|The cast of Miss Bliss: Voorhies, Heather Hopper, Diamond, Mills, Max Battimo and Gosselaar.|
The series lasted only 13 episodes (not including the original pilot) when Disney decided to drop it. NBC decided to give the show another chance and had Peter Engel retool it extensively. NBC President Brandon Tartikoff wanted a title for the show with the word “bell” in it and suggested Saved by the Bell. Engel hated the name and was convinced someone would have owned the rights to the phrase. When NBC’s legal department debunked that belief, Engel’s office was covered in large banners with the titles. Engel relented, and Saved by the Bell debuted the following year.
|The Bayside gang (from top): Alonzo, Gosselaar, Voorhies, Thiessen,|
Berkley, Lopez, Haskins and Diamond.
Joining them were their “longtime friends” cheerleader Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, initially unwanted by the casting directors but fought heavily for by Engel and Tatikoff) and know-it-all crusader Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley, whose role was created for her after being turned down for the role of Kelly). Rounding out the cast was jock A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez), who begins the series having just transferred to Bayside and instantly become Zack’s frenemy and primary competition for the affections of Kelly (however, this episode was the 15th aired rather than the first and given a Zack voiceover to establish it as a flashback). Keeping the kids in line from Miss Bliss was long-suffering principal Richard Belding (Dennis Haskins), who tried very hard to put the “pal” in principal.
|The gang hanging out at The Max.|
The show followed the misadventures of the characters at the fictional Bayside High, now set in California. The kids try to survive life in school as well as typical teenaged drama such as dating, studying, and even drugs. Trouble was usually brought on by a scheme of Zack’s that would often result in his being busted by Belding and Screech ending up in a compromising situation, although sometimes those schemes were an attempt to help his friends. When not at school or over at each other’s houses, the gang could be found at The Max; a restaurant that was owned and operated in the first two seasons by magician Max (Ed Alonzo).
|Mr. Tuttle watches on as Screech demonstrates his love meter.|
Rounding out the cast were the equally colorful teachers of Bayside (although they only appeared a few times each). Mr. Dewey (Patrick Thomas O’Brien) was a math teacher and Bayside’s vice principal. He spoke in a monotone voice, rarely showed emotions, and could wield sarcasm like a tool. Mrs. Simpson (Pamela Kosh) was a nearly-deaf British English teacher who rarely wore her hearing aid because of the school bell echoing in it too loudly. Both Dewey and Simpson would go on to make appearances in the spin-off The New Class after the series ended (more on that later). Mr. Tuttle (Jack Angeles) was overweight and enthusiastic, well-liked by the students but unfriendly with Belding due to his being passed up for the position of principal. A notable one-shot teacher was Mr. Testaverde, who was played by John Moschitta. Moschitta’s entire career was forged on his ability to speed talk, which he brought to Bayside.
|The cast in Hawaii as they help Kelly's uncle save his hotel.|
Initially, NBC only ordered seven episodes until Engel fought for an additional 13. The results spoke for themselves. The show became a hit for NBC, leading to them moving away from cartoons and putting a focus on creating more live-action teen shows for a programming block they called Teen NBC (TNBC). As well as renewing it for additional seasons, NBC sold the series into syndication. The Miss Bliss episodes were included in the syndication package, being edited to feature the Bell opening (sometimes with a re-recorded theme for syndication) as well as a cold introduction by Zack reminiscing about their days in junior high to the audience to explain the massive differences between the shows. The cast themselves were also sent on numerous tours around the country to meet fans and sign autographs. In 1992, the show received its first TV movie: Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style, which followed the gang on an adventure to help Kelly’s grandfather, Harry Bannister (Dean Jones), save his hotel.
|Stacey Carosi addresses her troops.|
During the third season, regular episodes were intertwined with six summer vacation episodes. Lisa landed the gang jobs at the Malibu Sands beach resort her family frequented, leading to the introduction of their gruff boss Leon Carosi (Ernie Sabella) and his beautiful daughter Stacey (Leah Remini). Zack spends the majority of the vacation episodes avoiding trouble with his boss (which typically failed) while trying to get Stacey to fall for him (which ultimately succeeds). The episodes were introduced in flashback by featuring Zack taking a day off to recover from the summer and reminiscing with his friends as they came by to check on him one-by-one.
