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Review: Peacock gets an A+ for ‘Saved by the Bell’

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

Fans of the ’90s NBC sitcom “Saved by the Bell” won’t be disappointed by the reimagined version of the series premiering Nov. 25, 2020, on Peacock.

Peacock Saved by the Bell
Images courtesy of Peacock

With the reboot, original series producers have managed to deliver the perfect amount of nostalgia while still making Bayside High School relatable to today’s audience.

In the pilot episode, viewers learn that preppy Bayside heartthrob Zack Morris has become California’s governor after marrying his high school sweetheart Kelly Kapowski (played again by Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Tiffani Thiessen). In true Zack style, he tries to take a shortcut and inadvertently creates a budget crisis that forces the closure of already-underfunded Douglas High School. To fix his “ten billion-dollar mistake,” Governor Zack is convinced to transfer the Douglas students to the most well-funded schools in the state, including, of course, his own beloved alma mater Bayside High.

A “Bayside Buddy” system devised by the school counselor and original series character Jessie Spano (played again by Elizabeth Berkley Lauren) pairs up existing Bayside students with newcomers from Douglas:

Jamie (Belmont Cameli), Jessie’s handsome, sporty, and slightly dingy son, is paired with Aiesha (Alycia Pascual-Peña), the only female on the Douglas football team who becomes Bayside’s star quarterback – much to the delight of perpetually-losing Bayside Athletic Director A.C. Slater (played again by Mario Lopez).

Lexi (Josie Jaye Totah), a transgender cheerleader, influencer, and fashionista (who seems to share a stylist with Sharpay Evans from “High School Musical”) is paired with DeVante (Dexter Darden), a talented singer from Douglas High who’s trying to make a fresh start in a new school.

Mac Morris (Mitchell Hoog), the spoiled yet charming son of—you guessed it—Zack and Kelly, is paired with Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez), a super-smart, super-opinionated Douglas honor student and student council member whose sarcastic asides to the camera are a fresh take on the tried-and-true “Saved by the Bell” formula.

As Mr. Toddman, the always-hilarious John Michael Higgins seamlessly takes over the thankless job of Bayside principal from Dennis Haskins, who played Mr. Belding in the original series, and along with Jessie and Slater, provides an “adult” perspective to the high school environment.

The introduction of the Douglas students gives the privileged kids at Bayside the dose of reality they were sorely missing in the ’90s. Plus, the Bayside student body’s new economic and cultural diversity in 2020 has allowed the show to address more complicated issues like financial disparity, racial profiling, and the complex social challenges faced by modern teens. Nevertheless, the writers still manage to temper these important subjects with comedic moments, including a cell phone sight gag, a well-placed Kardashian joke, and in true sitcom style, a gummy-worm-flying ice cream social food fight.

Saved by the Bell Bayside students

As a “Saved by the Bell” fan, I was concerned the new series wouldn’t measure up, but thanks to original executive producers Franco Bario and Peter Engel — along with original cast members Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren, and Mario Lopez, who also serve as producers — the reimagined version of the classic show is the perfect mix of new and old.

While the topics and characters may be updated, the halls of Bayside are comfortably familiar. The only thing missing (so far) is Screech.

Saved by the Bell Jessie, Slater, Kelly, and Zack
Saved by the Bell | Official Trailer | Peacock

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