NBC
NBC

22 Fun Facts About Saved by the Bell

NBC
NBC

When I wake up in the morning… I turn on my TV and watch Zack Morris, Kelly Kapowski and Screech get into crazy shenanigans. From 1989 to 1993, Saved by the Bell captured the hearts and minds of America's youth. And now, still airing in syndication more than a quarter-century later, the once-critically panned teen sitcom has become a cultural phenomenon. Here are 22 things you might not know about Saved by the Bell.

1. SAVED BY THE BELL BEGAN AS A DISNEY SERIES STARRING HAYLEY MILLS.

In 1987, NBC aired the pilot for Good Morning, Miss Bliss, a teen sitcom featuring Hayley Mills (star of The Parent Trap and Pollyanna) as sixth grade teacher Miss Bliss. In the pilot, which only aired once on NBC, the main students were played by Brian Austin Green (who would go on to star with Tiffani Amber Thiessen on Beverly Hills, 90210), Family Matters' Jaleel White, and seaQuest DSV’s Jonathan Brandis.

NBC ultimately decided not to pick up the series, but the Disney Channel agreed to air Good Morning, Miss Bliss for one season. Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack Morris), Lark Voorhies (Lisa Turtle), and Dustin Diamond (Samuel “Screech” Powers) joined the cast. Good Morning, Miss Bliss ran for 13 episodes before being dropped by Disney and picked back up by NBC. NBC gave Good Morning, Miss Bliss a significant facelift—aging up the students, adding Tiffani Amber Thiessen (Kelly Kapowski), Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie Spano), and Mario Lopez (A.C. Slater) to the cast, and shifting the focus away from the teachers to create the Saved by the Bell audiences came to know and love.

2. MARK-PAUL GOSSELAAR, MARIO LOPEZ, AND DUSTIN DIAMOND ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO APPEAR IN ALL 86 EPISODES OF THE SHOW.

If you include the episodes formerly known as Miss Bliss, only Gosselaar and Diamond hold this distinction. Diamond is also the only original cast member to appear as a regular in all Saved by the Bell spinoffs and movies.

3. ELIZABETH BERKLEY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF KELLY KAPOWSKI. 

Elizabeth Berkley was in the running to play Kelly Kapowski, Zack Morris' dream girl. While the role ultimately went to Thiessen (because, of course it did), the producers liked Berkley so much they created the character Jessie Spano specifically for her.

4. BERKLEY WASN'T ALWAYS THRILLED WITH HOW HER CHARACTER WAS PORTRAYED.

Despite having the role of Jessie written expressly for her, Berkley wasn't always a fan of her (literally) buttoned-up persona. In a 2013 interview on Bethenny, Berkley said of her character's wardrobe, “I didn't like it because I felt like as a young woman, just because you are a feminist, why can't you also dress in things that make you feel girly and empowered?" Especially when Kelly and Lisa got to romp about in next-to-nothing. “Right the bikinis,” Berkley said. “They used to put me in a one piece. I'm sorry, but at 16 you don't want to be the girl in the one piece with baggy shorts.”

5. MARK-PAUL GOSSELAAR AND LARK VOORHIES DATED FOR THE MAJORITY OF THE SHOW'S RUN.

While Kelly Kapowski held the keys to Zack Morris' heart, Lark Voorhies had Mark-Paul Gosselaar's on lock. The couple dated for three years, including during the filming of Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style. In 2009, Gosselaar told People that “All of us dated at one point or another—it was incestuous!"

6. GOSSELAAR HAD TO DYE HIS HAIR EVERY TWO WEEKS DURING FILMING.

Gosselaar, a natural brunette, became well acquainted with bleach during his years on Saved by the Bell. He admitted to People that, “Getting back to my natural color took a while! I haven't dyed my hair since 1997.”

7. MARIO LOPEZ CREDITS SLATER’S DO (OR DON’T) TO MEL GIBSON.

“I liked my hair long because I wanted to look like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon," Lopez told People. “I didn't even know I had a mullet! Looking back, I guess it does qualify.”

