For those who remember the 1970s and the 1980s–and even earlier–Saturday morning has always belonged to the kids. Most everyone over the age of 30 has memories of getting up early, despite the fact that it wasn’t necessary, and potentially spending an entire morning remaining in pajamas whilst a flood of animated fare washed over them.
But that really started to change when a show about a group of California teenagers started up, and though it changed substantially over the years, “Saved by the Bell” remains one of the touchstones of an era. Our friends out at Lionsgate, meanwhile, sent over a copy of “Saved by the Bell: The Complete Collection” for us to review, and though it may not be all right, it’s still going to ring a few bells all its own.
“Saved by the Bell: The Complete Collection” follows the adventures of a group of young people–the contents of which will change somewhat as the series progresses. But regardless of the group’s makeup, the idea remains the same. It’s all about high school, and what a group of kids are going to do in response to said experience. Sometimes said responses are connected to events that seldom happen, like issues of families moving away in the middle of a school year and the change that that brings to a social dynamic or what happens when one kid finds drugs or drives drunk, others will be the simple maneuvering of young people trying to make a life for themselves in the midst of an environment that doesn’t always welcome it.
“Saved by the Bell,” as far as I was concerned, was ludicrous in the extreme; if I’d suggested to my female friends that the thing to do was to put together a swimsuit calendar and then sell the result behind their back, I probably wouldn’t be writing this today. No, I would be at the bottom of a peat bog with weights strapped to what was left of my ankles. But that’s another day for “Saved by the Bell.” Don’t even get me started on Zack Morris’ early experiments with mind control (this actually happened in “The Zack Tapes”) or his ability to stop time (which happened intermittently throughout the series) in the interest of exposition.
But then, “Saved by the Bell” wasn’t preaching to the choir who believed that, by comparison, “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs” seemed likelier to happen because it at least had the fig leaf of the future to hide behind. No, clearly, “Saved by the Bell” was the earliest homily in a line of tent-revival-style Saturday morning fare that would go on to offer things like “Dawson’s Creek” and the like subsequently.
The references are horrendously dated, and feel it, as do the costumes and virtually everything else. Many of the plotlines are preposterous by most any standard, or just plain uncomfortable to watch. Starting things off with the massive celebrity draw that was Casey Kasem really didn’t help matters much, and simply makes it clear just what is so wrong about this today.
Special features here include your choice of English or Spanish subtitles as well as a pair of featurettes, one examining the overall history of “Saved by the Bell” as well as a secondary featurette that details how Saturday morning began its migration from cartoons to the live-action antics of teenagers, at least on NBC, where the movement really began.
There is absolutely no denying that “Saved by the Bell: The Complete Collection” is a touchstone of its era. It was groundbreaking. It was downright history-making in its content and the subsequent evolution away from Saturday morning cartoons that we see largely completed today can be traced at least somewhat back to this. While the content isn’t exactly pleasant–and is often actively unpleasant–it’s still going to be something to see if for nothing else than to see the earliest stirrings of a movement that is still being felt today. “Saved by the Bell” didn’t age well, but man, did it ever leave an impact.