If you’ve ever wanted to revisit the complete adventures of Bayside High teens Zack, Screech, Lisa, Kelly, Jessie and Slater, now’s your chance, because Shout! Factory has put together a new Complete Series box set of the classic live action teen comedy Saved By The Bell. It’s hard to believe this series is nearly 30 years old—it was a staple of my Saturday mornings while growing up! I was the same age as the characters on the show, so I could really relate to the series. When they were starting high school, so was I. And when they were starting college, so was I. And when Zack was eloping…well, not everything was an exact parallel. But it was still fun to revisit Saved By The Bell, along with its spin-off, the TV movies, and the original series the show was a reboot of.
The original primetime pilot for NBC that led to the Saved By The Bell series we all know and love did not feature any of the main cast. It starred Hayley Mills (The Parent Trap, Pollyanna) as an elementary school teacher, and focused more on the teachers’ lives and less on the students. The pilot ultimately wasn’t picked up to series, which was a good thing, because otherwise Saved By The Bell may never have happened. Unfortunately, that original pilot is not included on this DVD set, but all of the shows that followed (up to but not including the Saved by the Bell: The New Class spin-off) are:
Good Morning, Miss Bliss (1988-1989)
Even though the original primetime pilot for Good Morning, Miss Bliss was not picked up by NBC, there was still some merit to the series. The Disney channel picked up a retooled version of the series, which now focused on both the students and the teachers at John F. Kennedy Junior High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. The series also introduced audiences to several characters that would go on to the Saved By The Bell series—principal Mr. Richard Belding (Dennis Haskins), who always tried to be the cool guy to his students; and pupils Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), the handsome and charming, but manipulative young student who had a knack for talking his way out of anything; Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies), the wealthy shopaholic with a sense of fashion; and Samuel “Screech” Powers (Dustin Diamond), the nerd who always had a positive outlook on every situation…and a crush on Lisa. Other main characters included Lisa’s best friend Nikki Coleman (Heather Hopper), the moral one of the group (in some ways the Jessie role of this first series); Zack’s best friend, Mikey Gonzalez (Max Battimo), who would get a little shy around the girls; school maintenance main Mylo Williams (T.K. Carter); and teacher Miss Tina Paladrino (Joan Ryan), one Miss Bliss’ ci-workers/friends.
The series resembles Saved By The Bell quite a bit. In fact, the show was later known as Saved by the Bell: The Junior High Years when it aired along with other episodes of the main series in syndication. The version of the episodes included on this DVD release are the syndicated version, featuring the Saved By The Bell opening theme song. Many fo the episodes also contain an added cold-open with Zack talking to the camera to explain that the episode took place before high school.
Saved By The Bell (1989-1993)
After 13 episodes, Good Morning, Miss Bliss was canceled by The Disney Channel. However, that wasn’t the end. NBC’s Saturday morning demographic was starting to age out of cartoons, so NBC was looking for something new to program on Saturday mornings, and this was a radical new programming idea. The series was retooled, the characters were now older, and by utilizing bright colors and lots of quick cuts, the series was able to capture the same fast paced excitement of a cartoon, but in a live action series that not only provided laughs for all ages, but also included storylines that were more relatable for older children, and also taught kids a moral lesson each week. The new reboot, titled Saved By The Bell, was now set in Bayside High School in California. It brought over the characters of principal Belding and students Zack Morris, Lisa Turtle, and Screech, and also added a few new characters to round out the core group. Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) is the popular girl that Zack has had a crush on since kindergarten. Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) is Zack’s neighbor—she’s a smart, straight-A student, a feminist, and always looking for some social cause to get behind. And new to the school for their freshman year is jock/army brat A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez), who quickly becomes competition for Zack as he also has eyes for Kelly. As the series went on, Zack and Slater ultimately became friends and allies. During the first season, the group often hung out at the local cafe, run by magician Max (Ed Alonzo), who was constantly performing tricks and offering them advice.
