom would become a staple of Saturday morning TV on both sides of the Atlantic during the dawn of the 90’s, airing a total of 86 episodes until 1993 when everyone’s favourite class had to finally graduate. A spin-off made-for-TV film followed (Hawaiian Style) before a spin-off series Saved By the Bell: The College Years, culminating in a final film, Saved By the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas.
It followed a group of friends at Bayside High School in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles as they deal with the pitfalls of school, growing up, along with all it entails, such as their pursuit of love. They are Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) a preppy, charismatic and confident prankster who is the shows lead, frequently breaking the fourth wall to address the viewer direct; A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) as the school’s top jock and Zack’s best friend; Samuel “Screech” Powers (Dustin Diamond) as the comic relief, resident dork and champion nerd, as well Zack’s unofficial minion is his schemes; Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) as the resident do-gooder and know-it-all; Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) as the groups fashion expert, trend setter and gossip queen; and heavenly Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) as the all-American cheerleader with a heart of gold.
During its run, it regularly gained massive viewing figures in both American and the UK, frequently topping the most popular prime time shows of the era.
While a spin-off series with a different cast followed, it never managed to capture the same heights as the original. Saved By the Bell is also credited as the springboard for the tsunami of sitcoms targeted at kids during the 90’s, such as Hang Time, Keenan & Kel and Clarissa.
But why was it so successful and so globally well received? Basically because it was so well -cripted for its audience, with a confident and glossy presentation style, issues that were relatable and a great sense of fun.
It presented the American Dream in full swing with the glamorous lives of LA’s rich kids put on screen, presenting a polished, inspiring and envious picture of what life could be like in the great Golden State. All the guys wanted to be Zack or A.C, dating Kelly or Jessie with that group of friends and the lives they had. Hell, we all wished we had a principle as easy going and fun as Mr Belding. For its time it was a bold show, with a fresh script that provided genuine, funny moments.
For a kids show, the characters were incredibly deep, engaging and executed with such a natural ease. The young untested cast brought a swagger and confidence to their roles that transcended on the screen, making the show more assured about itself as a whole. While all the characters adhered to certain stereotypes they managed to break down perceptions and show the humanity, confusion and troubles that face all teenagers – and it ultimately translated to the audience, becoming extremely relatable and supportive on issues that kids growing up face constantly.
I revisited the show recently and the life lessons and morals it presented are still relevant. Not only that, watching now as an adult, albeit through nostalgia-filled eyes, its comedic elements still work and I can appreciate the deeper layer to the show’s script I hadn’t noticed before. It really is the sort of show you want you kids to be watching.
Yet above all else, looking back on this wonderful series from my childhood, the one thing that screams out is its innocence – something that makes it impossible to replicate in today’s technology obsessed, over commercialised, social media ingrained society.
It is often referred to as a childhood “cult classic”, but it’s not – it surpasses that.
Despite debuting in the late 80’s, Saved By the Bell is a fantastic snapshot of the 90’s – it’s iconic, definitive, inspirational, groundbreaking and just downright special.
It also features my first and defying infatuation on which all other crushes in my life have been
judged. And with no hesitation whatsoever, I can safely say 27-years on from when she first entered my life…
…I still ❤ Kelly Kapowski.