Tonight, Lifetime will go the made-for-TV-movie distance by premiering The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. And even though I’d like to be hopping from town to town, screaming about it from rooftops, my time is probably better served here, pulling together some of the “greatest” lip sync-and-synthesizer moments from Saved by the Bell’s history with the musical form.
For guidelines here, I stuck to the series’ heyday: post-Miss Bliss and pre-New Class, skipping the Golic-filled College Years altogether. And even within this limited selection, I had to rely on YouTube clips to find the songs, so I apologize now for how choppy some of these videos are, as well as for missing out on a few gems. (“Let us learn while we burn!”) Chances are, however, you’ll be able to sing and perform these ditties at your computer without even needing to click the video. In some cases, that’s the only way your sanity will continue to thrive. Now slap on some unfashionable sunglasses, rub a handful of hairgel through your bleach-blonde locks and let’s go!
The Theme Song
After a childhood of Saved by the Bell reruns, I can no longer hear a bell sound without expecting a snare drum to interrupt it, followed by a nightmarish situation where being late and not having homework totally have the potential to ruin one’s day. Luckily, it’s all right, because the bell is a savior. I’ve never been in a situation where handing in my homework a day late was acceptable under the circumstances that the teacher’s eyesight was so bad that he or she didn’t see me riding low. But it was the dream; one of many that this show inspired. And it’s a dream I’m having instead of hearing my alarm. Dammit, I’m late!
The “Barbara Ann” Living Room Dance
While some consider peanut butter and jelly the apex of combinations, I’d much prefer socks and a living room floor. Most people probably think about Tom Cruise in Risky Business, but my brain always reverts to Zack, Slater and Screech giving an impromptu-but-choreographed performance of the Beach Boy’s “Barbara Ann,” while a gaggle of giggling girls watches from a doorway a few feet away. Why did three teenage boys choose this as their “home alone” activity? Why did Slater tuck his tanktop into his shorts? If the song was playing on a piece of physical media, like a cassette or an album, where did they find the perfect mix that would end just as they were discovered by the girls? Is this Saved by the Bell or Twin Peaks, people?!?
Zack Attack’s “Friends Forever” Garage Session
I should have called this “Friends Forever” Garbage Session.” One of the greatest episodes in Saved by the Bell’s run was the Casey Kasem-starring “Rockumentary,” a pre-Behind the Music look at the most popular music act ever to come out of an Bayside High’s alternate reality and never be heard from again: Zack Attack. “Friends Forever” was their arena-filling hit single, and like so many pop music stories, this one started inside a garage with a group of kids who are as terrible at faking singing and playing instruments as they are at actually singing and playing musical instruments. I’d like to ask Kelly if Zack’s guitar-picking skills ever got him any points in the bedroom, or how Vanilla Ice felt about Zack’s skyscraper hairdo.
Zack Attack’s ”Did We Ever Have a Chance?”
An episode so nice, we’re doing it twice. Because I thought these songs would always be…together. (Holds hand up to ear while singing, wishing I was driving an icepick into my eardrum.) For all the song’s disparaging qualities, this is actually one of Saved by the Bell’s most effective montage sequences, as it takes the band from different gigs to their recording sesh. Now, if this were a movie, it would have ended with a framed gold record, but here we get a gold CD-R with computer-printed labels for the band and the song. Billbox! The use of the world “galactic” in a headline! Kelly wearing an unbuttoned denim jacket to the slam poetry bar! This episode truly has it all.
The Five Aces Ordering Food
It’s unclear whether Zack Attack was inspired in part by the gang’s time as the doo wop group The Five Aces, or if it was the other way around. Either way, this was another pioneering point in fake musical history. The video above is of the guys putting in the most nettling food order in The Max’s history, and one that should have easily pushed Ginger into a life of crime and debauchery. The Five Aces also performed the Del-Vikings’ “Come and Go with Me,” which you can watch here. The Beach Boys also did a cover of this song, further deepening the link between Zack Morris and Brian Wilson.
Jessie’s Loving ”Artie Boy” Funeral Song
Do you guys remember that episode when Jessie’s dad put her in “Opera Vocalization” classes, and she turned into a seasoned pro in no time? That’s because it didn’t happen. Yet she’s able to just turn those pipes on whenever she wants. Maybe it was the pressure of having to sing parodied lyrics to “Danny Boy” while at the school-set funeral for Slater’s pet chameleon Artie, which Zach partly murdered. If I’m ever in that particular situation, I’ll be sure to try and sing to see if this scene has any merit. If nothing else can be learned from watching these videos, know that producer Peter Engel & Co. were perfectly fine with just making Screech “the keyboard one” whenever it was needed.
Slater and Jessie’s “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?”
The episode that presumably inspired teenagers around the country to get “Fuck Jeff” tattoos on their bodies, “The Last Dance” involved one of the most emotionally wrought scenes in all of television (or at least the stuff playing at the exact time as this episode), as Kelly and Zack break up moments after being crowned Prom King and Queen. And all because she got hot in the pants for her new manager at The Max, Jeff Hunter (Patrick Muldoon), who clearly should not have been messing around with a junior in high school. Sadly, all of this romance-shredding turmoil was backed by Cleopatra and Mark Antony performing Laura Branigan/Michael Bolton’s “How am I Supposed to Live Without You?” That’s probably all Slater wanted to talk about on the ride home, too, instead of letting Zack cry the whole time.
”I’m So Excited!”
It doesn’t matter in what context we’re talking about Saved by the Bell; no list would be complete without the inclusion of Jessie’s caffeine-pill addiction culminating in an impassioned a Capella performance of The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited.” This is another one of those cases where I can’t imagine hearing this song without singing “I’m so…scared!” several times, loudly, with alcohol on my breath. The “message” episodes of this series are all classics, but none of them contained a year’s worth of melodrama into one song lyric the way “Jessie’s Song” did.
Fill the comments with your favorite Saved by the Bell musical moments, while I go round up all the Mini Thins and Yellow Jackets I can find. And don't forget to tune into Lifetime tonight for The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story at 9 p.m. ET.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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