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Friday, June 29, 2012

The Most Ridiculous Moments in Saved by the Bell History: Part 3: Comic Book Cover Edition

I can't remember if I've mentioned it or not, but I am a big Saved by the Bell fan.  Sure, it's mostly completely stupid, but for me at least, it is a massive cultural touchstone.  

But being a big fan doesn't mean that I'm some kind of "fanboy."  Sure, I watch Saved by the Bell occasionally and I write about it on my snarky pop culture blog and, sure, I had a poster of Kelly Kapowski on my wall throughout middle school and, of course, I own a couple packs of Saved by the Bell trading cards, but that doesn't make me some kind of "weirdo," does it?  I mean, we all have packs of SBTB trading cards stashed away somewhere, right?

Look, I don't write SBTB fan fiction or anything, even though I have a couple of great ideas (Zack as an astronaut!  Slater is zapped back in time by Screech and Kevin's time travel laser and is forced into a series of gladiator fights!  Kelly and I go on a date to Cici's Pizza!), I just like the show.  I don't own a Bayside Tigers t-shirt (I know you're shocked to hear that, Jonathan), I don't have any of the Saved by the Bell action figures, and I'd never even heard of the Saved by the Bell comic book until this morning.

At the height of program's popularity, Harvey Comics produced a handful of Saved by the Bell books, and from the looks of the covers, they were pure shit. 

Zack gets "racing fever?"  That could be good?

If there's one thing comic book geeks and pre-teen Saturday morning sit-com fans love more than anything it's partying.  Give that party a political theme, and you've got a comic worth spending your shitty allowance on.  This also appears to be the first appearance of Screech's magic paintbrush, one of my favorite characters from the show. 
This might be my favorite cover.  First of all, who the hell is that sitting at Mr. Belding's desk?  It sure as shit isn't Mr. Belding.  He looks like some slick Wall Street fat cat.  Lame.  Also, what happened to Zack's face?  I think we can all agree that Mark-Paul Gosselaar is a five-alarm hottie (right?), but this drawing make him looks like a pile of garbage.  And where is Jessie?  And why do the female characters go on to lucrative careers (soldier, model, safari guide), while the guys end up doing nothing (nutcase with bucket on head, weird-looking guy, pointing enthusiast)?  This cover is a complete mess. I love it.
This issue seems kind of sketchy, and I don't mean that it's full of drawings (hyuck!).  Why are Kelly, Jesssie, and Lisa the entertainment at a bachelor party?  They're high school students.  I like the emphasis on healthy eating, but the hiring of underage strippers is all kinds of creepy.

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Technical Difficulties

We've been away, but we're back, baby!  The amount of concerned e-mails and encouraging comments on our Facebook page was overwhelming.  Really?  Zero?  You people couldn't take a little time out of your day to shoot us a concerned e-mail or bang out a an encouraging comment on our bloody Facebook page?  Sheesh!

The AC at Giant Electric HQ crapped out Sunday night, so the entire staff was forced to move in with my parents.  It was nice: working AC, all-you-can-eat snacks, nightly viewings of America's Got Talent (That show is on every single night apparently.).  Unfortunately, I couldn't get a lot (i.e. anything) up on the blog, hence the lack of Saved by the Bell tomfoolery.  

Anyway, the AC has been fixed and we're back.  In the meantime however, we purchased a new HQ and will be relocating in two weeks.  Our new facility is more state-of-the-art, with two fully functioning AC units, a spacious commissary, two outdoor smoking patios, and a real, honest-to-goodness bridge, which you can probably use to smoke on, you know, if the two smoking patios are already full.  We'll also have access to a swimming pool, which is nice, since a good swim with complete strangers is usually just the thing I need to jostle me out of a creative rut.

So, Saved by the Bell month is going to bleed into next, forcing us, unfortunately, to cancel Charles in Charge July.  Sorry, guys.  Also, we'll be bringing back some of our regular features.  You're welcome, guys.

Thanks for your patience and continued lack of interest.  Cheers!