|Tori asks "Who are Kelly and Jessie?"|
In the final season, NBC ordered additional episodes of the show. Thiessen and Berkley were already committed to new projects and they were replaced by leather jacket-clad motorcyclist Tori Scott (Leanna Creel, whose character was named after Tori Spelling who had also appeared on the show as Screech’s girlfriend Violet Bickerstaff). Tori started as Zack’s nemesis, but gradually began to develop a relationship with him. Zack and Kelly had gotten together, but eventually split. Slater was also eventually paired up with Jessie (putting a definitive end to the Zack/Slater feud when the writers noted the real-life chemistry between friends Gosselaar and Lopez). To alleviate some of the confusion, episodes featuring Kelly and Jessie were alternated with episodes featuring Tori. However, this would go on to create a whole different kind of confusion, especially with the series-ending graduation episode which was filmed before the inclusion of Tori. At the time of their “graduation,” only Diamond was actually high school age at 17. The rest of the cast were in their 20s.
|The cast of The College Years (left to top): Warren, Lopez, Diamond, Tremko, Gosselaar, Thiessen and Golic.|
Not wanting to give up its cash-cow, NBC set about creating two new shows in the Bell brand. Immediately following the finale was the pilot episode of the first of the two spin-offs Saved by the Bell: The College Years, which then moved to its regular Tuesday primetime slot during the week in September. The series followed Zack, Screech and Slater as they went on to attend the fictional California University. Joining them were three new girls: Leslie Burke (Anne Tremko), Alex Tabor (Kiersten Warren) and Danielle Marks (Essence Atkins). The series followed the same formula as the original, although it gave Zack tougher nemeses in dorm adviser Mike Rogers (Bob Golic) and Dean Susan McMann (Holland Taylor). Thiessen decided to return to the series and Danielle was transferred out as Kelly transferred in, eventually rekindling her romance with Zack after a few distractions for both of them.
|Zack and Kelly finally tie the knot...after a series of misadventures, of course.|
Facing strong competition from Full House and Rescue 911, The College Years performed poorly and was cancelled after only one season. In the fall of 1994, NBC aired a second TV movie called Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas in order to provide closure to the characters. It followed Zack and Kelly as they made their turbulent way to the altar and reunited all of the original cast as well as Mike and Alex from The College Years.
|The New Class season 2 cast (from top): Diamond, Haskins, Sarah Lancaster, Christian |
Oliver, Jonathan Angel, Natalia Cigliuti, Bianca, Lawson, Spankee Rodgers
The same week as The College Years, the second spin-off premiered: Saved by the Bell: The New Class, which, as the title suggests, followed the newest class of Bayside High. Still in attendance was Mr. Belding, and after The College Years was cancelled Screech joined the cast in the second season. For the second season finale, a mini reunion came about when Lisa, Zack and Slater returned to Bayside to help save it from closing.
|People Magazine reunion photo shoot.|
In 2008, the original cast, except for Thiessen and Berkley, lent their voices to the Cartoon Network program Robot Chicken for a parody combining Bell with the movie series Saw called “Sawed by the Bell.” On March 27, 2009, Jimmy Fallon on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon launched a campaign to have the cast reunite. While only Haskins and Gosselaar appeared on Fallon’s show (in-character as Zack), the original cast did come together that August for a People Magazine photo shoot. However, Diamond was not included as that same year he released his tell-all book Behind theBell which chronicled an unflattering portrayal of his co-stars and behind the scenes antics of the show. Five years later, Diamond distanced himself from the book with claims that his ghostwriter fabricated many of the stories. In 2014, Lifetime produced a TV movie based on the book called The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. Earlier in 2014, Roar Comics began publishing the second comic series based on the show (the first was by Harvey Comics from 1992-93). Both comic lines featured highly stylized versions of the characters, although Roar’s version is digital only.
|Classmates watch on as Jessie undergoes a drug-induced fit while trying to save The Max in Bayside! The Musical!|
Cast (left to right): April Kidwell, John Duff, Justin Cimino, Sam Harvey, Shamira Clark and Katie Mebane.
|The cast reunites on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.|