Celebrating Thirty Years of Saved By the Bell
It’s hard to believe, but Saved By the Bell got its start thirty years ago. In July of 1987, the pilot episode, a precursor to the teen comedy series, Good Morning, Miss Bliss, premiered on NBC during the primetime timeslot for the long running teen sitcom, The Facts of Life.
The show was then picked up and was carried on The Disney Channel. The original concept was to have the students be supporting characters for veteran Disney star Hayley Mills and T.K. Carter (Miss Carrie Bliss and Mylo Williams), along with Dennis Haskins (Principal Richard Belding, who started his role after the pilot). The scripts soon tilted toward covering the lives of the characters played by the young students, who were unknowns at the time. Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack Morris) became an immediate breakout star for the show, which lasted under its original title until 1989.
The Saturday morning block of animated cartoons were still dominating the big three networks at the end of the 1980s and NBC decided to reclaim their successful series from Disney by bringing some members of the cast back into a newly improved version, into a renamed series called Saved By the Bell. While this new version did not bring along Mikey Gonzalez or Heather Hopper, the trio of students played by Gosselaar, Dustin Diamond and Lark Voorhies remained.
By 1989, the series was anchoring the Saturday morning lineup, with a new school location — Palisades, California’s Bayside High — and additional classmates. Gosselaar, Diamond, Voorhies, along with Haskins were joined by Tiffani Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley and Mario Lopez as the series led to other live action Saturday series, while animation slowly lost ground, thanks to shows like Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Hang Time, Hey Vern, It’s Ernest, The Weird Al Show and others.
Saved By the Bell had such a successful run that it spawned a new class, upon the graduation of the original cast. Haskins and Diamond continued their roles for the remainder of the run, which lasted seven additional seasons, through 2000. The original cast went on to primetime with Saved By the Bell: The College Years and multiple TV movies.
The original cast went on to star in multiple television and movies, as Lopez became a star of The Bold and the Beautiful, Nip/Tuck, Pacific Blue, movies and Extra, the popular entertainment show.
Gosselaar became a dramatic actor, as he became a cop for NYPD Blue, then on to Franklin & Bash, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Pitch. Tiffani Thiessen went on to play Valerie Malone on Beverly Hills, 90210 and had short stints on Fastlane, Good Morning, Miami and other series, before landing a long running part on the popular series, White Collar.
Berkley went on to play Julia Winston on CSI: Miami and a recurring role on The L Word, as well as other television shows and movies. Voorhies also became a soap star with The Bold and the Beautiful and later starred in the series In the House. Even the popular hangout, The Max, got a second life as a Chicago restaurant. We won’t, however, make mention of the horrible Lifetime movie from behind the scenes.
Of note, Jimmy Fallon had a cast reunion sketch that featured many of the original cast with Fallon, reliving a day at Bayside High. The original series remains popular in reruns on several different networks on a daily basis, even decades later. Since its original run in 1987, there hasn’t been a time that television hasn’t had Saved By the Bell airing every week.