Saved by the Bell and other early 90s after-school programming strived to be the show about everything if Seinfeld was the show about nothing. From 1989 to 1993, the Bayside High gang of telegenic California teens tackled real issues such as drunk driving, oil spills, feminism, the first taste of adolescent mortality and, most notoriously, violence against caffeine pills.
Widely pitched sitcoms like this one, with their clumsy attempts to appeal to the youth, they lost touch with something like the fact in favor of a tidy half-hour simplicity. Jessie Spano may be stoned in one scene, but we all knew her tuning days were over by the end of the show. It was as simple as deciding not to use drugs.
– The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) January 19, 2021
The reboot craze has shown us that not every show is worth revisiting, especially if the reboot focuses on the characters from the original series (and the actors who play them). A show can just resume with the characters doing what they do later in life, adding a ‘next generation’ ensemble, or going meta. Saved By The Bell contains all three elements.
But how many of each will decide if it’s a viable show or just a series of meta-jokes. At The Max, which looks just like it did in the 1990s, there are jokes about how anyone can afford sit-down meals. Daisy even carries an old stone phone from the 1980s with her because her mother continues to hope she will use it to take nude photos of herself. While the story of the three Douglas students struggling to fit in is still worth a look, it’s a lot to digest.
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The trick to making this reboot a success is to keep the metalness to a minimum. With contributions and fleeting references from Jessie and Slater, Wigfield and her writers wisely prefer to focus on the new party, yet their characters behave more in the now than looking back at their history. Higgins as Principal Toddman is a brilliant addition; he’s more knowledgeable than Director Belding, and he’s also one of the funniest people on the planet, which helps.
The reboot of Saved By The Bell makes the wise decision to focus on the current students at Bayside rather than the middle-aged versions of the characters who attended the school 30 years earlier. Yes, there will be some self-referential jokes in the show, but Wigfield has it under control so it doesn’t overshadow the rest of the series.