During the later seasons, the series was airing twice a week in syndication, and so the show introduced “adventure” episodes for the second episode each week. These would take the characters out of the school to other locations, like the mall, or the beach. The show’s final 13-episode pickup came as a bit of a surprise. Tiffani-Amber Thiessen had already signed on to do 90210, and Elizabeth Berkley also had other commitments. So the series introduced a new female character, biker girl Tori Scott (Leanna Creel), to serve as a new love interest for Zack. The graduation episode that served as the series finale was filmed while the entire original cast was still there, but didn’t air until the finale. Speaking of episode order, when the series first aired, it was common for episodes to be shown completely out of production order. Some of the fourth season episodes were originally produced for season 2. The original pilot of the series aired much later into the first season, and so a voice-over had to be added to have Zack recalling a story from the first day of high school. There was also a lot of back and forth, intermixing Kelly/Jessie episodes with Tori episodes and intermixing the adventure episodes that featured the characters working at a beach club during the summer with them going to school in the fall. Shout! Factory has worked with the show’s producer to try to make the viewing order on this DVD release a bit more fan-friendly for binge-watchers. They included the following statement with the release:
A NOTE ON EPISODE ORDER: Like many television series, the order in which Saved by the Bell’s episodes were produced does not necessarily reflect the order in which they were aired. Consequently, some episodes aired noticeably out of sequence in terms of depicting the ages and shifting relationships between the characters. This is particularly pronounced in Season Three, when Saved by the Bell began airing two episodes a week usually a school-based episode followed by an “adventure” episode which saw the gang journey beyond the halls of Bayside. In spite of these anomalies, we have attempted to present the episodes in airing order with the notable exception of the “Malibu Sands” story arc, which is presented in sequence here at the end of Season Three, in order to best serve the viewing experience for fans. Executive Producer Peter Engel was consulted on this matter, and he approved our decision to present the episodes in this manner.
Saved By The Bell: The College Years (1993-1994)
After the original series concluded, NBC started working on The New Class, a spin-off that features Mr. Belding and Screech and a whole new class of students at Bayside High. That series is not included in this set. However, at the same time, NBC picked up a primetime series to follow the original characters of Zack, Slater, and Screech as they headed off to college and end up as roommates in the same dorm room. In high school these guys were at the top of the food chain, but at Cal U they are anything but the BMOC. Zack finds that his sweet-talking charm doesn’t work like it used to, Slater is getting pinned for the first time during wrestling matches, and Screech is constantly calling his parents. The guys’ suite shares a common room with three women—fast-talking theater arts major Alex Tabor (Kiersten Warren), beautiful blonde Leslie Burke (Anne Tremko), and Danielle Marks (Essence Atkins), the daughter of a federal judge. Zack sets his sights on Leslie, but things complicated in the second episode when Danielle transfers out, and Kelly Kapowski shows up (fresh off the waiting list) as Leslie’s new roommate. Other regular characters include Resident Director Mike Rogers (Bob Golic) and faculty members Professor Jeremiah Lasky (Patrick Fabian) and Dean Susan McMann (Holland Taylor).
The Movies: Hawaiian Style (1992) & Wedding in Las Vegas (1994)
In addition to the three series, the Saved By The Bell cast also did two primetime TV movies.
The first of the two TV movies, Hawaiian Style, finds the group spending their summer vacation between their junior and senior years in Hawaii at a resort owner by Kelly’s grandfather, Harry (Dean Jones). Mr. Belding just happens to also be in Hawaii at the same time, along with a bunch of other California principals, and helps the kids thwart a plan by an evil land developer (Victor Brandt) looking at Harry’s property.
The second of the TV movies, Wedding in Las Vegas, serves to give the series a proper ending after The College Years was cancelled short. This movie finds Zack and Kelly heading to Vegas to elope, while the rest of the group also heads out on a road trip to join them.