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Friday, June 22, 2012

10 Saved by the Bell Episodes I Love - #4. "The Aftermath"

"The Aftermath," the second chapter in our Dark Jeff Saga, is full of memorable moments, ranging from the absurd (Lisa's desire to be the sole owner of rapper MC Hammer's physical being) to the ridiculous (Zack and Kelly's song--A12 on The Max's jukebox--is a generic soft jazz number that wouldn't sound out of place in a department store elevator or a classy soft-core porn) to the emotionally sublime (Zack's meltdown when confronted with the myriad pictures of Kelly [AKA, promotional shots of Tiffani Amber Thiessen in various teenagery outfits] adorning the inside of his locker).  It's those raw teenage emotions that make this episode so special.  The emotions and that sweater.  Holy crap.  Where did Zack get that thing, Cliff Huxtable's garage sale?

If you've ever been dumped by the head cheerleader--and haven't we all?--or anybody that regularly let you awkwardly grope her in a parked car, then you know how Zack feels.  It feels downright shitty to get dumped, and for all it's abject silliness, "The Aftermath" at least gets the shittiness of shattered teenage love right.

So, Zack and Kelly are broken up (awwwww!) and Kelly is dating her boss, Jeff (wooooooooo!).  Zack does his best to forget Kelly on his own, even briefly considering doing his homework for the first time ever, but ultimately turns to the gang for help.  His friends set him up on three blind dates with three different stereotypes (motormouth, fatty and generic babe), but nothing really works out.  He does use Date #3, Screech's bleach-blonde cousin, to make Kelly jealous, but this only results in a slap to the face and a chocolate milkshake down the pants.

Of course, this being Saved by the Bell, everything is resolved in the final scene at Lisa's Sweet 16 party.  Zack apologizes to Kelly for being sad, Kelly continues to not apologize to Zack for basically cheating on him in "The Last Dance," and Zack shakes Jeff's hand and says the following load of bullshit: "Congratulations, Jeff.  You've got a great girl."  

I've been involved in two major break-ups in my life, both brought on by infidelity, and I have never once considered congratulating the piece of shit who ruined my life.  I mean, sure, my beef is technically with the young ladies who've cheated on me, but when you are in the throws of a full-on sadness spiral, who are you usually blaming?  Not the cheater.  Not yourself, probably the first person you should be blaming.  It's the other man or woman or sexual aid you were dumped for.  "Hey, congratulations, guy.  You've got a great girl.  Sure, she's prone to cheating or whatever, but I'm sure things will work out with you two."  Bullshit.

Fantasy Sequence: N/A

Totally Ridiculous: Zack takes all three of his blind dates to the same movie.

Favorite Line: 
Screech: Happy birthday, Lisa.  I poked holes in it so it could breathe.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

10 Saved by the Bell Episodes I Love - #3. "The Last Dance"

"The Last Dance" begins a sequence of episodes I like to call "The Dark Jeff Saga."  To be fair, the Jeff character isn't necessarily evil or anything, I mean, he seems like a nice enough guy.  Sure, he sexually harasses an underage employee with the grace and ease of a seasoned lech, but, um, he's got nice hair. Actually, if you are already privy to how this "saga" ends, you know that Jeff is kind of an evil dude or, if you prefer, a fairly normal dude.  And dudes are assholes, man.  Deal with it.

Saved by the Bell touched on some heavy topics over its four seasons--drug abuse, gender equality, drunk driving, unemployment, homelessness, zits--but "The Last Dance" is the episode that affected me the most.  It still does.  It is, without a doubt, the most cringe-inducing episode of SBTB ever committed to film, and not just because Slater and Jessie sing a duet of "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You."  This is the episode where Zack and Kelly break up.  As a kid, this was too much for me to handle.  In my opinion, what Zack and Kelly had, well, that was true love.  They had the kind of relationship that could endure any storm, any obstacle, any college sophomore in a salmon-colored shirt.  It's remarkable how much this episode still gets to me.  If Zack and Kelly couldn't make things work, what chance do the rest of us have?

