If you’re a child of the ’90s, your Saturday mornings were defined by hanging out with your friends at Bayside High on Saved by the Bell. Zack, Kelly, Slater, Jessie, Lisa and Screech were everybody’s favorite group of teenagers. They wore cool clothes, had fun adventures and got wrapped up in crazy schemes. From the catchy theme song to burgers at The Max, every episode had its familiar hallmarks. More than anything, the familiarity is what makes the show so endearing. Every Saturday, for four years, there were two to four episodes of our favorite friends waiting for us. The show became such a hit for NBC, it spawned the TNBC schedule of teen comedies, which were all basically variations on Saved by the Bell.
Like all teen series, eventually the characters got too old for high school and graduated. This led to The College Years, The New Class and the wrap up TV movie Wedding in Las Vegas. Unless it’s Law & Order, CSI or NCIS, it’s rare for a TV series to have a franchise with that reach or staying power. So, for all the ’90s kids feeling nostalgic, here are the most hilarious Saved by the Bell memes the internet has to offer.
15. ZACK’S SUPERPOWER
Before documentary style comedies like The Office, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family became all the rage, Zack was breaking the fourth wall and talking to viewers. He was usually explaining whatever his scheme of the week was and how it would play out. Occasionally during these moments he would stop time with “time out” say something to the camera or move the other characters around and then continue like nothing happened.
Who hasn’t wished for the power to stop time when things get a little too crazy. Especially in high school. The really weird thing is that the other friends never noticed these occasional changes to the setting or Zack’s movements. It was a legit superpower that he only ever used for selfish teenager purposes.
14. ZACK IS ACTUALLY A TERRIBLE PERSON
The dirty secret that fans don’t really like to discuss, is the fact that Zack is not actually a good guy. He basically stalks Kelly all through high school, he tries to get Slater kicked out various times and constantly gets poor Screech involved in his often illegal schemes. At one point, he even causes a teacher’s strike.
The things he does to get to Kelly are enough to need a restraining order. From the Girls of Bayside calendar to changing the video yearbook to a dating video featuring the female students, Zack is very creepy at times. He also objectifies Kelly for their entire relationship. Fortunately, these are things you only notice when you get older, so as teenagers we just thought he was charming and fun.
13. ZACK’S GIANT PHONE
There is no greater hallmark of Saved by the Bell’s ’90s setting than Zack’s enormous cell phone. Anytime you see a comedy bit involving the show, the phone is automatically included. At the time, it was something that only rich people could afford, so that’s how we knew Zack was cooler than everyone else. Yes, there was a time when a cell phone was literally the size of a brick. In the early episodes it was used quite a bit to get them out of a jam or to fool Mr. Belding.
As we all know, technology changes quickly, so even in the early ’90s, the phone became outdated and wasn’t seen again. Zack got an upgrade in later episodes. Nowadays, when someone has an old phone, it’s common to mock them for having a Zack Morris phone.
12. NOBODY LIKES TORI
During senior year some backstage contract negotiations led to Elizabeth Berkley and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen missing some episodes. They were replaced by new student Tori Scott. She was a tomboy who drove a motorcycle and instantly clashed with Zack. She was supposed to be more worldly than the other kids, but really just came off as annoying. They even had her and Zack date for a little while.
Tori never clicked with fans and eventually left without any fanfare. Seriously, why bring in a completely new character in senior year? One episode she was there and then she wasn’t, without any explanation. No one ever missed her, but now when reruns are on and fans see it’s a Tori episode, that means it’s time to change the channel.
11. THOUGHT BUBBLES
As much as we love the show, we have to admit there are some glaring holes in the character’s development. Though they change through the years, it’s very basic kid to teenager growth. Zack is the same schemer all through high school. Jessie argues with everybody about everything. Slater is the same chauvinist jock. Lisa remains shallow, and Screech, the only character to appear in all the versions, literally never changes. Even when he becomes vice principal.
Except for the occasional very special episode, no one is watching for deep character maturity. We just want to know how they’re going to beat Valley, win the big game, then get out of detention. Long as we get all that and a trip to The Max, we’re happy.
10. WE STILL MISS THE SHOW
We know we’re older now and have our pick of programming, but you never forget your first. There are still Saturday mornings where we wish there were Saved by the Bell episodes to watch. Yes, there are various marathons on at certain times, but there’s just something about waking up Saturday and checking in with our pretend friends. It was the fantasy of these teenagers living the life we wished we could in high school that kept us coming back.
Broadcast networks don’t really do Saturday morning cartoons anymore and that’s a shame. In today’s crazy world, it’s fun to return to the nostalgia of the ’90s. It’s a reminder of a simpler time. It’s true there are plenty of teen comedies on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, but none of them are the original.
9. JIMMY FALLON’S REUNION
In 2015, Jimmy Fallon took The Tonight Show to LA for a week of shows and broke the internet with his Saved by the Bell reunion. Except for Lark Voorhies and Dustin Diamond, all the actors reprised their roles for the short skit. It featured all the fan favorite catchphrases and moments including Jessie’s “I’m so excited,” Time Out and Friends Forever.
