I remember watching Saved By the Bell during its original run on Saturday mornings and later in their syndication repeats. I liked Zack/Mark-Paul Gosselaar but my favorite of the male characters was actually A.C. Slater, played by Mario Lopez.
Maybe it was the mystery of what the initials A.C. might stand for or Mario Lopez’ dimples. Who am I kidding? It’s definitely the dimples. I do have dolls of both “Zack” and “Slater” that I found on clearance at my local Walmart.
I’ve also watched a few of the Zack Morris is Trash videos Mark-Paul’s cohost Dashiell Driscoll did for Funny or Die. When I found out about the Zack to the Future podcast in a Recurring Events segment of TRN Podcast, I knew I had to give it a listen.
The Zack to the Future podcast has since earned its subscription and place in my weekly queue. In each episode (except in their introduction) co-host Dashiell Driscoll gives Mark-Paul a homework assignment: to watch an episode of Saved By the Bell. That’s it. Just watching one easily accessible half-hour sitcom episode. So far, Mark-Paul has held up his end of the deal.
The guys go into enough detail about the episode so the average listener/viewer will be able to follow along without getting lost. However, I usually watch the Saved By the Bell episode over the preceding weekend. I’ve also watched it in bed on Tuesday nights (the podcast comes up on Wednesday mornings), which I guess would be considered “cramming”. The show is so light and fun most of the time that it plays like a cozy bedtime story.
Mark-Paul claims he has either no memory or a vague memory of his time making some of the episodes of the original show and I believe him. There are some moments I remember specifically from my teen years and others that don’t seem quite as sharp.
The hosts do a great job lampshading plot points that were inappropriate even then. They also talk about things that may have seemed fine back then, but in our current culture would not even be considered. In one episode, Mark-Paul compares SBTB’s use of off-the-cuff slapstick stunts versus a more recent experience doing a “stunt fall” for his current role on mixed-ish.
A recent Zack to the Future episode includes an awkward discussion of Mr. Belding using the student bathroom instead of a faculty one in a scene. I was eating breakfast at the time and it was more information than I ever wanted to know about the bathroom habits of a fictional character. It was especially jarring considering that in my high school the stall doors on the students’ bathrooms had been removed to prevent on-campus drug use.
Driscoll and Gosselaar also include trivia about certain threads that run through the series. Did anyone ever pay attention to the banner on the back wall in the Bayside High School hallway? Apparently, it always refers to a central event that will occur during the episode like a dance, a dance contest, a science fair, a clothing drive, or a sports event. The hosts have also discussed a doll that periodically appears in Jessie’s bedroom.
There have been five going on six episodes and some notable guest stars have already appeared including Casey Kasem, cartoon voice actor and Top 40 countdown host. Every Sunday afternoon after church in the 1990’s, I would tune into his countdown, keeping the tissue box nearby for those long-distance dedications. Mr. Kasem played himself hosting a dance competition at The Max in the episode NBC aired as the series “pilot” when they reconnected it from The Disney Channel’s Good Morning, Miss Bliss.
Another surprise guest star was fast-talking John Moschitta Jr., who our generation mostly knows as the pitchman for Micro Machines and Fed Ex. In the world of Bayside, Moschitta played Mr. George Testaverde, a history teacher feared for his lightning fast history reviews. One student’s notebook even “smokes” during their frantic attempt to take notes from Testaverde, who is like the Bizarro World counterpart to Ben Stein’s turn as Ferris Bueller’s economics teacher.
If you were a fan of Saved By the Bell, this podcast is a fun look at the show from the point of view of one of its stars. Sometimes they have special guests like Elizabeth Berkley who shares her memories of making the episode NBC aired as the pilot for the show and is part of the discussion about Jessie’s doll. I’m hoping we get to hear from Mario soon.