Smart, silly, and so much fun, Peacock’s “Saved by the Bell” is a reboot that knows its history – and welcomes the chance to mock it.
The ’90s sitcom about a group of California high school students introduced such young stars as Mark-Paul Gooselaar, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley, and Mario Lopez, and focused on teen problems that could be fixed in 22 minutes.
It was a staple of NBC’s Saturday morning lineup, was so popular it had two TV films and two spinoffs, and left an indelible mark on pop culture.
This reboot streaming Wednesday – with Gooselaar and Thiessen as executive producers and starring Berkley and Lopez – trades on that history with a bracing dose of reality:
Due to a budget crisis, Governor Zack Morris (Gooselaar) is forced to bus in students from underprivileged communities to such well-funded schools as Bayside High.
So now three inner city kids – brainy Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez), athletic Aisha (Alycia Pascual-Pena), and loner DeVante (Dexter Darden) – wander the halls of this iconic school, wondering how they can ever compete – much less get along – with kids who’ve never had to sweat for anything.
There’s Mac Morris (Mitchell Hoog), definitely his father Zack’s (Gooselaar) son. He pranks the principal by flooding the gym (again!) and gets out of homework by telling his teacher he suffers from “seasonal dyslexia.”
Lexi (Josie Totah) is the school queen bee, transgender, and vies for Mac for a parking spot.
Jamie (Belmont Cameli) is the son of guidance counselor Jessie (Berkley – now credited as Elizabeth Berkley Lauren) and is about as clueless as they come. He becomes upset the Trix cereal is discontinued because it means the rabbit won’t get any.
Slater (Lopez) is the gym teacher stuck on past glories; Jessie has good advice for everyone but herself. They play well off each other as they revisit their characters.
Original stars Gooselaar and Thiessen cameo in the premiere, but this is definitely the new cast’s turn to shine, and they make for an appealing bunch. The culture clash between the have-nots and have-way-too-much is immediate and often laugh-out-loud.
Lexi can’t understand why Daisy’s school was shut down. Why didn’t the parents just organize a fundraiser with Rita Wilson singing and count on Tom Hanks showing up?
DeVante discovers the school has two volleyball teams.
He also puts up with Slater’s attempt to recruit him to the football team with a sappy story of his own youth.
“Yeah, that personal story really brought my guard down,” DeVante says. “By the way, what’s my name?”
The white savior parents form a committee to help the new kids – Parents Integrating Teachers and Youth – PITY.
Their gift totes include toothpaste, a pregnancy test, and “Ice-T’s Guide to Making Algebra Your Bitch.”
Daisy is frustrated Mac loves to coast. He can’t understand why she wants to work so hard.
DeVante wants to do his own thing; Lexi wants him to become a part of the student body.
Aisha finds athletic success can be bittersweet. “This school is making me weird.”
Here’s hoping “Saved by the Bell” stays in session for a long time.