Overall, Shout! Factory has provided a satisfying Complete Series DVD release. The video quality can be a bit hit or miss—it’s certainly watchable, and didn’t affect my enjoyment of the series, but it doesn’t seem like anything has been done to really clean things up. In one episode of the fourth season, “Snow White and the Seven Dorks”, the picture got very blurry at times. The College Years fared a lot better than the rest of the collection in regards to picture quality. The audio track provides clear dialogue, but similar to the video, there’s nothing that really stands out about it. Unfortunately there are no closed captions or subtitles provided for those who may need them.
As for bonus material, this release ports over all of the material from Lionsgate’s previous individual season and Complete Series DVD releases. This includes three retrospective featurettes and six audio commentaries with the producers and cast (Dustin Diamond, Dennis Haskins, and Lark Voorhies). Shout! has added two new retrospective featurettes, four new commentaries, and some photo galleries for this release. Unfortunately, the only main cast member who participates in the new features is Lark Voorhies. It would have been great to hear some thoughts about the series from the other four main cast members who weren’t interviewed for the previous complete series release, all of whom have gone on to even bigger things following this series.
The release is divided into 4 DVD keepcases, broken up by series/season, that are placed into a sturdy cardboard outer box. The first case contains the 2 discs of Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the second contains 2 discs each for Saved By The Bell seasons 1 and 2, tThe third contains 3 discs each for Saved By The Bell seasons 3 and 4, and the final case includes 2 discs for The College Years, 1 disc containing both TV movies, and 1 disc containing all of the bonus featurettes and photo galleries. The audio commentaries can be found on the discs with their respective episodes. Also included in the outer box is a handy 16-page booklet that provides episode synopsis as well as “Extra Credit” facts about certain episodes—specifying notable guest stars, key episodes that aired out of filming order, and more.
- All 126 episodes of the series/TV movies:
- Good Morning, Miss Bliss (1988-1989) (4:47:25)
Disc 1: “Summer Love”, “Love Letters”, “Wall Street”, “Leaping to Conclusions”, “Parents and Teachers”, “Showdown”
Disc 2: “Save the Last Dance for Me”, “The Boy Who Cried Rat”, “Let’s Get Together”, “Practical Jokes”, “Stevie”, “Clubs and Cliques”, “The Mentor”
- Saved By the Bell (1989-1993)
- Season 1 (6:02:12)
Disc 1: “Dancing To The Max”, “The Lisa Card”, “The Gift”, “Fatal Distraction”, “Screech’s Woman”, “Aloha Slater”, “The Substitute”, “Cream for a Day”
Disc 2: “Pinned to the Mat”, “The Beauty and the Screech”, “The Friendship Business”, “The Mamas and the Papas”, “The Election”, “The Zack Tapes”, “King of the Hill”, “Save That Tiger”
- Season 2 (6:50:44)
Disc 1: “The Prom”, “Zack’s War”, “Save the Max”, “Driver’s Education”, “House Party”, “Blind Dates”, “Rent-a-Pop”, “Miss Bayside”, “Jessie’s Song”
Disc 2: “Model Students”, “1-900-Crushed”, “Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind”, “Running Zack”, “The Babysitters”, “The Fabulous Belding Boys”, “From Nurse to Worse”, “Breaking Up is Hard to Undo”, “Glee Club”
- Season 3 (9:51:15)
Disc 1: “The Last Dance”, “The Aftermath”, “Operation Zack” (aka “The Surgery”), “Check Your Mate”, “Fake IDs”, “Pipe Dreams”, “The Wicked Stepbrother (Part 1)”, “The Wicked Stepbrother (Part 2)”, “Date Auction”
Disc 2: “All in the Mall”, “SATs”, “Palm Springs Weekend (Part 1)”, “Palm Springs Weekend (Part 2)”, “Hold Me Tight”, “No Hope With Dope”, “Rockumentary”, “Cut Day”
