Saved By The Bell: The Definitive Season & Spin-Off Rankings
Reader submission by @ShmoreyShmallen.
Kelly Kapowski. Richard "Dick" Belding. AC Slater. Stansbury aka the Harvard of the West. And, of course, the bro's bro: Zack Morris.
Unless you were born in communist Russia, after 1996, or your parents just didn't love you enough, you should feel as if your second high school was Bayside High and your mascot was the Tigers. You wanted to have a burger at The Max, you wanted to pull pranks on those herbs from Valley, and you wanted to develop a caffeine pill dependency with Jesse Spano.
Long story short: Saved By The Bell rules. This is not up for debate. It's a scientific fact. But with that being said, not all storylines were created equal. Every season, it seemed as if Zack, his big cell phone, and his crew were setting off on random adventures across anywhere from Southern California to across the Pacific Ocean. That's why we're here for you, to put these storylines in their proper place in Bayside history.
5. Palm Springs For Mr. Spano's Wedding. This is an under the radar entry, but one that needs mentioning if only for the fact that Mr. Spano outkicked his coverage by landing a smokeshow wife that couldn't have been more than a few years older than his daughter (and future Showgirl) Jesse.
The gang gets into their normal hi-jinks, with Screech and Slater scouring the resort for dates and Jessie immediately hating her stepmom-to-be. These episodes are all about fun in the sun and Jesse being a raging seaward (pronounced C-word for you English majors) towards her dads's new piece. We get Kelly in a bikini (win) and the usual ass-hattery of Zack, Slater, and Screech. Slater even manages to slide up into a foreign princess from Liechtenstein. An absolute savage move by him to bring another broad to his on-and-off girlfriend's father's wedding. No clue how he pulled that off, if we're being honest. That alone reserves a spot in the top 5 the Palm Springs episodes.
4. Saved By The Bell: The College Years. UPSET. Even I thought the spin-off would be higher on the list when I originally dove into a Bayside High/Cal U rabbit hole. But it sits at #4 only because of the strength of the top 3. This placement isn't a knock on The College Years but praise of the heavy-hitters in front of it. But I digress.
Zack, Slater, and Screech head off to college and are lucky enough to have the most INSANE freshman dorm of all time. A triple, no less. During my freshman year, I was in a forced triple and it's what I'd imagine being a POW in Nam was like. But these sons of bitches not only had a massive dorm, but three (relatively) hot roommates. Kelly comes back into the picture by replacing Essence Atkins (sneaky hot, for what it's worth) after episode two and she brings the HEAT, while also having a brush with being a whore and sleeping with her professor. For two years you get Zack going back and forth between Kelly and that rich bitch Leslie, which is the perfect rich bitch name. Slater falls in love with that weirdo Alex (who goes on to be the weirdo stripper who gets killed in Independence Day), and Bob fucking Golic is their RA. Just a weird collection of stories and characters that fit perfectly together. It's a tad unfortunate that Zack and Slater don't go Greek thanks to Screech. I guess this show is supposed to be all about friendship so it makes sense, but America was deprived of Social Chairman Zack Morris and that's a damn shame.
3. Saved By The Bell: Hawaiian Style. This will be controversial because people love The College Years, but there is literally no theme song in the history of theme songs that tops "Summertime" by Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff. It deserves the number three spot just based on the intro alone. An absolute BRILLIANT choice by the producers for this one, especially given that this is the most unrealistic high school vacation of all time. I mean, Hawaii? Are you fucking kidding me? Whatever.
Kelly's grandfather invites the gang out to his mom and pop hotel on Oahu, but a corporate hotel chain is buying up all the property and eyeing the old man's land and hotel. The kids befriend the natives, Screech ends up being worshiped as a God (which deserves it's own column entirely), Belding pops up out of NOWHERE, and Zack ends up falling in love with a broad who already has a kid. Weird shit all around. What really needs to be discussed is how Zack continuously ditches Kelly to go with other, less-Kapowski females. I guess the saying "point to a hot chick and I'll point to a dude who's tired of her shit" applies here, but she's Kelly fucking Kapowski. Tighten it up, Zack.