It was a viral hit, because clearly Jimmy and his team were fans of the show, so they recreated everything with the utmost care. It also helped that the actors were all so game to jump back into their most famous characters and poke some fun at themselves. To date it has 38 million views. And yes, nothing was more ’90s than Jimmy pulling out his huge cell phone.
8. LISA TURTLE, FASHION ICON
Lisa Turtle was the quintessential valley girl. Her life revolved around trips to the mall and building her wardrobe. There was even a whole episode where she had to sell clothes to pay off her credit cards. Once she got older, she wanted to be a fashion designer. Though her designs were very 90s, they were also creative for the time. We can admit we were often jealous of her outfits.
It may be an unpopular opinion, but Lisa was also a great example of a different female black character that wasn’t on many shows in the ’90s. There’s a tendency for black women on TV to only be one thing, however, in reality there are all kinds of black girls in the world. Seeing Lisa on TV every week gave those girls someone to identify with.
7. THE SET LIVES ON
Following the success of Saved by the Bell, children’s networks immediately began adding more tween and teen friendly programs to their schedule. Disney Channel in particular has made a whole genre out of them. The common set among all these series is always the school hallway. Instead of building a new one every time, it turns out, the familiar Bayside High steps and lockers were reused.
Series like That’s so Raven and iCarly have both used it on their shows. If we scroll through Disney and Nickelodeon shows from the last decade, we will no doubt see it on others. This makes complete sense, as these shows are all updates on the recipe Saved by the Bell laid out. Start with a wacky group friends, add in a clueless adult figure, stir in crazy shenanigans, mix well.
6. ’90S FLASHBACKS
One of the most fun things about watching your teen favorites is marveling at the throwbacks. Saved by the Bell is very unapologetically ’90s. There’s acid wash, rolled up jeans, giant cell phones, huge computers and so much teased hair. It’s like a fun time capsule that reminds us how much easier today’s teens have it.
Perhaps the thing that will blow millennials’ minds the most is the idea of a phone with a cord. Kids, imagine a world where you had to have all your conversations in the kitchen with your mom standing right there. There’s also a lot of talk about going to the library to check out a book for a report. These are the little eccentricities of being a teenager in the ’90s.
5. ZACK AND KELLY, RELATIONSHIP GOALS
Every show has that couple that everyone roots for and knows will end up together in the end. For the kids of Bayside it was Zack and Kelly. From the first episode, it was clear, and maybe a little creepy, how much he loved her. Everything Zack did was about impressing Kelly. He babysat her brother, acted in the musical and gave her a prom. We don’t need to talk about the giant cutout in his bedroom.
Once they were finally together, they were pretty much the perfect couple. Yes, he was jealous and moody like all teenage boys, but his love never wavered. Even into college, she was the girl of his dreams. If you say you didn’t cry when they finally got married, you’re totally lying.
4. ZACK IS A HORRIBLE STUDENT
Zack Morris is a lot of things. He’s a fun, charming guy, who’s also a loyal friend and who is smarter than he seems when you consider how intricate and devious some of his plans are. The thing he’s not, is a great student. He never pays attention in class, cheats a lot, spends nearly all his time in detention and is rarely prepared for class.
Despite all this, he somehow got a 1502 on his SATs. The other characters say several times that the test measures how smart you are, not how hard you work. This lack of effort continues into college where he once again uses his various schemes to get out of doing assignments. If he put half the work into studying that he put into his shenanigans, he would get straight As.
3. ZACK AND KELLY BREAK UP
It was the episode fans never wanted to see, but we all knew was coming. Soon as the way too slick Jeff started managing The Max, we knew he would be trouble. Dude was too old to be so interested in what a high school girl was doing. Also, he knew she had a boyfriend.
Sadly, she decided to dump Zack and start dating the supposedly more mature Jeff instead. Of course, we all knew America’s Sweethearts would eventually find their way back together, but first Jeff had to go. As expected, Jeff was no good and he cheated on Kelly. Devastated she yelled at him because she had broken up with a great guy to be with him. Thankfully, an older and more mature Zack and Kelly found their way back to each other and got married.
2. JESSIE GETS EXCITED
It is the most famous moment in Saved by the Bell history. In one of the show’s “very special episodes” Jessie gets hooked on caffeine pills. Everyone else is worried, but Zack is the last one to believe it. When he finally confronts her, she cries and screams the words to I’m So Excited.
The scene is the subject of countless memes and GIFs. Elizabeth Berkley even poked fun at it when she was on Dancing With the Stars. The episode that also has a message is a staple of teen shows, with writers trying to use familiar characters to teach a lesson. Saved by the Bell did this with drunk driving, homelessness and environmental protection. However, none of those have had the staying power of Jessie’s breakdown.
1. GRADUATION DAY
Eventually, like all teen centered shows, the kids of Bayside had to graduate from high school and move on. If you watched the original Good Morning Miss Bliss, you had been with these characters since junior high school, so this was a really emotional episode. The gang rallies for one last wild adventure to help Zack get the last credit he needs to graduate.
After years connecting with all these people, it was a nice love letter to fans, as they got to see all their favorite couples have moments one last time. Even Screech finally got to be in the spotlight. It felt like we were watching old friends graduate from high school. NBC considered it such a big deal they aired it in primetime.
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