Monday, June 11, 2012
Saved by the Bell is undeniably silly and, as my list of its most ridiculous moments has and will continue to show, not-at-all based in any sort of recognizable reality. The emotions ring true however. As do the themes. OK, fine, Zack, Slater, and Screech hire an actress to embarrass their substitute English teacher, the impossibly dreamy Mr. Tony Crane, to win back their women, which is crazy, but their reasons for doing so make complete sense. Middle and high school boys are made to feel inferior to their older counterparts the moment the health teacher opens his/her dumb mouth and announces, "Girls mature much faster than boys." From that point forward, unless you're a jock or hopelessly popular for inexplicable reasons, you are totally screwed. Good luck getting a girl your own age to take you seriously. This situation is brilliantly played out in "The Substitute."
"The Substitute" is one of the more charming episodes of Saved by the Bell, which is why I like it so much. The plot, like all of the plots, is pretty basic: Mrs. Simpson, Bayside's mostly-deaf English teacher, throws out her back during a lesson on Shakespeare and is forced to take a leave of absence. Tony Crane, a handsome male substitute, takes her place, and the girls are instantaneously smitten. Fearful that they've lost Kelly forever to the clutches of a sophisticated older man, Zack and Slater call a truce and pool their money to hire an actress to pretend that she is Mr. Crane's sexy Russian fiancee, but the plan backfires when she attempts to seduce Mr. Belding. Rather than turning the boys in, Mr. Crane goes along with the ruse and the girls fall out of love as quickly as they fell in.
Fantasy Sequence: Kelly, Lisa, and Jessie are preparing for their respective wedding days with Mr. Crane. This promptly erupts into a fight over who is to be the true Mrs. Tony Crane. Mr. Crane appears to inform the girls that he will not be marrying any of them as he is only a substitute and will eventually disappear from their lives forever. "Who are we supposed to marry now?" they sadly ask. Cue a tuxedo-clad Screech.
Totally Ridiculous: What is anyone actually learning in Mrs. Simpson's class? She isn't discussing Shakespeare in any in-depth way, she's simply having students read scenes from Romeo and Juliet at each other.
Slater: It's only going to get worse, Preppy. I've seen this in other schools I've been to. Some smooth-talking teacher'll come in, and before you know it, he's stolen all our women.
Screech: He's going to take our mothers?!?