|Saved by the Bell|
|Created by||Sam Bobrick|
|Developed by||Peter Engel|
|Theme music composer||Scott Gale|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||86|
|Camera setup||Videotape; Multi-camera|
|Running time||22-24 minutes|
|Picture format||NTSC (480i)|
|Original release||August 20, 1989 -|
May 22, 1993
|Preceded by||Good Morning, Miss Bliss|
|Related shows||Saved by the Bell: The New Class|
Saved by the Bell is an American television sitcom created by Sam Bobrick for NBC. It was broadcast from August 20, 1989 to May 22, 1993. A retooling of the Disney Channel series Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the show follows a group of high school friends and their principal. Primarily focusing on lighthearted comedic situations, it occasionally touches on serious social issues, such as drug use, driving under the influence, homelessness, remarriage, death, women's rights, and environmental issues. The series starred Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Dustin Diamond, Lark Voorhies, Dennis Haskins, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley, and Mario Lopez. Targeted at kids and teens, Saved by the Bell was broadcast in the United States on Saturday mornings.
The show spawned two spin-off series: Saved by the Bell: The College Years (1993-1994), a primetime series that follows several of the characters to college, and Saved by the Bell: The New Class (1993-2000), a Saturday morning series that follows a new group of students at Bayside High School. The series also spawned two TV movies, Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style in 1992 and Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas in 1994.
In casting Good Morning, Miss Bliss, Peter Engel knew the success of the show would not hinge on Miss Bliss herself, but on her students. Engel particularly envisioned one character, Zack Morris, who "would be that incorrigible kid who could lie to your face, letting you know very well that he's lying, and make you love him for it all the same." Engel insisted that the show could not go on without Zack Morris, but he turned out to be one of the most difficult characters to cast. Engel's casting director, Shana Landsburg, finally happened across fourteen-year old Mark-Paul Gosselaar and was immediately struck by the teen's charisma, charm, and good looks. After a quick read-through, Gosselaar was immediately given the role.
After casting Zack Morris, the next character sought after was Morris's nerdy friend, Samuel "Screech" Powers. Gosselaar was asked to read through the script with a number of kids, and a second audition was scheduled for finalists. It was Gosselaar himself who insisted that Dustin Diamond was right for the part as he believed Diamond was Screech in real life. After reading through the script, Diamond was given the part, although Engel later found out that he had misread his head shot and Diamond was considerably younger than the rest of the cast--a fact that, had he been aware, might have prevented Engel from casting him.
Lisa Turtle was originally conceived as a rich Jewish princess from Long Island, spoiled, materialistic, and obsessed with shopping. While still casting for the role, actress Lark Voorhies was brought into Engel's office, and he immediately knew she was perfect for the role despite the fact that it meant rewriting the character.
The school principal, Mr. Gerald Belding, as originally conceived on Good Morning, Miss Bliss, was an older, humorless man, and was played in the 1987 pilot by character actor Oliver Clark. After the show was retooled for Disney Channel, the character's first name was changed to Richard and he was recast, with Dennis Haskins ultimately winning the role. Mr. Belding was rewritten to be significantly younger and to have a much different sense of humor
When Good Morning, Miss Bliss was retooled as Saved by the Bell, four actors and their respective characters from the original series were brought over to the new series: Gosselaar, Diamond, Voorhies, and Haskins. The rest of the cast was fired, and Engel sought to replace them with new characters who would complement the old ones.
The first of the new characters, A.C. Slater, was conceived as a young John Travolta type who would be an army brat and wear a leather jacket. He was originally conceived of as Italian-American. However, when all efforts to cast the character were unsuccessful, Engel asked that the part be opened up to other ethnicities. Two days later, Mario Lopez, a dancer and drummer of Latino descent from Kids Incorporated auditioned for the role. Lopez was judged the best actor who auditioned, and was cast.
For Kelly Kapowski, the love interest of both Zack and Slater, producers were able to narrow the field down to three actresses: Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley, and Jennie Garth. Engel had originally met Thiessen in 1988 while casting for Good Morning, Miss Bliss and was impressed with how much her acting had improved. He wanted her for the role, believing she had the perfect all-American girl appeal for the role, while others felt that Berkley, as the more experienced actress, would be a more reliable choice. Ultimately, Engel convinced the others after a read-through with Lopez, and Thiessen received the role.