8. THERE WAS NO SWEARING ALLOWED ON THE SET.

In order to maintain the show’s wholesome feel, executive producer Peter Engel put a moratorium on cursing on the set. In an interview with MarkPaulGosselaar.net, Gosselaar expressed his relief at being able to let loose a bit while filming the 1998 movie Dead Man on Campus. “It was nice to actually swear on the set,” Gosselaar said. “It was like, 'Ooh, I can say that?' We weren't allowed to swear on the Saved by the Bell set. We were very restricted. It had to be a very clean show, all the way around.”

9. KELLY AND JESSIE MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARED IN THE FINAL SEASON … UNTIL GRADUATION DAY.

After filming Saved by the Bell's final season, but before the episodes aired, NBC decided to double their episode order, a move that would require re-signing the entire cast. While the majority of the cast renewed their contracts, Thiessen and Berkley refused. Enter, Tori Scott.

To solve the lack of female lead—and love interest for Zack—problem, the show introduced a new character, tough girl new student Tori Scott (played by Leanna Creel). With no explanation, Tori joined the gang and Kelly and Jessie were never mentioned again. Until graduation, that is.

The show's finale, which featured the crew's high school graduation, was filmed before Thiessen and Berkley's exit. So Kelly and Jessie appear in their caps and gowns alongside their best buds. Conspicuously missing? You guessed it: Tori.

10. CHUCK KLOSTERMAN CALLS THIS "THE TORI PARADOX."

In his 2003 essay collection, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, writer Chuck Klosterman addresses the appearance/disappearance of Kelly, Jesse, and Tori, explaining that what began as "a desperate move" on the part of the show's producers actually became one of the most realistic things about the series. Dubbing it "The Tori Paradox," Klosterman explained:

On paper this seems idiotic, borderline insulting, and—above all—unreal. But the more I think back on my life, the more I've come to realize that the Tori Paradox might be the only element of Saved by the Bell that actually happened to me. Whenever I try to remember friends from high school, friends from college, or even just friends from five years ago, my memory always creates the illusion that we were together constantly, just like those kids on Saved by the Bell. However, this was almost never the case. Whenever I seriously piece together my past, I inevitably uncover long stretches where somebody who (retrospectively) seemed among my closest companions simply wasn't around. I knew a girl in college who partied with me and my posse constantly, except for one semester in 1993-she had a waitressing job at Applebee's during that stretch and could never make it to any parties. And even though we all loved her, I can't recall anyone mentioning her absence until she came back. And sometimes I was the person cut out of life's script.

11. ERIC DANE, DENISE RICHARDS, TORI SPELLING, AND OTHERS GUEST-STARRED.

Eric Dane (whom you probably know best as Grey's Anatomy's Dr. Mark Sloan) appeared as a volleyball opponent at the Malibu Sands Beach Club in a 1991 episode. Denise Richards also made an appearance at the Malibu Sands Beach Club, as a girl infatuated with Slater. Tori Spelling (whose dad, Aaron, was one of the show’s producers) had a recurring role as Violet Anne Bickerstaff, a love interest for Screech. Christine Taylor, Scott Wolf, Leah Remini and others also had guest-starring roles.

12. THE SHOW’S SET IS ALIVE AND WELL, AND STILL BEING UTILIZED BY THE DISNEY CHANNEL.

Following Saved by the Bell's cancelation, the set was never completely struck down. You can catch glimpses of Bayside High School in reruns of That's So Raven (where the school is also named Bayside High) and Nickelodeon's iCarly (where it's redubbed Ridgeway Middle School).

13. THERE'S A SAVED BY THE BELL MUSICAL.

And it's a total joke. In September 2013, Bayside! The Musical!—which is described on its website as “the unauthorized, hilarious, and raunchy musical parody of TV’s Saved By The Bell,” premiered at New York City's Theater80 to surprisingly positive reviews. The “tacky, wacky and totally Zacky” show consists of 17 musical numbers and answers such burning questions as: Will Zack and Kelly break up? Will Slater quit wrestling forever? Who will develop an incurable caffeine addiction? And, Will Screech die?!

Bayside! The Musical! is still running, but only through August, so get your tickets today!