The writers set Zack up for devastation from the opening scene.  Zack, who was always wild about Kelly Kapowski, even before they became Bayside's hottest item, is especially smitten here.  And he never lets up.  The scene at the Maxx in which Zack thanks Jeff for giving "his girl" the night off to attend the costume ball, makes me want to sad-vomit.

So, anyway, Kelly gets a job at the Maxx to help out her family (Remember, Kelly is not only "the popular one," but also "the poor one.") and starts to develop an attraction for her boss, Jeff.  It's all very awkward and unconvincing.

Meanwhile, Zack Attack agrees to play Bayside's costume ball.  Um, yeah.

Jeff and Kelly kiss, Zack suspects something is up, and Bayside's cutest couple breaks up, dancing their last dance together to Jessie and Slater's rendition of the old Michael Bolton classic.  Done.

Honestly, this isn't a very good episode.  Screech's intelligence is beginning to evaporate, but he still scores some of the episode's best lines.  The acknowledgment that Zack Attack is a thing that exists is always welcome. And the gutterpunks who cause a scene during Kelly's first day on the job ("We're not payin' for this...garbage!") are personal favorites of mine. But, mostly this episode is just kind of meh.  The break up of Zack and Kelly however, always gets me down.  Plus, the events of "The Last Dance" set up the far superior next episode, "The Aftermath," which we will discuss at length next time.

Fantasy Sequence:  No fantasy sequence this time around, but we do get Zack Attack's "Make My Day," which totally rocks?

Favorite Line:
Screech: What a waitress!  She serves French fries like a real French person!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Quinny, it's your birthday! Happy Birthday, Quinny!

Shove it, Flag Day!  It's my daughter's 1st birthday!  Please enjoy these pictures of her first year on this planet.  We love you, Shrimpkin!  Someday this whole blog will be yours...
I'm so sorry.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

10 Saved by the Bell Episodes I Love - #2. "Beauty and the Screech"

I think Milhouse Van Houten said it best: "I'm not a nerd, Bart.  Nerds are smart."

Nerds are smart, so just what the hell are these monstrosities, referred to as "nerds," that populate the halls of Bayside High?  I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'll get back to this in a minute.  First, a plot synopsis.

Kelly wins two front row seats for the George Michael concert, but probably won't be able to go because she's failed her latest science test.  Seeing an opportunity to ease Kelly's suffering and get into her flower-print pants (probably), Zack asks Screech to tutor Kelly so she'll pass the next test, which is both a) conveniently later that week and b) worth 50% of the final grade. Weird, but whatever.  If Kelly passes, Zack postulates, she will not only be allowed to attend the George Michael concert, but she will invite Zack to go with her because Screech is his friend, I guess?  It makes sense to Zack, so, let's move on.

Screech--who at this point in the series is still smart, silly, and adorable--teaches Kelly about fusion, fission, and radioactivity.  Kelly, in turn, develops a crush on Screech, much to the chagrin of Zack and Slater.  Pretty soon every girl in school who isn't Lisa or Jessie is big time into Screech, which leads the gang into a group hallucination in which Zack and Slater are either nerds or severely developmentally disabled man-children with extensive lint and earwax collections, Screech is a tuxedo-clad secret agent, and Kelly wears a pepperoni pizza on her head.  Obviously, Max has slipped them all a mickey.  Probably why he disappeared after the first season.  You can't clandestinely drug teenagers and expect to get away with it forever.

As this is Saved by the Bell, Zack and Slater devise a ridiculous plan to break up Screech and Kelly, who, it should be noted, are not romantically involved in any way.  So, here's the plan:  Zack and Slater convince Mr. Belding that Screech and Kelly are engaged to be married and then, I don't know, Mr. Belding is going to force them to stop hanging out?  It's a dumb plan.  I don't even think Zack and Slater know the endgame on this one.  Belding does try to talk Screech out of his impending teenage wedding to Bayside's head cheerleader ("Screech, you can't elope!"  "Who are you calling a cantaloupe, you melon head?"), in a scene reminiscent of Frasier at it's best.  Or absolute worst.  You decide, Fraiser fans.

