Review: The new 'Saved by the Bell' is, somewhat implausibly, one of the year's best TV shows

Dexter Darden as Devante, left, and Mario Lopez as A.C. Slater in Peacock's revival of "Saved by the Bell". (Casey Durkin / Pfau)
In all honesty, I was too old to pay much attention to Saved by the Bell, a multi-camera teen sitcom that aired Saturday morning on NBC from 1989-1993. and "Saved By the Bell: The New Class" (along with two TV films and various stunt reunions) and was the original soup that "Hannah Montana", "That's So Raven", "iCarly" and other similar creations crept out of - to what i paid attention to be a professional thinker on television by then.
But it apparently exerted the same magnetic pull on its audience as "The Brady Bunch" did to an earlier generation that settled deep in its collective cerebral cortex. And when that series began deconstructing the big screen that was The Brady Bunch Movie, Saved by the Bell was brought back to life - but in a postmodern, confident form - as a premiere series by Peacock Wednesday. "When I was a kid," recalls the now grown-up Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), "I did a drug-solving PPE with the president of NBC." Indeed he did.
Unlike Netflix's sequel "Full House," "Fuller House," which continued in the spirit of the original, "Saved by the Bell" is both a revival and a reboot aimed at the now-adult children who have it looked at the age of Tracey Wigfield, 37, the veterinarian "30 Rock" and "Mindy Project" who developed the new series. (Though it's still generally safe for kids. The language is mild, nobody has sex, and the only drug joke is about caffeine pills.) The gratifying result is that while there are plenty of clues for the fans, including this caffeine joke - I have Did my research - you don't have to see the old shows to understand or enjoy the new one. In fact, I have nothing but good things to say. At the same time ironic and sincere, mocking and loving (as you might look back on your own youth), it starts well and just gets better.
We're back in Bayside High, where the original characters A. C. Slater (Mario Lopez), the personable athlete, and Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley), clever and political, are now school coaches and advisors, respectively. (The great John Michael Higgins, new to the mix, plays the headmaster, who is kind and cowardly.) Old classmate Zack, a hormonal joke I think should be considered cool - despite being a Funny or The series inspired. "Zack Morris Is Trash," who argued convincingly otherwise - accidentally became Governor of California "as part of a plan to get out of a $ 75 parking ticket." He was voted "America's second hottest governor" after Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer and is still married to former cheerleader Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Thiessen). Her son Mac (Mitchell Hoog), who wears his father's hair and pranks, is now visiting Bayside - as is Jessie's son Jamie (Belmont Cameli), a weak but sensitive jock who partly takes on the old Slater role and whose encouraging conversation is The soccer team he directs says: "Winning doesn't matter. What counts is having fun, spending time together, moving around. And let's not forget that the players on this other team have an inner life, that is just as rich and complicated as our own. " . "Obviously they are losing a lot.
Belmont Cameli, left, as Jamie Spano, Josie Totah as Lexi, and Mitchell Hoog as Mac Morris in the Peacock revival of "Saved by the Bell". (Casey Durkin / Pfau)
As is typical on prime-time high school shows, the students are in their sophomore year when we meet them and, unlike the original cast, are played by actors who haven't been in high school for a few years. A joke played in seniors by really old people - "There's no way this guy goes to our school, he literally wears cataract glasses and a Desert Storm hat" - is pure 30 rock.
As governor, Zack cut the budget by $ 10 billion, thereby closing schools. Ashamed at a press conference, he promises to send children from the closed, poor schools to posher schools, including his alma mater. And so, students from downtown Douglas High, where the library was "a Bible and a bundle of army leaflets" and the advisor was a Magic 8 Ball, are brought to Bayside. There's Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez), who is serious, motivated, and an echo of Jessie, who tells her, "I was you in high school - ambitious, stressed, I hadn't figured out my hair yet." Aisha (Alycia Pascual-Peña), also competitive but athletic (she is also partially Slater); and Devante (Dexter Darden), who is silent and mysterious and has no counterpart in the previous series. (Darden plays his character almost completely straight forward; you could take off anything else and fill in a drama around him.)
In Bayside, they're thrown along with Mac and Jamie and Lexi (Josie Totah), the campus queen and part-time bad woman. Totah is a transgender woman - as J.J. Totah, she played a lot of male roles - just like Lexi. "Have you seen my reality show, 'Become Lexi: I am me'?" she asks Devante. ("It's about Lexi's life being transgender," explains Mac, "her journey of self-discovery and the hot friends who support her.") The topic is otherwise calm, except to make a few points about fear and acceptance, when the story takes you. They will have become a gang long before the end of the season.
Lark Voorhies, when Lisa Turtle, the only regular black character on the original show and the designated rich girl, will have a cameo - "I have to go, my lovers are waking up" is one of her lines. Screech, the not hot nerd of the old series, played by Dustin Diamond, is mentioned but is missing.
Mitchell Hoog as Mac Morris from left, Belmont Cameli as Jamie Spano, Josie Totah as Lexi, Alycia Pascual-Pena as Aisha and Haskiri Velazquez as Daisy in Peacock's "Saved by the Bell".
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To a certain extent, the series is a clash of realities. The Douglas High children, black and tan, travel not only to a white and wealthy place, but from a more or less real place to a rather improbable place. The actions are reminiscent of the original - the school play, a student choice, a big dance, a party out of bounds - but with absurd (and not just absurd) twists. (The Max, a snack shop with a late New Wave design, survives unscathed, as if it were preserved in amber. Daisy is told, "We like to hang out after school - even before and during.") There are plans and pranks. romantic alignments, misalignments, and realignments. There are messages, and they're essentially those of the original: be true to yourself, be true to your friends, be true to your school, be good, and if you can't be good, be careful and the new series would add if you can't can be careful about being rich. “If you have money, you can act like an idiot,” Mac tells Daisy, “but luckily you can just use more money to clean up the mess you've made. It's the circle of wealth .. . You look contradicting itself. Let me give you some money. "
The returning cast fits in well with the new vibe. The younger players are top notch - even better than meets the eye, given the general nuttiness. But they play different levels with great skill and solve the character and the joke about the character in people who can authentically interest you, at least a little, even if the metafictions remain legible. It's like Brechtian distance - we don't laugh at the stupid character, but at the idea of ​​a stupid character - if Brecht were an old wimp who wanted to fill you with feelings.
In a later episode, Mac wonders why he feels bad for his friends if nothing bad happens to him. "It's called empathy, Mac," Lexi replies. "I have it now too."
"Empathy?" says Mac, alarmed. "Did I get it from you?"
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
In this article
Dexter Darden
Mark-Paul Gosselaar
Mario Lopez

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