Engel and the other producers did not want to lose Berkley, however, as she was the strongest actress they'd seen during casting. Berkley originally auditioned for the role of Karen, a love-interest of Zack's on Good Morning, Miss Bliss, but lost the role because she was so much taller than Gosselaar at the time. Engel believed that, now that her height was more even with the rest of the cast, she could be perfect. They were not having much luck in casting the third new character, Jessie Spano, who was conceived as a strong, feminist activist and a straight-A student, so Engel suggested offering the role to Berkley, who gladly accepted it.
Rounding out the new cast was real-life magician Ed Alonzo as Max, the owner of the gang's frequent cafe hangout, The Max, who frequently performed magic tricks. Alonzo's role, however, would ultimately only last through the end of the first season, and he left after a single guest appearance during season two.
In 1992, Saved by the Bell unexpectedly received an order for an additional eleven episodes to be shot after the graduation episode. However, Thiessen and Berkley had already decided to leave the show. Though producers knew they couldn't replace Kelly and Jessie, they also knew they couldn't leave Lisa as the only girl on the show. A new character, Tori Scott, was created as a cool but pretty biker girl who would also serve as a love interest for Zack and also act as a nemesis for him initially. Leanna Creel was cast for the part. Rather than develop a second new character, the producers decided to rely more on minor recurring characters such as Ginger, Ox, and Big Pete.
In 1986, Brandon Tartikoff, then-president of NBC, asked Peter Engel to develop the pilot for a new prime time series, Good Morning, Miss Bliss. Tartikoff had been inspired by his sixth grade teacher, Miss Bliss, and had long wanted to make a show about someone like her. The series would focus on Miss Carrie Bliss, a recently married sixth grade teacher at the fictional John F. Kennedy Junior High School in Indianapolis. Though Sandy Duncan was originally considered for the titular role, the series ultimately became a vehicle for former British child star Hayley Mills. Veteran writer Sam Bobrick was brought on to write the episode and the cast included future stars Jonathan Brandis, Brian Austin Green, and Jaleel White.
The pilot aired on June 11, 1987, but NBC had decided not to pick up the series even before it was shown. Tartikoff didn't want to give up on the show, though, and made a deal with the Disney Channel to air thirteen episodes of the series in prime time. If the initial order did well, Disney was prepared to order an additional seventy-seven. The show was completely retooled, with Mills the sole remaining cast member from the pilot. Miss Bliss's class was changed from the sixth grade to the eighth grade, and the kids would be more central to the story.
Good Morning, Miss Bliss aired from 1988 to 1989. However, the show failed to pick up a following and did poorly in the ratings. By the time the last episode aired, Disney had already decided against ordering more.
Tartikoff felt there had been strong elements to Good Morning, Miss Bliss and wanted to try the show again with a different time slot and a different approach. The elements featuring the kids had been well-received, so Tartikoff wanted to drop Miss Bliss from the show altogether and focus entirely on the teens. NBC had been losing the high end of their animated audience, kids from ten to twelve, so the idea was to create a live action comedy to air on Saturday mornings, a new idea at the time.
Engel was skeptical of the new format at first, and did not want to make children's programming. However, his wife convinced him that making the show would be a worthwhile endeavor, and he soon told Tartikoff he would do the show. Engel felt, however, that Indianapolis was not exciting as a location, and moved the show to a semi-fictional part of Los Angeles, "the Palisades." The main locations of the show would be the teenager's school, Bayside High, and The Max, a fictional eatery they frequent. In addition, they would film before a live studio audience.
The majority of the cast was replaced, and Tartikoff gave a seven episode commitment for the show. In a meeting with Engel and Tartikoff, senior producer Tom Tenowich suggested the name Saved by the Bell. Though Engel hated the name, Tartikoff loved it. The name stuck, and filming commenced, with the first episode, "Dancing to the Max," airing in prime time on August 20, 1989.
|Season / Series||Episodes||Originally aired|
|First aired||Last aired||Network|
|Good Morning, Miss Bliss||Pilot||July 11, 1987||NBC|
|13||November 30, 1988||March 18, 1989||Disney Channel|
|Season 1||16||August 20, 1989||December 16, 1989||NBC|
|Season 2||18||September 8, 1990||December 23, 1990|
|Season 3||26||September 14, 1991||December 21, 1991|
|Season 4||26||September 12, 1992||May 22, 1993|
|Hawaiian Style||November 27, 1992|
|The College Years||19||May 22, 1993||February 8, 1994|
|Wedding in Las Vegas||October 7, 1994|
The theme song for Saved by the Bell was written by composer Scott Gayle against the implicit instructions of Engel. Though Engel had not been able to keep the show from being named Saved by the Bell, he was determined to prevent the phrase from showing up in the theme. He gave explicit orders to his team of composers that he would not accept any theme that referenced the title, and the group agreed to leave out the phrase.