Disc 3: “Home For Christmas (Part 1)”, “Home For Christmas (Part 2)”, “Mystery Weekend”, “Zack’s Birthday”, “The Game”, “Fourth of July”, “My Boyfriend’s Back”, “Boss Lady”, “The Last Weekend”
- Season 4 (10:00:30)
Disc 1: “The Fight”, “Student Teacher Week”, “Screech’s Spaghetti Sauce”, “The New Girl”, “The Bayside Triangle”, “Teen-Line”, “Masquerade Ball”, “Day of Detention”, “Wrestling with the Future”
Disc 2: “Drinking and Driving”, “Love Machine”, “Class Rings”, “Isn’t It Romantic?”, “The Will”, “The Teacher’s Strike”, “Slater’s Sister”, “The Senior Prom”, “The Video Yearbook”
Disc 3: “Screech’s Birthday”, “Snow White and the Seven Dorks”, “Earthquake!”, “Best Summer of My Life”, “Slater’s Friend”, “School Song”, “The Time Capsule”, “Graduation”
- Season 1 (6:02:12)
- Saved by the Bell: The College Years (1993-1994) (7:12:01)
Disc 1: “Pilot”, “Guess Who’s Coming to College?”, “Zack Lies And Videotape”, “Rush Week”, “Slater’s War”, “The Homecoming”, “The Poker Game”, “Prof. Zack”, “Screech Love”
Disc 2: “Dr. Kelly”, “A Thanksgiving Story”, “Teacher’s Pet”, “Kelly and the Professor”, “A Question of Ethics”, “The Rave”, “Bedside Manner”, “Love and Death”, “Marry Me”, “Wedding Plans”
- The Movies
- Hawaiian Style (1992) (1:33:34)
Aired as 4 episodes in syndication, presented here as a single TV movie.
- Wedding in Las Vegas (1994) (1:29:56)
Aired as 4 episodes in syndication, presented here as a single TV movie.
- Hawaiian Style (1992) (1:33:34)
- Good Morning, Miss Bliss (1988-1989) (4:47:25)
- 480i Full Frame 1.33:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
- Subtitles: None
The first two featurettes and half of the audio commentaries are brand new to this release, while the remaining bonus material has been ported from the previous Lionsgate 2013 Complete Series and earlier individual season DVD releases.
- Past Times at Bayside High: Making Saved by the Bell (51:48)
In this brand new featurette, the producers and some of the cast talk about the origins of the series, casting the show, its groundbreaking place on Saturday mornings, the lessons taught my the series, some of the tougher issues the show tackled, some of the show’s guest stars, and more. Those interviewed include writer/co-executive producer Tom Tenowich, producer Franco Bario, writer/executive producer Peter Engel, writer/producer Bennett Tramer, and stars Lark Voorhies (“Lisa Turtle”), Ed Alonzo (“Max”), and Troy Fromin (“Ox” & “Scud”). I found this very interesting, but it was the first bonus feature I watched. The stories shared are very repetitive when compared to the previously released featurettes and commentaries included on this set.
- Bayside’s Greatest Hits: The Music Of Saved by the Bell (4:46)
In this brand new featurette, songwriter/composer Scott Gale and musician/composer Rich Eames discuss how they quickly creating the show’s iconic theme song, and how this led to them writing and recording all of the show’s music and score.
- Saturday Morning: From Toons To Teens (10:28)
The cast and producers talk about how this groundbreaking series changed the landscape of Saturday morning TV by breaking away from the all-animated lineup, utilizing a diverse cast, and providing a series that teens could relate to. They were the first in a long line of copycat series to follow. Includes interviews with TV Guide Magazine L.A. bureau chief Michael Schneider, TV producer/former NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield, executive producer Peter Engel, and actors Dennis Haskins (“Mr. Richard Belding”), Dustin Diamond (“Samuel ‘Screech’ Powers”), and Lark Voorhies. Originally produced for Lionsgate’s 2013 Complete Series DVD.
