Saved by the Bell: The college years are an interesting time capsule

The transition from high school to college is difficult. Not everyone handles it well, especially when someone goes from being the most popular person down the hall to being an unimportant person. Bayside’s elite graduated, leaving Mr Belding and the teachers behind, but that didn’t mean their adventures were over as the sitcom entered prime time on Saturday morning. There was a fresh start, a new setting, and a chance for audiences to experience (almost all) their favorite characters from Saved by the Bell The college years.

It’s hard to say that this was a good starting point for new viewers, but that didn’t stop the producers from picking up where the original “Saved by the Bell” left off, in more ways than one. Everyone’s favorite preppy, Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) reunites with his high school friends AC Slater (Mario Lopez) and Samuel “Screech” Powers (Dustin Diamond) to begin their college adventure. It’s clear from the start that this isn’t Bayside anymore and the boys need to adjust while also getting to know their new flatmates. There’s a new love interest in Leslie Burke (Anne Tremko), an adorable goof named Alex Tabor (Kiersten Warren), and Danielle Marks (Essence Atkins), who fans wouldn’t get enough time to meet since they only appeared in the first episode.


Saved by the Bell: The college years took care of the cast

If anyone can turn heads, it’s Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen), the fictional heartthrob of so many young people. Those who didn’t want to be with this beauty dreamed of being the head cheerleader who begged our forgiveness for her cheekiness. Originally, Thiessen was unsure about reprising the role, but agreed to come back at the last minute, leading to the show firing Atkins. There are differing opinions as to how these events unfolded and whether it was more of a layoff or a polite farewell, but the released actress most certainly did had some supporters. However, Kelly’s return was seen as a great boon to Saved by the Bell: The College Years and changed the direction of future relationships. Unfortunately, this meant that after the first few episodes, the writers were a little less involved with the character Leslie, who was already struggling to come in as Jessie Spano’s replacement in the original series.

Zack might have been a little older – and a little bulkier, as Gosselaar had intended to play football before deciding to reprise the role – but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t still pursuing his same antics, schemes and helpfulness to others Cast members find themselves in strange situations. That meant there was a need for administrators like Mike Rogers (Bob Golic), who served as the dorm’s RA (Resident Advisor) and played a character somewhat resembling his real-life football career. Then there was Professor Jeremiah Lasky (Patrick Fabian) who was determined to teach Zack a lesson, even if it meant stealing his girlfriend, and finally we had the true film stereotype of cold-hearted Dean Susan McMann (Holland Taylor). The cast was solid and solid, but that doesn’t mean the characters worked.


There were already some issues with just sending everyone to Cal U’s fictional institute, since that premise didn’t work the continuity from the end of the original series, but there was also the problem that the writers didn’t seem to know what to do with all of their students. Kelly benefits the most from her short stint in college as she not only finds her career path and learns to be more self-reliant, but also faces a difficult adult relationship with Professor Lasky. I remember exactly when those episodes aired and how angry that storyline made me.

We all grew up thinking That professor was an idiot. Slater also had a lot to deal with, from realizing he was no longer the top athlete and the fact that he was struggling to maintain his position on the team, to looking more seriously at his studies – the big man on campus was humbled become. AC also received an interesting scenario in which he delved deeper into his heritage, which he was previously unfamiliar with, proving that some things in life are now more important than parties and ski trips. For most fans, Kelly and Slater had the two most memorable storylines, and these events helped them take more shape in a few episodes than they ever had in their high school year.

Alex was certainly the best of the new characters. The actress-wannabe found herself mostly in humorous moments, but was also treated to some enjoyable scenes of drama, particularly when she started dating Slater, even if that relationship doesn’t reach its full potential. She fits in well with the existing group, but it’s hard to imagine that her appearance here wouldn’t have made an excellent addition to the original show. Mike also gels after a while. Though some disliked his acting, he found a good place as a Belding-esque character who spent more time with the main characters, especially as the series progressed, and he befriended them, almost taking on the responsibility of thwarting Zack Dean McMann took directly upon himself.


Unfortunately, Screech is the character that doesn’t seem to see much growth over these 19 episodes. He’s fighting for a girl and standing up for himself a bit more, but Powers did that on the previous show too. Not everyone changes, though, and the truth is, while Zack seems to have matured a little, there’s no great show without his scheming. We see him understand his friends a bit better and instead of just chasing Kelly, there’s a glimpse that he ends up understanding at least a little why he should fight for and hold on to his high school sweetheart, even if he’s still acting weird.

Everything seems to be working out, even though the show was canceled after just one season. Thankfully, we see an ending in Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas, a TV movie that brings the gang back together so the star couple can elope and even make them flee from gangsters. It’s wild and Zack messes up again, but their love seems greater after going through it all and it really looks like these crazy kids might just make it after all.

Although “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” tried a new direction with a little more drama, a few more serious subjects and a slight shift in tone after switching from Saturday morning TV to Tuesday night TV, no one seemed to appreciate the growth. Most Critics were not impressed with the college exploits, however some downright detested of the new show while also serving as executive producer said Peter Engel that The College Years’ major flaws were that it had “lost its innocence” and that he should have pushed harder to get the entire Bayside gang on the new program. “The College Years” was planned as a counter-program to “Full House,” which many saw as the result of NBC executives’ distrust and failure of the show. This also came at a time when Brandon Tartikoff, one of the show’s biggest supporters at the network, had left, so much of the support the original show had was gone. The ratings were low, not bad compared to the original series, but now that it was in prime time it just wasn’t good enough.

There was a lot of marketing behind the college years, with commercials, interviews, etc book series I am in the process of buying these on eBay great trading cards all part of the advertising and merchandising. While the show seemed to be quickly forgotten, it certainly had many die-hard fans who hated to see it go away. Some of the sets were reused for some scenes in Saved by the Bell: The New Class and even the recent Saved by the Bell sequel added a fake reminder to “The College Years” with Jessie so it wasn’t deleted entirely.

Why it wasn’t a success

Look, Saved by the Bell: The College Years was just as troubled as its predecessor and lacked some of the charm and chemistry that made the original work, but the series is still tremendously fun, especially for the fans . Sure, the theme song is silly, but it’s also pretty catchy and fits the show, even if it never lives up to the original. It was also great to see the blunders at the end of the episodes and a behind the scenes look at these actors we grew up with. As for the characters themselves, maybe they weren’t ready for college.

The actors tried but some people struggle to move on and really are the coolest in high school if we can forgive some of those silly antics and awkward moments. When everyone is outside of these hallowed halls, it’s harder not to see the blemishes and call the bullshit for what it is. “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” was a show trying to tweak the formula and grow up fast, but it was at a time when the core audience was also changing (albeit younger), and those notable differences are just too big. I love the series but I don’t recommend it to anyone (although I got my wife to watch it with me). This is a piece for people who were already Saved by the Bell fans who like to remember the whole journey and maybe remember how their friends ended up.