Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Saved By The Bell

I know this is cheating, but here is another thing I wrote for The A.V. Club. You can see the whole thing with some other, much better writing here: http://www.avclub.com/article/best-pop-culture-get-your-kids-back-school-groove-24142

As my sons inch closer to the school year with the enthusiasm of cats being driven to a waterpark, they’ve become interested in what high school was like when I was young. Was I cool? Did I play sports? Was I a hit with the ladies?

Like all fathers faced with such questions, I lied my face off. I blurted out, “I was exactly like Zack Morris.”

Why should my boys know I was a 98-pound wimp who slept with a Grover stuffed animal when they can envision me as a beautiful rogue with great hair and an ability to stop time?

I sat them down for a viewing of “Saved By The Bell,” which I assured them was a completely accurate portrayal of my culturally diverse friends and me.
“SBTB” aired from 1989 through 1993. It was a retool of a Disney Channel series called “Good Morning, Miss Bliss” and followed the lighthearted exploits of nerd Samuel “Screech” Powers (Dustin Diamond), cheerleader Kelly Kapowski (Tiffany-Amber Thiessen) jock A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) activist Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley), rich girl Liza Turtle (Lark Voorhies) and my faux doppelganger Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar). A few hapless adults like Principal Belding (Dennis Haskins) were thrown in to hand out advice and catch phrases.
The show was wildly popular among sheltered Midwesterners like me and spawned a few spin offs, a made for TV movie, a pop-up restaurant, mean-spirited book and even a potential felon.
The show was extremely safe and milquetoast and rarely delved into any realistic high school situation other than dipping a toe into drug use (caffeine pills!) and divorce. Exactly the kind of depiction I want my sons to believe in until puberty ruins them.
I chose the classic “Dancing to the Max” episode where Zack and Slater fight over Kelly as their dance partner for contest hosted by Casey Kasem. Crappy dancer Zack ends up with Jesse, Lisa ends up with Screech, we are all introduced to the winning dance called “the sprain” and everyone is in bed by 8:30.
The moment the black bars of the 4:3 aspect ratio appeared on our TV, we were doomed. Before the painfully 90’s intro was over, I had to physically restrain my 6 year old from escaping. My boys hated the awful dialogue, dayglow clothes and canned laughter.
I tried to steer the conversation to guy Zack Morris.  Wasn’t he cool? How about those straight teeth? Doesn’t he remind you of a certain dad?

They wondered aloud why I would ever want to be like someone with such bad hair. We then turned the TV to the far more accurate depiction of teens on current slate of The Disney Channel.

No comments: