Friday, February 26, 2016

Is it Time to Bring Back 'Saved by the Bell'?


With the debut of "Fuller House" on Netflix, 90s nostalgia is in full swing. The next candidate for a series revival could easily be the classic sitcom "Savedby the Bell," which ran from 1989-1993, spawned two spin-off series and two TV movies. There's no doubt that audiences love Zack, Kelly, Screech, Lisa, Slater, Jesse, and all their misadventures at Bayside High. But what would it take to update this series to the modern day? NBC would have a lot of variables to consider.

A New Format?
"Saved by the Bell," "Saved by the Bell: The New Class," and "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" were all 30-minute sitcoms. It makes sense to imagine that a new "Saved by the Bell" show would follow this same format. But does it have to? In their college years and in the TV movies, "Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style" and "Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas," Zack and the gang began to tackle serious issues. If the show revisited these characters in their adult years, it might be suited to an hour-long drama instead. Supposedly, the original actors in the series always had a strong interest in more adult themes. This new format could entice them to return. 

Making a New Class
NBC attempted to recreate the original Bayside gang with "Saved by the Bell: The New Class," and that show was largely unsuccessful. If the network decided to make a new "Saved by the Bell" with new young stars, they would have to make sure they landed the right types of characters. There's the Zack-style lead - the charismatic troublemaker who is likable despite his unwise decisions. There's Kelly, the popular and genuinely kind girl, Slater, the jock with a heart of gold, Jesse, the lovable and brainy feminist, Lisa, the fun shopaholic, and Screech, the comic relief nerd. These characters have become tropes in many shows and movies, and NBC would need a new variation. Why not make Zack a girl? Why not make the Lisa of the group a young gay man? The characters, as well as the issues, should be updated for a new generation.


Deciding the Plot
So what would the issues be, exactly? High school has changed a lot since the days of gigantic cell phones and VHS in the classroom. A new "Saved by the Bell" would be handling the digital world, where teenagers often define themselves by the number of likes on a photo or by who responds to their Facebook post. This generation is also more socially and culturally progressive than the old days. Jesse's feminist views used to seem extreme, but now they are the norm. Schools are less homogeneous and life isn't as simple, and a new show would have to reflect young people in a changing world. But that could be good. Just as with "Fuller House," audiences are ripe for old-fashioned, heartfelt entertainment. If NBC can successfully update the types of shows that people feel nostalgic for, they're guaranteed success.

NBC struck a goldmine in 1987 when they produced a light-hearted teen sitcom that spoke to a generation. Today, "Saved by the Bell" remains an iconic show in television history. If the network brought back Bayside High, they would have to consider how to format the show, whether to ask back the original actors or rely solely on a crop of new ones, and how to make the spirit of the show translate to the modern world. But in an age where everything old is new again, it could be worth it to explore the world that Zack and the gang brought to life.