A week later, Engel listened to the first four composers and, though they followed his instructions, the songs were flat and nothing special. Gayle played his song next and, though he explicitly violated Engel's instructions, Engel couldn't help but admit it was the best and perfect for the show. Engel would later comment that he was glad Gayle had not followed his instructions.
In 1992, NBC approved the production of a feature-length made-for-television Saved by the Bell film to air in prime time. Titled Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style, the film followed the six teenagers from the show as they vacationed in Hawaii with Kelly's grandfather, Harry Bannister (Dean Jones). They soon discover Mr. Belding also happens to be there, and the seven are caught up in a plan to save Harry's resort from a greedy developer.
The film was written by Bennet Tramer and directed by Don Barnhart. Due to budget constraints, much of the film was shot in Santa Monica, with only location shots that could not easily be faked shot in Hawaii. The shooting schedule in Hawaii turned out to be massive, even after Engel and Barnhart scouted the location. Real-life lifeguards were hired as extras during beach scenes to ensure the safety of the cast.
Following the cancellation of Saved by the Bell: The College Years on a cliffhanger in 1994, NBC President Warren Littlefield commissioned a second Saved by the Bell film to both conclude the story started in the final episode of Saved by the Bell: The College Years in which Zack and Kelly become engaged, and acts as a series finale for the original Saved by the Bell. The story features Zack, Kelly, Slater, Screech, and Lisa travelling to Las Vegas so Zack and Kelly can elope after their parents disapprove of their impending marriage.
The show was popular enough to justify two spin-offs, both of which premiered in 1993.
Following the conclusion of Saved by the Bell, an idea came out of a focus group for Saved by the Bell: The New Class, in addition to creating a new cast of characters, to continue the story of the original Saved by the Bell cast. The new show aired in prime time and feature only Zack, Slater, and Screech from the original cast attending the fictional California University and living in a suite with a new cast of girls. Kelly later joined the cast after the pilot.
Although the premiere garnered decent viewership, ratings quickly declined against the competition of Full House and Rescue 911, two well-established, popular shows in prime time. Saved by the Bell: The College Years was ultimately cancelled after only one season of nineteen episodes. The events of the final episode would lead directly into the second Saved by the Bell film: Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas.
In 1993, NBC decided it wanted to extend the Saved by the Bell franchise with a new show, Saved by the Bell: The New Class. Also set at Bayside, the show would follow a new cast of characters as they navigate their high school years. Reprising his role from the original series was Dennis Haskins, once again as their principal, Mr. Belding. Following the cancellation of Saved by the Bell: The College Years in 1994, Peter Engel asked Dustin Diamond to reprise his role as Samuel "Screech" Powers, who was returning to Bayside on a work-study program as Mr. Belding's administrative assistant.
Saved by the Bell: The New Class ran for seven seasons and 143 episodes, from 1993 to 2000. The cast was constantly revolving, with Haskins as the only constant throughout all seven seasons. The show was not generally well-received, and some believe that it failed to recapture the charm of the original series.
On April 9, 2006, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim announced that Saved by the Bell would air at midnight as a two-week special starting April 17. On April 19, 2006, Adult Swim also posted on their website that Saved by the Bell was back in production. A week later, the announcement was exposed as a joke.
On March 27, 2009, NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon launched a campaign to get the cast on board for a Saved by the Bell reunion. Fans signed an online petition and pledged their support for the cast to reunite on the show. Dennis Haskins, Lark Voorhies, Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar agreed to a reunion. Gosselaar reprised his role as Zack Morris in a skit on Late Night on June 8, 2009, while promoting his then current TNT drama, Raising the Bar. The spoof interview closed with a performance of "Friends Forever," originally by Zack Attack, where Zack played guitar and sang with backing from Fallon's house band, The Roots. Tiffani Thiessen posted a parody video to the website Funny or Die, where she claimed she was too busy to join the reunion.
The cast reunited in August 2009 for a photo shoot in People. Diamond was not invited to participate in the photo shoot because of poor relationships with the rest of the cast. Diamond's image was also edited out of the 1989 cast photo that was used on the cover inset of an issue of People to show how the cast looked 20 years later.
The cast convened again when Haskins, Diamond, Gosselaar, Voorhies, and Lopez did their own voices in a Saved by the Bell Saw parody, called "Sawed by the Bell", on "Boo Cocky", a season three episode of Robot Chicken. Gosselaar also provided audio commentary for the episode on the DVD.
