It’s the longest and most mundane symposium ever! Three years ago John S wrote about his experiences watching the Malibu Sands arc of Saved by the Bell. This summer, I watched the Malibu Sands arc of Saved by the Bell—mainly because I had just finished the first season of Game of Thrones and needed what a personal trainer might call a cool-down period.
Consider this setting the record straight.
—The issue to be raising isn’t over volleyball as a spectator sport. Clearly, Top Gun proved you wrong there. The issue is the sustainability of a beach club dynasty with an ever-changing roster of volleyball players. Just how can North Shore—the Valley of the beach, amirite?—continue dominating Malibu Sands for a decade when the players on its volleyball team (i.e. staff members at the club) presumably change each year? Now I know what you’re thinking: that I’m essentially describing major college sports, which obviously have dominant and doormat programs. But North Shore doesn’t have a coach; that much is obvious. Malibu Sands’ is Kelly. What we’re led to conclude, then, is that North Shore’s owner actively recruits excellent volleyball players to work at his club over the summer—likely costing himself hundreds of dollars in workplace efficiency—simply to beat Leon Carosi in a bet.
What did Leon do to him in the past to deserve such vengeance?
—What kind of beach club is this, where the people who work at the club—again, a group of high schoolers—demand such attention from the club members? Every week there is some sort of competition starring the employees. Apparently, nobody joins the Malibu Sands for the beach.
—How did Craig Strand cheat in the ATV race? That was never apparent to me.
—How could Zack possibly think posing for pictures with Kelly after he spurned Stacey’s Miss Liberty quest was a good idea? (Also, Stacey was very clearly a college student returning to Yale. To have a serious boyfriend in a fraternity, she had to be more than a rising sophomore. To take a romantic interest in a high schooler, she couldn’t have been a rising senior. Thus, she was going into her junior year.)
—How many times in the series’ history was the solution to a problem: Oh, we can sneak into x for this party!
—What would Saved by the Bell have looked like as a show without the character of Screech? Not just the specific character played by Dustin Diamond, but without a comic-relief nerdy foil to Zack and Slater who, at virtually every turn, undercuts the show’s tenuous grasp on reality. Insomuch as a Screech could exist, he would never hang out with Zack or Slater, never get a job at the Malibu Sands, and never keep his job at the Malibu Sands.
While I understand that Saved by the Bell is a Saturday morning television show—essentially a cartoon starring live actors—the character of Screech is not in line with the rest of the series’ demographic. Screech is designed to be funny to seven-year-olds; the rest of the show appears to appeal to people of at least age nine or ten.
And yet, while Saved by the Bell was set in high school, Screech is a less mature, more one-note character than anyone in other Saturday morning cartoons such as Doug, Recess, or even Arthur.
Screech’s main purpose, in fact, is as a driver of plot. Screech is used to basically reveal all secrets on the show. And man, virtually every conflict in Saved by the Bell hinges on the preservation of a secret. Screech acted like the 1990s forerunner to Frank Warren.
But all that’s just really lazy plotting, especially with how often it happens. Keeping Screech as a character is one of the main reasons Saved by the Bell: The College Years failed.*
*There are obviously several others, including the remarkably crappy theme song, Tiffani Amber-Thiessen’s ambivalent involvement, Zack’s hair, and the reliance on Bob Golic.
It’s absurd to say that, were it not for Screech, Saved by the Bell would have had a different legacy, or crafted itself in a different, less juvenile manner. But it would have been better.