14. IT’S ALSO A COMIC BOOK.

In 2014 Roar Comics released a comic book prequel that sent Zack, Kelly, Jessie, Slater, Lisa, and Screech "back to freshman year in all-new comic book adventures at good ol' Bayside High! Mid-terms, hangin' at The Max, getting that first date, escaping Mr. Belding's detention hall... Experience all the ups and downs of high school in the year 2014 with some old familiar friends.”

15. MR. BELDING’S CATCHPHRASE WAS PARTIALLY DENNIS HASKINS’ OWN INVENTION.

When asked about his “What is going on here?” catchphrase during a recent Reddit AMA, Dennis Haskins shared that, “The catchphrase ‘Hey! Hey! Hey! What is going on here?’ was written with only three hey's. Simply a line to be delivered. Our director, Don Barnhardt, used to tease the kids, and go ‘Heyheyheyheyhey’ in a descending tone of voice, like ‘everybody settle down.’ So in rehearsal, when I got that line, and to have fun with our director, I did it in the way that you hear it. The way I did it was a little different. And everybody laughed hard in rehearsal—and the rest is history.”

16. DUSTIN DIAMOND'S FIRST ATTEMPT AT A TELL-ALL MEMOIR WAS DROPPED BY HIS PUBLISHER.

Diamond secured a deal with Gotham Books to write a “salacious” tell-all memoir about his time on Saved by the Bell in 2009, for which he was awarded a six-figure advance. However, Gotham backed out after a series of unfortunate events. According to the New York Observer, Diamond's ghostwriter, Alan Goldsher, was first taken off the project due to “scheduling issues.” Then, Gotham allegedly deemed the completed manuscript unpublishable—something Diamond's literary agent, Jarred Weisfeld, denies.

“That’s 100 percent bogus,” Weisfeld told the Observer, saying that scrapping the project was a mutual decision. “It wasn’t the right home for the book. Sometimes people don’t gel. There were no problems whatsoever—just, things didn’t gel. If things don’t gel, you stop and move on. I love Gotham Books and Penguin, and Patrick Mulligan is a great editor. I look forward to selling them books in the future. This one just wasn’t meant to be.”

17. DIAMOND'S BOOK EVENTUALLY SAW THE LIGHT OF DAY.

In September 2009, Behind the Bell became a reality after being picked up by the small, Montreal-based Transit Publishing. A casual reading (heck, a quick skim) reveals that Diamond did his best to take down his former cast mates. The book caused a lot of backlash, both with fans of the show and its former stars. “It is negative,” Gosselaar stated of Behind the Bell in 2014. “That I must say. Everything I've heard about his book is it is negative. I don't remember those things. My experience on the show was very positive.”

18. DIAMOND CLAIMS HE NEVER APPROVED THE BOOK.

In a 2013 interview with OWN, Diamond described Behind the Bell as “another disappointment of mine.” Though he admits that there are some truths in the book, he also says that many of the more salacious details were based on throwaway comments he made to his ghostwriter, which he says were “turned into factual trash-talking about everybody. I have nothing but good thoughts and memories towards everybody. I expected that I was going to be sent a copy to proofread and okay … and I was sent a copy, ‘Oh, this is done.’ What? Oh man, there’s going to be fallout from that.”

19. HASKINS WASN’T PLEASED ABOUT BEING LEFT OUT OF A 2009 REUNION.

In 2009, People gathered Gosselaar, Thiessen, Lopez, Berkley, and Voorhies for a Saved By the Bell reunion cover story, in which Gosselaar noted that “We're still very close for a cast that's known each other 20 years.” Well, all except for Screech and Mr. Belding...

In a 2013 interview with Parade, Haskins expressed frustration at being left out of the reunion. When asked about the possibility of a cast reunion, Haskins said, "People magazine did something with five cast members, but they didn’t even talk about Mr. Belding, and Screech was kind of exiled because of his book. That’s still not the seven of us. Whatever you want to talk about, that show was six students and the principal. They were the heart of the show.”

That same year, Haskins surprised Thiessen during a 2013 segment on The Today Show. The result was, well, awkward.

