Grab your bricked phone, put on your neon tank top, and get ready to head back to Bayside High for the Peacock’s Saved by the Bell restart.
In the opening moments of the series, California Governor Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) gets caught up in the water for closing too many underfunded high schools and suggests sending the affected students to the state’s best-funded schools – including Bayside High. This act immediately sets Bell apart from other reboots: it actually has something important to say.
The arrival of these students upsets Bayside teenagers – including Mac Morris (Mitchell Hoog), Zack and Kellis (Tiffani Thiessen) troublemaker son; Jamie Spano (Belmont Cameli), Zack’s best friend and son of Jessie (Elizabeth Berkley Lauren); and Lexi (Josie Totah), the most popular girl in school whose transition was the subject of a reality show.
The Douglas High Transfer Students – led by Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez); Aisha (Alycia Pascual-Peña); and Devante (Dexter Darden) – allow the series to explore issues such as class and poverty in a way that feels both fresh and nuanced. Sure, the series is full of the inspiring lessons and heartwarming speeches that marked the original. But showrunner Tracey Wigfield and the rest of the writers understand that not all of these problems can be solved in 22 minutes.
The show also manages to combine the humor and the heart with ease. For example, one episode at the beginning of the season starts with Mac and Jamie unknowingly vying for the same woman – a gag that feels straight out of the ’90s sitcom – before moving on to a plot involving missing iPads, false allegations, and a deeper discussion of it contains implicit bias. These storylines are more timely than ever and never feel out of place or forced.
We wouldn’t mention the cast of transgender actress Josie Totah (who also doubles as the producer) to portray the role of Lexi, whose character has recently changed. Casting actual LGBTQ + actors to portray LGBTQ + characters is unfortunately still a rarity in Hollywood, which makes such a portrayal a breath of fresh air. The mainstream on-screen LGBTQ + visibility focuses on a character’s struggle to come to terms with their sexuality and / or gender identity, which is not the case here. Totah and the writers undermine expectations with the character: Being transgender tells parts of who Lexi is, but this never defines her storylines.
Fans of the classic Saved by the Bell will find a lot to love here too. Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley Lauren repeat roles (as A.C. Slater and Jessie Spano, respectively), and an ongoing subplot during the first season revolves around Jessie’s troubled marriage and A.C.’s lingering feelings. for his former flame. Though Lopez and Berkley Lauren are the only regulars on the recurring series, other characters – Zack (Gosselaar), Kelli (Thiessen), Lisa (Lark Voorhies), and others – stop by to find guests that will bring a smile to your face. There are plenty of Easter eggs along the way – from the obvious (Daisy’s fourth wall breaking “time out” à la Zack) to the dark (Tori’s inexplicable disappearance) that are guaranteed to please even the die-hard fan.
Saved by the Bell is a clever homage to the classic series that delivers both heart and humor. Fans of the original will find plenty to love, as will newbies to Bayside High – just avoid anyone offering caffeine pills.
Stream all 10 episodes of Saved by the Bell on November 25th, only on Peacock.
Tracey Wigfield is the writer and executive producer of the series alongside executive producer Franco Bario. Peter Engel also acts as executive producer. Saved By The Bell is produced by Universal Television, a division of the Universal Studio Group.