- It’s Alright: Back To The Bell (16:58)
The producers and cast talk about the origins of the series as Good Morning Miss Bliss, expanding the cast for the main series, the theme song, the fan outpouring for the cast, filming the Hawaii movie, the unexpected final 13, bringing in “Tori” to replace “Kelly” since Tiffany Amber Thiessen had signed onto 90210, their favorite guest cast, and more. Includes interviews with executive producer Peter Engel, director Don Barnhart, and actors Dustin Diamond and Dennis Haskins. Originally produced for Lionsgate’s 2013 Complete Series DVD.
- The First Of Its Class: From Sit-Com To Icon (14:45)
The producers talk about the origin of the series, the goal of trying to regain the high end of NBC’s Saturday Morning audience, the show’s moral lessons, the rabid fans, the impact of the series, the cast, and more. Participants include executive producer Peter Engel, writer/supervising producer Bennett Tramer, writer/producer Jeffrey Sachs, writer/producer Carl Kurlander (Saved By The Bell: The New Class), USC professor Ellen Seiter, and Saved By The Bell fanatics Lisa Stephenson, Gavin Citron, and Ragina Parrott. Originally produced for Lionsgate’s 2005 Complete Third & Fourth Season DVD release.
- Saved By the Bell Photo Gallery (5:09)
Automated slideshow containing production, promotional and behind-the-scenes photos from the original series. Pictures advance every 5 seconds.
- Hawaiian Style Photo Gallery (1:41)
Automated slideshow containing production, promotional and behind-the-scenes photos from the Hawaiian Style TV movie. Pictures advance every 5 seconds.
- Wedding in Vegas Photo Gallery (1:41)
Automated slideshow containing production, promotional and behind-the-scenes photos from the Wedding in Vegas TV movie. Pictures advance every 5 seconds.
- Audio Commentaries
- “Dancing to the Max” – 8/20/1989 – Season 1, Disc 1 (22:16)
In this brand new audio commentary for the first aired episode of the main series, pop culture historian Richard Dyball talks about the theme song, the history of the series, the themes of the series, initial responses to the show, the character archetypes of main six, the mixed up air dates vs the show’s production order, guest star Casey Kasem, and more. Dyball is very matter-of-fact, rattling off a lot of statistics and facts.
- “Jessie’s Song” – 11/3/1990 – Season 1, Disc 1 (22:17)
In this brand new audio commentary on what is probably the show’s most infamous episode, pop culture historian Richard Dyball and What The Musical podcast host Tara Wibrew discuss the episode’s musical numbers and how the characters burst into song, and poke fun at the cheesiness of the episode, especially the group’s music video. I found that having Tara on this track with Richard Dyball loosens and livens him up a bit, though he still pops in with the streams of facts.
- “Fake IDs” – 11/30/1991 – Season 3, Disc 1 (22:17)
Fun commentary with Dustin Diamond, Dennis Haskins, and Lark Voorhies. The actors talk about the technology and cell phones on the show, Zack’s talking to the camera, the wardrobe, and getting to do episodes out of the school. They also reminisce about the show—working with guest star Patrick Muldoon, the actress who played Zack’s mom, and their family members doing cameos.
- “All In the Mall” – 11/9/1991 – Season 3, Disc 2 (23:27)
This commentary with executive producer Peter Engel was originally produced for Lionsgate’s 2004 Seasons 3 & 4 DVD release. He talks about how this was the first episode that ventures out of the school. He also discusses the casting each of the six main characters (this is a bit repetitive to the featurettes). After a while, he stops talking and only occasionally interjects a comment here and there.
- “No Hope With Dope” – 11/30/1991 – Season 3, Disc 2 (22:36)
This commentary with executive producer Peter Engel, Dustin Diamond, Dennis Haskins, and Lark Voorhies was originally produced for Lionsgate’s 2004 Seasons 3 & 4 DVD release. The cast have a lot of fun talking about the set, the rapping in the episode, the outfits, remembering Brandon Tartikoff, and more. They tend to talk over one another, but Dustin Diamond does a hilarious impression of Peter Engel.