So, Kelly takes her test, gets an A, and invites Screech to the George Michael concert.  Screech hates George Michael and suggests they attend an "insect expo" ("I hear they've got a petting zoo this year!") to celebrate Kelly's achievement.  The duo realizes that they are better off as friends and a bummed Kelly Kapowski--there's an oxymoron--gives her tickets to Zack and Slater.  Cue the gay panic jokes.

Fantasy Sequence:  I already mentioned it in the synopsis (see: "group hallucination"), but I do want to briefly examine the Saved by the Bell universe's concept of what a nerd is.  Bayside's background nerds are smart, I guess, but mostly they are anthropomorphic dork costumes with goofy voices.  And pretty much all of them are autistic.  However, whenever Zack portrays a nerd character, as he does so memorably in "1-900-Crushed" and in this very fantasy sequence, he does so in the classic "dumb guy" voice.  Sure, he's wearing the Bayside Nerd's brightly-colored plumage, but he speaks and laughs in the way I've always imagined Big Moose of the Archie universe speaks and laughs.  Not only does he sound dumb, but he likes dumb things, dumb things your classic nerd would never be interested in (I hope), like earwax sculptures.  That's all.

Totally Ridiculous: It's kinda shitty of Dr. Mertz to discuss Kelly's "F" in front of the whole class like that, isn't it?  Pretty unprofessional, if you ask me.

Favorite Line:
Zack: Screech was being charming.  He was using a spoon.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Most Ridiculous Moments in Saved by the Bell History: Part 2

9. The "pin ceremony": This ridiculous gem occurs during the gang's summer employment gig at the "posh" Malibu Sands Beach Club.  In an episode titled "My Boyfriend's Back," Stacey Carosi's college-aged "boyfriend" pops up unannounced to give Stacey his "frat pin" during an elaborate ceremony that involves a gong for some reason.  During said ceremony, Kelly is on gong duty, while Zack is expected to hold onto the ring until Blaine or Blair or whatever Stacey's dumb boyfriend's name is, asks for it.  First of all, no ceremony of this kind has ever happened anywhere ever in the history of mankind.  Second of all, putting Zack in charge of the ring?  That's a little dark, even for Leon Carosi standards.  I mean, that's not just a kick in the balls, that's a kick in one's soul's balls.

What is truly insane about this scene, thus making it one of, if not the most, ridiculous moment in SBTB history, is what Dirk--let's just call him Dirk--proclaims after affixing his frat pin to Stacey's shirt:  "Now you're my girl FOREVER!"  Forever, Dirk?  Is that what you think?  You presented a girl with your frat pin, whatever the hell that is, and now she is "you're girl?"   She's dating someone else, Dirk.  It's literally the guy who handed you your stupid frat pin.  RIDICULOUS!

10. Zack & Stacey: While we're on the subject of the summer romance between Zack Morris and Stacey Carosi, perhaps the greatest love story in modern history: Zack sure gets over Stacey in a hot second, doesn't he?  There he is, sitting in the sand, forlornly staring off into the horizon, when his friends surround him with their undying love and devotion and physical bodies AND in the very next episode, Zack's up to his old single, horndog ways.  That's the way Zack.  Love 'em and leave 'em.

11.  Screech's Secret Sauce:  This is so offensive:

12. The almost constant bullying of the weak and nerdy:  Sometimes (i.e. a whole helluva lot of times), Saved by the Bell resembles a celebration of bullying.  Sure, the "nerd" characters are cartoonishly outlandish, with their neon-colored pocket protectors, rainbow suspenders, high-waisted slacks and glasses straps, and gratingly irritating, but the glee with which our heroes denigrate and torture these characters is disturbing.  The gang gets a pass when it comes to Screech, after all, he's a friend, thus ball-busting is to be expected, but what about the other nerds/geeks/spazzes?  What did they ever do to deserve Zack and the gang's constant ridicule?  SBTB is lucky to have existed during a time when bullying was no big deal and popular kids were free to roam the school hallways relentlessly harassing dorks, dinks, fatties, weirdos, nerdballs, geeksticks, dipwids, tardos, durps, weakos and poor kids.  As someone who was rabidly popular in his youth, I miss those days.