On February 4, 2015, the cast appeared on a skit on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon while episodes of the program were taped in Los Angeles. Haskins, Gosselaar, Lopez, Berkley and Thiessen all participated, though Voorhies and Diamond did not, with Thiessen's real-life pregnancy, Lopez's involvement with Dancing with the Stars and Berkley's film Showgirls the targets of some of the humor.
On September 17, 2019, it was announced that a single-camera revival of the series was in development for NBC's planned streaming service, Peacock, with Tracey Wigfield serving as showrunner. The series will center around a new group of Bayside High students from "overprivileged" and working-class families, among the latter of which were transferred to the school as part of a plan by now-California Governor Zack Morris--whose administration experiences controversy for closing too many low-income high schools--to send lower-income students to the highest-performing schools in the state.
Berkley and Lopez were initially announced as the only cast members of the original series to be reprising their roles, though by January 2020, it was confirmed that Mark-Paul Gosselaar (who was confirmed to appear in three episodes of the revival series' first season as well as receive an executive producer credit) and Tiffani Thiessen--both of whom were confirmed by Gosselaar in separate September 2019 interviews with Variety and TMZ to have not been initially approached to reprise their characters--would also be returning in some capacity; however, it is currently unclear as to which of the other cast members would return. Other actors confirmed to appear as new characters in the series are John Michael Higgins (as Principal Toddman, who took over Mr. Belding's role as the head of Bayside High) and Josie Totah (as Lexi, described as a "beautiful, sharp-tongued cheerleader and the most popular girl at Bayside High who is both admired and feared by her fellow students").
Lionsgate Home Entertainment released all four seasons of Saved By The Bell, broken into five seasons (season 4 split in two) on DVD in Region 1. However, the episodes on these and all subsequent releases are the edited versions as used in syndication, with scenes cut for time. Lionsgate released the two feature-length TV movies on DVD, in Region 1, on August 7, 2007. On March 13, 2012, Lionsgate (distributed by Alliance Films) released Saved By The Bell: The Complete Collection on DVD in Canada. The 13-disc set features all 86 episodes of the series as well as the two reunion tele-films.
On November 5, 2013, Lionsgate released a complete-series set in the United States. It does not contain the reunion movies but does include some bonus commentaries.
On October 16, 2018, Shout! Factory re-released the complete series on DVD in Region 1. Unlike the previous releases, the set includes season four in its entirety, rather than having it being broken up into two parts. Bonus features include selected episodes commentaries by pop culture historian Russell Dyball, executive producer Peter Engel, and cast members Dustin Diamond, Dennis Haskins, and Lark Voorhies.
|DVD name||Ep #||Region 1||Special Features|
|Saved By The Bell: Seasons One & Two||33||September 2, 2003||None|
|Saved By The Bell: Seasons Three & Four||29||April 27, 2004||Selected episodes commentaries|
|Saved By The Bell: Season Five||24||July 19, 2005||In-depth documentary focusing on the series phenomenon|
|Saved By The Bell: Hawaiian Style / Wedding In Las Vegas||2||August 7, 2007||None|
|Saved By The Bell: The Complete Collection (Canada)||88||March 13, 2012|
|Saved By The Bell: The Complete Series (U.S.)||86||November 5, 2013|
|DVD name||Ep #||Region 2 (UK)||Special Features|
|Hawaiian Style||Film||May 17, 2004||Behind The Scenes|
|Wedding In Las Vegas||Film||May 17, 2004||Behind The Scenes|
|Season One||16||March 20, 2010|
|Season Two||18||October 1, 2012|
|Season Three||26||October 1, 2012|
|Season Four||26||October 1, 2012|
|Complete Series||86||July 2, 2012|
|Saved by the Bell: Soundtrack to the Original Hit TV Series|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||April 11, 1995|
There have been 21 novelizations based on the show, released by the publisher Boxtree Ltd, all written by Beth Cruise. The books all feature the main cast, and have the same storylines that relate to the main-plots in the TV shows.