- “Rockumentary” – 11/30/1991 – Season 3, Disc 2 (23:28)
This commentary with executive producer Peter Engel, Dustin Diamond, Dennis Haskins, and Lark Voorhies was originally produced for Lionsgate’s 2004 Seasons 3 & 4 DVD release. The participants point out the various real behind-the-scenes locations used for the documentary within the episode, talk about the singers who are really doing their vocals for the songs, the fashion, some of the show’s guest stars, and more. Once again Dustin Diamond does a hilarious impression of Peter Engel.
- “Mystery Weekend” – 12/21/1991 – Season 3, Disc 3 (23:28)
This commentary with star Dustin Diamond was originally produced for Lionsgate’s 2004 Seasons 3 & 4 DVD release. The star discusses how this murder mystery episode was the first to use a set that wasn’t the school set. He talks about the guest cast, discusses real studio laughter vs sweetening canned laughs, and provides some behind-the-scenes stories. However, he often just throws out one word quips and sarcastic reactions.
- “Zack’s Birthday” – 9/14/1991 – Season 3, Disc 3 (23:30)
This commentary with executive producer Peter Engel was originally produced for Lionsgate’s 2004 Seasons 3 & 4 DVD release. He talks about some of the challenges of filming on-location for this first of the six Malibu Sands beach club episodes, such as using fewer cameras, and dealing with sunshine (or lack thereof). After a while he stops talking for long periods of time.
- “The Last Weekend” – 10/26/1991 – Season 3, Disc 3 (23:29)
This commentary with executive producer Peter Engel was originally produced for Lionsgate’s 2004 Seasons 3 & 4 DVD release. This is the final episode of the Malibu Sands beach club arc. Engel spends this entire commentary making predictions about what’s going to happen…”I bet you this will happen” or “How much you wanna bet that Screech will do this”, followed by “I was right”…this grew incredibly annoying very quickly. After a while he stops talking for long periods of time, but this time it was welcome. This commentary can be skipped.
- “Snow White and the Seven Dorks” – 11/14/1992 – Season 4, Disc 3 (23:20)
This is a brand new audio commentary by pop culture historian Richard Dyball and What The Musical podcast host Tara Wibrew. The two participants both have school theater experience, and so they discuss set dressing, on-screen kissing, and relate their own school theater experiences to the storyline. They also talk about the character of Mr. Belding, and why he’s so endearing.
- “Graduation” – 5/22/1993 – Season 4, Disc 3 (23:23)
This is a brand new audio commentary by Shout! Factory DVD producer Henry Weintraub and pop culture historian Richard Dyball. The two talk about role of DVD producer, and what was involved in putting this set together. They also discuss adding Tori to replace the missing female characters in the final season, the show’s rotating cast of nerds, how this episode serves as a series finale even though it wasn’t filmed last, and the show’s actual final filmed episode.
- “Dancing to the Max” – 8/20/1989 – Season 1, Disc 1 (22:16)
- 16 Page Episode Guide
A handy 16-page reference booklet that provides episode synopsis as well as “Extra Credit” facts about certain episodes—specifying notable guest stars, key episodes that aired out of filming order, etc.
Shout! Factory has put together a pretty solid Complete Series DVD collection for the classic sitcom Saved By The Bell. The audio and video presentation leaves a bit to be desired, but the show itself is still a lot of fun to revisit. The entire series had been released on DVD in the past, and a lot of the bonus features on this set have been ported over from those releases. However, Shout! has also added a couple hours of new bonus material as well. For those who already own previous DVD releases of the series, there’s probably not enough new material to warrant a double-dip, especially since no additional main cast members have participated in the new supplemental material. However, for those who don’t already own this series on DVD, now is a great time to do so. This is a reasonably-priced set, that’s definitely worth checking out for the nostalgia factor, and even sharing with your own children. Many of the show’s topics are still valid today—as long as you can look past all of that late 80s/early 90s clothing and Zack’s giant cell phone. Shout!’s release includes a handy episode guide that makes it easy to find your favorite episodes, and some of the episodes have been reordered for easier binging.