The first thing fans always want to know when it comes to a reboot is: is it worth my time? Should I invest in these new people? Are the characters I know and love treated right? In the case of the Saved By The Bell reboot the answer to that is mostly yes …you just might not like the part that’s leaning on the no side.
Because the least interesting part of this reboot is the original characters.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
Look, I was a fan of Saved By The Bell. I shipped Zack and Kelly; I wanted Jessie’s hair and Lisa’s sense of style. In fact, if I even hit play in this reboot that Peacock absolutely did not know how to sell me – it was because of nostalgia. And though I came out of it satisfied, and still hanging on to that nostalgia, the truth is… for a while there, I even wondered if the original characters were necessary.
You’ve all heard the setup for this reboot – it’s in the trailer – and it doesn’t make Zac, our Zac, look too good. The show then proceeds to make Jessie, Slater and even Kelly act, well …just like last time we saw them. Part of this is about appealing to our nostalgia, of course, but it’s been over thirty years since Saved By The Bell went off the air, and there was a part of me hoping these characters had, you know, grown some.
This doesn’t mean that’s the end of their story – or their growth. There’s enough of them in this reboot to satisfy fans who are pressing play for nostalgia’s sake, but if you’re only there for that, let me tell you, the beginning is gonna be rough.
Want the good news now? There’s a lot more to this reboot than Zac, Kelly, Jessie and Slater, and that’s why the show absolutely works. Not only that, it’s why the show probably deserves another season.
New characters, a new outlook and some diversity make this the right reboot for the year 2020, and I cannot believe I’m typing this, one of the best reboots so far in this era of let’s bring back everything.
That’s all thanks to the new SBTB crew, made up of Mac Morris – yes, that’s the name of Zac and Kelly’s son, so help us God – Jamie, Jessie’s son, Lexi – the openly transgender most popular girl in school, words I never thought I’d be typing but that this show makes an afterthought – DeVante, Daisy and Aisha.
It’s the last three, in particular, who shine. A Black teenager and two Latinas, one of them Afro-latina, carry this reboot to new heights, not just because they’re allowed to be who they are and sometimes argue in Spanish – but because the show is never about their identities, but somehow those identities aren’t sanitized either. Daisy, Aisha and DeVante are their experiences, and that’s never brushed aside, but they’re also never singled out within the context of the show just for being who they are.
You know, the thing we’ve always asked TV to do: give us true diversity, the type that isn’t there just to tick a box, but the type that feels real.
The show works, in great part because of these three, but there’s also a lot to be said for the entire ensemble chemistry, and oh yes, the seamless way the storylines of Jessie and Slater, in particular, are interwoven with what’s going on with the kids.
In conclusion? If you’re only around for the nostalgia, the beginning might be rough, but if you stick around, you might find yourself enjoying this. And if you’re coming into this with an open mind …well, you might find yourself enjoying it from the get-go, as I did. Believe it or not, nostalgia or not, this show gets a passing grade.
Saved By The Bell will be available to stream on Peacock September 25th.