20. THE UNAUTHORIZED SAVED BY THE BELL MOVIE WAS A FLOP.

Though it generated plenty of headlines and “things we learned” stories after it aired, only 1.6 million people tuned into Lifetime last Labor Day to watch The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story (which Diamond produced, though both he and Lifetime denied that it was based on Behind the Bell).

21. A.C. SLATER GOT HIS OWN WEB SERIES.

Notice we said A.C. Slater and not Mario Lopez? In 2006, Lopez's Saved by the Bell character's storyline continued with a five-episode Web series titled 28 Day Slater. The premise? Every February, an implant in Lopez's brain would trigger him to believe that he was, in fact, A.C. Slater for a full 28 days. Mullet and tight-fitting Ts included. Former NBC President Brandon Tartikoff, who passed away in 1997, was the only person who knew how to disable the implant.

22. BERKLEY’S FAVORITE EPISODE IS “THE CAFFEINE PILL INCIDENT.”

When asked about her favorite memory from the show, Berkley didn’t hesitate in responding, “The ‘I'm so excited!’ episode [when Jessie uses 'caffeine pills']. It was so extreme. We made a music video; we were thrilled!"

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Meester X, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
'Eat Lead!': When Activists Hacked Talking Barbie
Meester X, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Meester X, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

With his familiar green fatigues and grenade clipped to his chest, G.I. Joe platoon leader Duke appeared carved from granite, not plastic. The 12-inch action figure was part of Hasbro’s Hall of Fame series, a premium-format figure released in 1993. Press his chest and the military specialist’s voice box would be activated, allowing Duke to shout a series of commands or threats.

But for a number of boys who unwrapped him on Christmas Day 1993, Duke appeared to be in no mood for conflict. When pressed to speak, he would instead exclaim, “Let’s go shopping!”

At the same time, parents who had gifted their children Mattel’s Teen Talk Barbie—which was also equipped with a voice chip—were equally confused. Instead of talking about clothes or Corvettes, the Barbies sounded like they had been gargling gravel. “Eat lead, Cobra!” shouted one. “Vengeance is mine!”

Families were not amused: The dolls weren't cheap—each had a $40 to $50 price tag. After examining the box for any signs of tampering, some parents came across a small leaflet that helped explain the toys’ out-of-character speeches. A group calling themselves the Barbie Liberation Organization was taking responsibility for the switch. The goal of their stunt was to reframe the conversation over gender roles in America.

 
 

Since she first hit shelves in 1959, Barbie has transcended her boxed-in identity as mere toy store inventory to become an avatar for girls looking for a role model. (At one point, the doll received 20,000 fan letters a week.) The size of her waist, her job skills, her Malibu beach house—all of it has been commandeered by social anthropologists looking to see whether her influence is enriching young girls' lives or offering dispiriting, stereotyped notions of femininity.

That debate took a turn for the worse in 1992, when Mattel released a teenaged variation of the doll that exclaimed “math class is tough!” Women’s groups were outraged, believing that Barbie was falling victim to harmful tropes that put a ceiling on both her intellect and that of her pre-teen consumers.

Though the phrase was just one of 270 the doll could utter at random—others included “I love school, don’t you?”—it received the brunt of media attention, including demands to recall the dolls. (Mattel apologized, but did not pull the dolls off shelves.)

The debate over whether Barbie had social responsibilities caught the attention of Igor Vamos, a student of visual arts at the University of California, San Diego. Vamos was intrigued by the idea of “cultural jamming,” a kind of analog hacking that upended conventional ideas to create controversy. If Barbie taught passivity and sexism with her complaints of math being hard, then perhaps she should be given a different script.

Vamos bought several dozen Teen Talk Barbies and Talking Duke figures from toy stores in California and New York. He and several other “operatives” dismantled the toys, performing a crude surgery that allowed them to switch the voice boxes buried in their bodies. Volunteers would use a knife to cut into the dolls' plastic skin, then modify the transistor of the Joe’s voice chip so it would fit into Barbie’s comparatively slimmer torso.