|Title||ISBN Number||Release Date(s)|
|Zack Strikes Back||(ISBN 0020427778)||1 Jul 1992|
|Class Trip Chaos||(ISBN 0020427654)||1 Oct 1992|
|Bayside Madness||(ISBN 0020427751)||15 Mar 1993|
|California Scheming||(ISBN 002042776X)||15 Mar 1993|
|Zack's Last Scam||(ISBN 0020427670)||15 Mar 1993|
|Girl's Night Out||(ISBN 0020427662)||15 Apr 1993|
|Impeach Screech||(ISBN 002042762X)||1 May 1993|
|One Wild Weekend||(ISBN 0020427638)||1 May 1993|
|Kelly's Hero||(ISBN 0020427697)||1 Oct 1993|
|Computer Confusion||(ISBN 0020427840)||31 May 1994|
|Best Friend's Girl||(ISBN 0020427867)||30 Aug 1994|
|Zack in Action||(ISBN 0020419775)||31 Oct 1994|
|Operation Clean Sweep||(ISBN 002042793X)||2 Dec 1994|
|That Old Zack Magic||(ISBN 0752206133)||30 Mar 1995|
|Surf's Up!||(ISBN 0689802099)||1 Aug 1995|
|Fireside Manners||(ISBN 0689800924)||31 Dec 1995|
|Picture Perfect||(ISBN 0689800932)||31 Dec 1995|
|Screech in Love||(ISBN 0689802102)||31 Dec 1995|
|Ex-Zack-Ly||(ISBN 0689802102)||31 Dec 1995|
|Silver Spurs||(ISBN 0752201867)||15 Apr 1996|
|Don't Tell a Soul||(ISBN 0752201913)||15 Apr 1996|
Several unofficial books relating to the show have also been published.
|Title||Writer||ISBN Number||Publisher||Release Date(s)|
|"Behind the Scenes at 'Saved by the Bell': An inside Look at TV's Hottest Teen Show"||Beth Cruise||(ISBN 0020427786)||Prentice Hall & IBD||15 Feb 1993|
|"Super Saved by the Bell Scrapbook"||Beth Goodman||(ISBN 0590471686)||Scholastic Trade||1 May 1993|
|"Saved by the Bell: Ring Out the Old, Ring in the New Scrapbook"||Nancy E. Krulik||(ISBN 0590480863)||Scholastic Paperbacks||1 May 1994|
|"Saved by the Bell: Guide to Life"||Alan Sepinwall||(ISBN 076244326X)||Running Press, U.S.||9 Aug 2011|
|"Saved by the Bell: 30 Years of Miss Bliss, Belding, Bayside, The Max and More"||(ISBN 1543270239)||21 Feb 2017|
In 1992, Harvey Comics published a short-lived Saved by the Bell Comic series. Seven issues were released, including a Christmas and a Summer special. The comic was generally not well-received, with comic book critic Matt D. Wilson saying "its character likenesses for the show's starts were rough at best."
In 2014, Lion Forge Comics announced that its new all-ages imprint, ROAR Comics, would publish a new Saved by the Bell comic. Set initially during the gang's freshman year of high school, the comic serves as a modern update to the classic series. It premiered in March 2014 alongside ROAR's adaptation of Punky Brewster.
In 2009, Dustin Diamond published an inside story of the show's cast and crew from his point of view, entitled Behind the Bell. The book paints an unflattering portrait of many of Diamond's colleagues and their alleged backstage behavior. Some of Diamond's claims have been refuted by colleagues and questioned by critics. Diamond also alleges in the book that he had sex with 2,000 women, one of them being NBC's Vice President of children's programming, Linda Mancuso, who was 18 years his senior. Diamond later disclaimed responsibility for much of the book's content, blaming his ghostwriter for fabricating salacious stories.
In September 2013, Bayside! The Musical! an unauthorized parody of Saved by the Bell, opened at NYC's Theatre 80. Bayside! The Musical! was named a New York Times Critics' Pick.Bayside! The Musical! was written and directed by Bob and Tobly McSmith, the same creative team behind Showgirls! The Musical! In contrast to the wholesome nature of Saved by the Bell, Bayside! The Musical! contains strong language and adult situations throughout. The show's run has been extended 6 times.
Bayside! originally debuted in 2005 under the title Bayside! The UnMusical! The following year a sequel was produced called Bayside 2! Electric Screechio The show then took several years off, reopening in 2012 at NYC's Kraine Theatre with a revamped script and new cast Following the success of Showgirls! The Musical! the show's creators Bob and Tobly McSmith revisited their script and reworked it from the ground up.
Perhaps because of its concerns about trenching on broadcasters' expressive rights, and/or because of differences regarding qualitative programming assessments even by experts, the FCC has not engaged in extensive, intensive, or timely enforcement of its children's programming rules. It has let slide claims that shows like Saved By The Bell satisfy E/I requirements, taken a leisurely approach to empirical study, and delayed for years the resolution of still pending test claims of noncompliance.