“Saved by the Bell” (2020) Season 1 Review: A Reboot That’s Fun, Smart & Queer!
The 10-episode long first season of the Saved by the Bell reboot ended up being more fun than it had any right to be. It’s smart, hilarious, and queer!
Even though the original Saved by the Bell wasn’t the most well-written series, it was still a franchise that many grew up with. With the comedy being a product of its time (there’s a reason the fandom considers lead character Zack Morris as trash), I was interested in seeing how the reboot would handle the original’s faults while making something the present generation would enjoy.
As far as my opinion goes, the Saved by the Bell reboot was perfect at introducing a new group of students while allowing characters from the original to shine as adults. One of the best things about this reboot is that it continued to be over-the-top like its predecessor. This is not your “normal” high school. Outlandish things will happen for comedic purposes. However, due to the cast being incredibly likable, you’ll let their shenanigans slide.
The premise involved Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), the Governor of California, deciding to cut billions in funds from the education department, leading to the closure of numerous public schools in poor areas. (See? He’s still trash. Ha!) The closure led to certain students being sent to Bayside High, a public school that’s located in a wealthy area.
Our leads coming to Bayside High are activist Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez), Daisy’s best friend and talented American footballer Aisha (Alycia Pascual-Pena), and singer DeVante (Dexter Darden). Daisy is given the power to do “time-outs” and talk directly to the camera the way Zack was in the original.
The rich students basically ruling Bayside High are Zack and Kelly’s son Mac (Mitchell Hoog), mean girl Lexi (Josie Totah), and Jessica Spano’s kind-but-not-so-smart son Jamie (Belmont Cameli). Mac, Lexi, and Jamie are also best friends even though they can be quite competitive with each other over certain things.
To help the new kids settle, everyone’s given a rich-student “buddy” from Bayside High. Daisy got Mac, Aisha’s with Jamie, and DeVante got Lexi. Pairing the students in such a way made for a lot of comedic moments in a very self-aware show. Daisy, Aisha, and DeVante are basically stand-ins for the viewers as they tried to make sense of the weird world Mac, Jamie, Lexi, and the other rich Bayside High students lived in.
The 10 episodes involved storylines such as Jamie and Mac trying to win over the same girl, Lexi wanting DeVante to be more engaged in the theatre group, and Aisha wanting the school’s football team to win. Similar to the original, issues were resolved quite quickly in each episode’s approximate 24-minute runtime. However, there are a number of arcs that continued throughout the series.
You might not have guessed it from the promotional material, but the Saved by the Bell reboot’s incredibly smart when it came to what it had to say. It didn’t shy away from the systemic and casual racism the new kids faced. The episode where a young critic falsely accused DeVante of hurting him was impressively written.
The series continued to take aim at the public school system and how it’s always the kids that suffer. There’s a lot of commentary about rich people helping certain schools to keep poor kids away from wealthy areas. There’s just a lot going on in the Saved by the Bell reboot and I loved every second of it due to how themes were presented.
The show also doesn’t hold back when it came to making fun of everyone. I loved how the writers made fun of cancel culture. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for holding certain people accountable. However, there are instances where something minor will take attention away from actual harmful actions. The “whataboutsism” that occurs online does allow many problematic people to walk away.
There’s a difference between someone deliberately hurting other people and someone who didn’t know better and is also ready to make amends. It was nice to see Lexi, Mac, and Jamie learning from Daisy, Aisha, and DeVante and vice versa.
As for the queer representation, the Saved by the Bell reboot was very clear about Lexi being transgender. She wasn’t treated as a plot device to invite transphobia or general homophobia from other characters. Instead, the series respected Lexi’s journey and showed that there were still certain internal issues she had to struggle with to finally find her confidence.
There’s also a love triangle between Lexi, Jamie, and Aisha. Aisha’s into Jamie, but Lexi’s had a crush on Jamie since childhood. And Jamie’s into both of them. (He just wants someone to love him on the same level he’s passionate about love. He’s a sweetheart.) While that might sound messy on paper, I appreciated that the relationship drama was handled as more of an afterthought and didn’t take away from the main plotlines, because I can’t deal with love triangles. I don’t like them.
Also, from what I can tell, Lexi, Mac, and Jamie all fall in the LGBTQ+ spectrum. The writers can easily make the three end up together. The show already had lines about how Mac once made Jamie fall in love with him so Mac could steal his car. There’s also a scene where Mac said he and Lexi should have been the ones kissing Jamie instead of Aisha. And then there’s a scene where Mac and Lexi talked about how they would hook up with each other but now wasn’t the time. Lexi, Mac, and Jamie are the weirdest childhood best friends/love interests, and I’m here for every second of it.
As for the past characters, A.C. Slater’s the football coach. He’s single and doesn’t have kids. He’s also still stuck on Jessica, but it was nice to see him try and move on. Jessica’s a student guidance counselor. While’s she’s (kind of) great at helping other kids, she’s got serious issues with giving her son Jamie the space to grow. Jessie’s also in a troubled marriage.
The way the reboot decided to make it seem that the new character Principal Ronal Toddman (John Michael Higgins) was always part of the original cast was hilarious. As a fan of the original show, I enjoyed all of the callbacks to past storylines and what the OG characters had gone through.
Released on November 25, 2020, all 10 episodes of the Saved by the Bell reboot are currently available to binge-watch on NBC Universal’s Peacock streaming service. You should consider checking this show out this weekend.
As someone who is a big fan of self-aware humor, I couldn’t get enough of this series.
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Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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