A screenshot of a G.I. Joe Talking Duke figure

21solo, YouTube

After repackaging the dolls, the team “shop-dropped,” surreptitiously restocking them on toy shelves in Albany, San Diego, and Walnut Creek, California. Each box had a piece of paper encouraging disgruntled parents to reach out to the media after discovering the toys weren’t gender-conforming. To speed things along, they also told friends to buy the dolls and make the calls. Then they waited.

Within weeks, adults confused by their child’s new toys did exactly what the B.L.O. suggested, telling local news affiliates that their Barbie was shouting attack commands and informing kids that “dead men tell no lies.” Duke, meanwhile, rebuffed war strategy, preferring to “plan our dream wedding.”

The ensuing media coverage is exactly what Vamos was hoping for. Calling the toys' gender roles “stone-aged,” the B.L.O. claimed responsibility, stayed anonymous, and hoped it would cause consumers to rethink the propagation of violence by male toys and the relatively vacuous ambitions of Barbie.

"Obviously, our goal is to get media attention,” a B.L.O. spokesperson told The New York Times. “We are trying to make a statement about the way toys can encourage negative behavior in children, particularly given rising acts of violence and sexism."

Vamos even supervised production of a video that used Barbie to spell out their mission. “They build us in a way that perpetuates gender-based stereotypes,” the toy said. “Those stereotypes have a negative effect on children’s development.”

 
 

While most considered the act harmless—the toys could, after all, be exchanged for an unadulterated version—not everyone believed the B.L.O.’s mission played fair. "I've got a very strong negative feeling about terrorist acts against children, no matter how noble the motives," Joanne Oppenheim, a toy industry advocate, told the Times. “It's a cheap shot, and it's unfair to the kids.” Others protested the general idea of product tampering.

Mattel and Hasbro were less rattled. Wayne Charness, then-vice president of Hasbro, called it “kind of ridiculous,” while Mattel refrained from commenting. Though the B.L.O. claimed to have tampered with hundreds of toys in 43 different states, the truth was that Vamos and his team had performed surgery on roughly 120 toys. But the media perpetuated the story, making it seem as though the stunt was pervasive.

The story died down after the holidays. The tampered toys were either returned or bought and discarded. Vamos kept his role in the stunt largely under wraps until years later, when he became a part of The Yes Men, a social disruption performance group, under the alias Mike Bonanno. Vamos is now a professor of media arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

Was the stunt effective? Anecdotally, maybe. Media outlets like Ohio's Akron Beacon Journal profiled kids and parents who had been affected by the switch, including 7-year-old Zach, the recipient of a Barbie-possessed Duke. Asked if he wanted to return the toy, Zach said no: “He’s teaching me not to fight.”

Were kids really influenced by the toys to rethink gender portrayals, or were they yet another example of the B.L.O. manipulating the media by using an undercover operative to articulate their message? If Barbie knows, she isn't talking. 

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Shout! Factory
Original GLOW Wrestling Series Hits Twitch
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

When it premiered in June 2017, GLOW was a bit of a sleeper offering for Netflix. With the amount of original programming ordered by the streaming service, a show based on an obscure women’s pro wrestling league from the 1980s seemed destined to get lost in the shuffle.

Instead, the series was a critical and commercial success. Ahead of its second season, which drops on June 29, you'll have a chance to see the mat work of the original women who inspired it.

Shout! Factory has announced they will be live-streaming clips from the first four seasons of GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), which first premiered in 1986, beginning at 9 p.m. ET on June 28. The stream, which will be available on shoutfactorytv.com and Twitch, will feature original footage framed by new interviews with personalities including Godiva, host Johnny C, and Hollywood. The show will air live from the Santino Brothers Wrestling Academy in Los Angeles.

Godiva, who was portrayed by Dawn Maestas, inspired the character Rhonda (a.k.a. Brittanica) on the Netflix series; Hollywood was the alter ego of Jeanne Basone, who inspired the character Cherry in the fictionalized version of the league. Basone later posed for Playboy and takes bookings for one-on-one wrestling matches with fans.

Shout! Factory's site also features a full-length compilation of footage, Brawlin’ Beauties: GLOW, hosted by onetime WWE interviewer “Mean” Gene Okerlund.

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