This is the perfect mash-up of all that encompasses the 90's with that intro song. The Fresh Prince providing the soundtrack while the camera flashes Hawaiian beaches and bros surfing, which then immediately cuts to Zack Morris doing Zack Morris things. This is like that 2000-2001 Sixers team that got dragged to the Finals by Allen Iverson. Driven to success on the strength of one pillar of the team. These episodes can thank the Fresh Prince for their esteemed ranking.
2. Kelly & Zack's Vegas Wedding. It might get a tad dusty in here while writing this. The end of an era. The wedding marked the end of the original (and only, in my opinion) Saved By The Bell, and brought with it the culmination of the greatest romance we have ever witnessed. Zack and Kelly tie the knot in Vegas, thanks to the fact that Derek Morris leaves his kid high and dry by not supporting his marriage to Kelly.
You have Vegas, you have the boys getting arrested by a crooked sheriff, Lisa hooking up with a hitchhiker, and Slater ONCE AGAIN falling ass backwards into a new slam, while Zack risks his wedding by becoming an escort to make some money to pay for said wedding, AND they get into it with the mob. Lots of weird, outrageous shit. But you don't come to Saved By The Bell for the realism.
In the end, they get married, ride off into the sun set, Belding shows up with a mustache, and Derek Morris eventually gives Zack his blessing to marry Kelly (duh). But the shining moment of this series is when Jessie Spano comes storming into the wedding, bleach blonde, and unable to walk in heels. There is no doubt in my mind that the show producers realized that while they were shooting the wedding episodes, Elizabeth Berkley was shooting Showgirls in Vegas at the same time so they gave her a call and asked her to stop in for a ten-minute shoot. She looks like she literally got out of the strip club and went straight to the wedding. An unreal last minute cameo that steals the show. For the fans of the show, this is the perfect ending. Zack and Kelly tie the knot, while the beloved valedictorian of Bayside High-turned-hooker makes a late appearance with the rest of the cast. Kind of fitting that Jesse goes from a caffeine pill problem in early seasons to looking strung out on the last episode, huh? Safe to say that she took her taste for stimulants up a notch.
1. The Malibu Sands Beach Club. When it comes to ranking these storylines, this is the '98 New York Yankees of the group. A juggernaut. Unstoppable. Without comparison. Far and away the best subplot of the entire series. Stacey Carosi is a BAD bitch. Her appearance in these episodes is what seals the deal. Just a stone cold fox preying upon the younger Zack, and ruling the Beach Club with an iron fist. Not enough can be said about her. Also, a sneaky underrated character is the 10-year-old hitting on Kelly all summer. She's out of his league, sure. But the kid has great taste and he definitely developed into a cocksman later in life with that kind of bravado.
At the end of the series, we find out that Slater's secret admirer just so happens to be a 5-alarm hard ten. The guy has incredible luck. Not sure if it was the gerry curl or the muscles, but AC arguably ended up with a better resume than Zack. One thing this series has going for it, unlike the others, is the presence of hate-able characters. There are countless schmucks, which, I guess goes with having your locale be a douchey Southern California beach club.
First and foremost, there's the club manager Leon Carosi who is basically a 90's Chris Christie. This guy could not be more of a dick if he tried, especially to Zack. It was probably jealously, since he was shaped like a bag of marshmallows that you left in your car in the middle of July. His one redeeming quality was that he produced Stacey, which genetically just doesn't add up. And then there's Craig. Oh Craig, you smug son of a bitch. I'm pretty sure Craig, Stacey's boyfriend visiting from Boston, is an immediate family member of the Winklevii from The Social Network. Had such a punch-able face and just general New England rich boy entitlement. These episodes were all 10 out of 10s. Impossible to top when you consider all the factors in play at the Malibu Sands.
PS. Good Morning, Miss Bliss episodes. Let's get one thing straight, not every incarnation of this show was good. These episodes are legitimately painful. Borderline inhumane. No one is tuning in for a show about a middle school teacher and her students from Indi-fucking-ana. The one benefit of this show is the characters it spawned with Zack, Belding, Lisa, and Screech. Fortunately they made the jump from Indiana to California, and they didn't bring that loser Mikey with them (a diet-AC Slater). Whoever green-lit this show is assuredly polishing glasses as a bar back at a Buffalo Wild Wings somewhere.
PPS. If you watched Saved By The Bell: The New Class then you're a social misfit or Scientologist . What an absolute dumpster fire of a show. Can't believe it was around for seven years.