13. The lip-synching glee club: Bayside's tragically untalented glee club--of which all our main characters are members, of course--lip-synchs to a cassette recording of a live performance by a college glee club, AND MR. BELDING BELIEVES IT IS ACTUALLY THEM!  

14. The Girls of Bayside swimsuit calendar:  Kelly, Lisa and Jessie--all members of the girl's swim team, because obviously--have no right to be angry at Zack and Screech.  They're obviously posing for these pictures.  You mean to tell me, Kelly, that when you are engaged in a casual post-practice locker room chat with your teammates, you stand with your hands on your hips and your head cocked flirtatiously to one side?  Bullshit!

Hey, hey, hey...what is going on here?  There are way more than 14 ridiculous moments in the history of Saved by the Bell.  What are you trying to pull, Giant Electric Penguin?  Don't worry.  We know.  There are literally tons more ridiculous moments to come this month.  Stay tuned.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

10 Saved by the Bell Episodes I Love - #1. "The Substitute"

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.

Favorite lines:
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?!?

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Most Ridiculous Moments in Saved by the Bell History: Part 1

1. Kevin the Robot: Screech had a robot, so what?  Well, how about the fact that it is probably one of the most sophisticated examples of artificial intelligence in television history.  Kevin felt the gamut of human emotions, interacted flawlessly with the SBTB gang, and was apparently constructed and programmed by a social outcast who grew increasingly dumber as the series progressed.  I'm not suggesting that Kevin's existence is impossible, I'm emphatically stating that fact.  Kevin is a lovable extension of early-Screech's lovable geekiness, but his presence makes suspension of disbelief nearly impossible for me.  Zach has a closet full of elaborate, mostly female, costumes he readily dons when the need to spy on his friends arises?  Sure, why not.  Slater is the captain of literally every single sports team at Bayside High School?  Of course he is.  Screech built a robot? DOES NOT COMPUTE!  DOES NOT COMPUTE! ERROR! ERROR!

2. Slater's "dance": Man, the producers of SBTB sure let Mario Lopez show off his dance moves a lot.  Too bad they were the same three or four moves every time.  Really, Kelly?  This is what you want happening next to you at the dance contest?  You do know American treasure Casey Kasem will be watching, right?

3. Zack owns and regularly uses a ham radio:  Bullshit.

4. Buddy Bands: In "The Friendship Business," the gang is assigned to start a business and sell crap to their fellow students.  Zack and his friends decided to manufacture and sell friendship bracelets, which were the style at the time.  Zack eventually gets drunk with power and his friends abandon him to start a new business and sell a new product.  That product: Buddy Bands, the friendship bracelet for your forehead.  Not only do Buddy Bands look totes bitchin', but they apparently get you tons of hot chicks. The student body goes gaga for Buddy Bands (really?) and Zack quickly finds himself out of business. It all works out in the end or whatever, but we're still asked to believe that at least for a little while,  colorful headbands were totally the hip, new trend.

5. Lisa's birthday wish: It's understood from the very beginning of the series that Zack is the cool guy, Jessie is the overachiever, Slater is the jock, Kelly is the girl-next-door, Screech is the insufferable geek and Lisa is the rich girl.  And as the rich girl, Lisa demands the finer things in life.  In Season 3's "The Aftermath" (one of my favorite episodes, by the way), Lisa reveals to her friends her ultimate birthday wish: MC Hammer.  Not an MC Hammer cassette or an MC Hammer performance at her birthday party, but MC Hammer himself.  Lisa Turtle wants a human being for her birthday.  Ridiculous!

6.  The Bayside driver's ed car is a golf cart: ...and the students learn the delicate art of vehicular operation by driving said golf cart AROUND ORANGE CONES.  INDOORS.

7-8. Lisa's ridiculous fashions/Zack and Lisa's single episode romance: Beautifully present in one smooth-lookin' clip.

Stay tuned.  There are so many more ridiculous moments to remember in the coming weeks.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

It's all right...

July is Saved by the Bell Month @ GEP!!!
(We're so excited!  We're so excited!  We're so...scared?)

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