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Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Dustin Diamond
Writing Credits:

Follow the teen adventures of Zack Morris and his pals from JFK Junior High to Cal U and beyond!

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 2790 min.
Price: $59.99
Release Date: 10/2/2018

• Audio Commentaries for 11 Episodes
• “Past Times at Bayside High” Documentary
• “Bayside’s Greatest Hits” Featurette
• “Saturday Morning” Featurette
• “It’s Alright” Featurette
• “The First of Its Class” Featurette
• Photo Galleries
• 16-Page Booklet


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Saved By the Bell: The Complete Collection (1988-94)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 28, 2020)

As a child of the 1970s and 1980s, I was born too late to be part of Saved By the Bell’s preteen target audience. I watched a slew of shows when I was stuck in house for weeks due to a broken leg back in 1993, but otherwise, the series stayed off my radar.

So why did I choose to check out this “Complete Collection” package that covers all six years of Bell? Good question – morbid curiosity?

Bell began life in fall 1988 as Good Morning, Miss Bliss. It included some of the teen characters we’d follow through its whole run, but it also placed an emphasis on Miss Bliss (Hayley Mills), one of the gang’s eighth grade teachers.

A Disney Channel series, Bliss lasted a mere 13 episodes before it got the axe, but NBC – who owned the rights - retooled the show for a Saturday morning slot. Rechristened Saved By the Bell, the new show jettisoned poor Miss Bliss and brought a heavier focus on the kids, though it carried over Principal Belding (Dennis Haskins).

Bell replaced a lot of the youthful actors as well. It kept Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s Zack Morris – our lead – as well as his nerdy buddy Screech Powers (Dustin Diamond) and posh Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies), but otherwise the show went with new actors in fresh roles.

Bell also took Zack and company to LA from Indianapolis. I don’t know why they did this – probably because California offers more room for frothy teen fun than the Midwest – but the series never explains the shift.

Apparently all this did the trick, as Bell became a Saturday morning favorite and then ran in syndication forever. More than 30 years later, here we are, with this “Complete Collection” DVD set.

As noted, Bliss ran 13 episodes, and 1993-94’s Saved By the Bell: The College Years lasted an additional 19 shows. Bell itself went for 86 episodes, and the gang did two TV movies as well: 1992’s Hawaiian Style and 1994’s Wedding in Las Vegas.

That’s a whole lot of Bell, and I admit I didn’t watch all – or most – of it. I took in a few episodes per season as well as the two movies.

Going into this boxed set, I thought Bliss would bring a series with some grounding in reality before Bell launched into total teen high school fantasy territory, and to some degree, I found that. Called “Dancing to the Max”, the first episode of Bell engages in a mix of unrealistic sequences such as the way the kids “rock out” in music class and the presence of Casey Kasem as host of a “dance off” at the students’ local hangout.

“Max” also introduces the bits where Zack breaks the fourth wall. That and other elements mean that Bell boasts only tangential connections to real life.

Actually, Season One’s “King of the Hill” offered the series’ pilot, but it ran as the 15th show aired. It shows the same fantasy tendencies we’d see in “Max”, so it’s not a deviation from the first show that hit the air.

While Bell lacked a sense of honesty, Bliss wasn’t exactly hard-hitting either. While it boasted a more realistic feel than Bell, it still favored wacky teen silliness over anything more naturalistic.

When Bell morphed into College Years, I thought perhaps that it’d take on a more mature tone, but nope – that didn’t happen. Even with the opening credits that implied a more dramatic 90210 feel, College pursued the same style as the high school Bell.

Just like Bell didn’t explain how Zack and the others from Bluss moved to California, we also never learn how the Bayside pals wound up together at “California U”. In the final episode of Bell, we learn that Zack planned to go to Yale (!) and all the others would pursue different schools.

Lisa and Jessie don’t return for College, but in addition to Zack, the spinoff series brings back Screech, Slater and Kelly. A competent series would explain how this happened, but nope – we need to ignore the comments from the Bell finale and go with the flow, just the same as with the thousands of other continuity issues the show presents.

While College just acted as a direct continuation of the high school series, I thought perhaps the two movies would bring something that brought the different tone College lacked. For Hawaiian, we just get an extension of the series, but Wedding veers much closer to Lifetime Channel territory.

Wedding is still overacted and unrealistic, but it’s probably the closest to a naturalistic enterprise ever released under the Bell banner. Of course, it substitutes cheap melodrama for cheap laughs, but at least it provides a change of pace.

Why did Bell turn into a cultural evergreen while most other TV series in the same vein faded away decades ago? I have not the slightest clue, as Bell shows no real signs of creativity or personality.

To me as a 53-year-old, at least. As I noted at the start, I was too old for Bell when it aired in the 80s/90s, so I’m obviously well past the target now, and without nostalgia to carry me, the shows become tough to take.

I guess circa 80s/90s tweens embraced the series’ glossy take on high school life. The LA setting adds glamour, and Zack’s Ferris Bueller-esque form of overbearing self-confidence played well in the era.

Though not so much now. Funny or Die hosts a web series called “Zack Morris Is Trash”, and it shows all the ways our erstwhile hero was a selfish douche.

Not that most of the others come off that well. Slater is an arrogant meathead, while Screech’s style of nerdy weirdness just makes him annoying instead of endearing.

The girls tend to fare somewhat better – well, except for the self-righteous Jessie (Elizabeth Berkley), as she’s the queen of the buzzkill. Neither Lisa nor Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Amber Thiessen) are all that interesting, but they’re less annoying than the rest of the cast.

If you don’t embrace the series’ style as is, you might take some ironic pleasure from it, as Bell could be pretty absurd at times. Of course, many people know the infamous Season Two episode in which Jessie gets hepped up on goofballs, but plenty of other shows seem nearly as ludicrous.

None of what I say will impact the series’ dedicated legions, though. If you still adore the antics of the Bayside High crew, go to town. I can’t imagine I’d ever want to watch Bell again, though.

The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

Saved By the Bell: The Complete Collection appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, dual-layered DVDs. Due to those dimensions, the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I wouldn’t expect a TV series from the late 80s/early 90s to look good, and Bell offered the expected ugly visuals.

Sharpness was fairly mediocre. Close-ups demonstrated passable clarity at best, while wider shots tended to be ugly.

The image was blocky and soft much of the time. I noticed mild jagged edges and shimmering, and some edge haloes appeared as well. The series came with occasional specks and marks, though these weren’t heavy.

Colors seemed similarly bland. The series tended toward a natural palette, but the hues appeared fairly dull and drab.

Blacks were acceptably dark, but shadows tended to be muddy. While I can’t say the visuals fell far below expectations, this was still a pretty unappealing presentation.

Note that I thought matters improved slightly as the series progressed, so College looked a bit better than the main Bell. This occurred mainly because colors felt a little more lively.

However, these upgrades really did stay modest. While the later shows seemed stronger than the earlier ones, the shows remained less than appealing.

Also note that although they shot the Vegas movie on film but finished it on video. That meant it came with the same restrictions of the episodes, even though it started with a superior source.

At least the Dolby 2.0 audio was pretty decent. Not that one should expect much from the restricted soundfield, as it provided little excitement.

The audio remained fairly centered, as most speech and effects came from the front middle channel. Music, laughter and effects spread gently to the side and rear speakers, but those moments didn’t add much dimensionality to the piece. The mix broadened a little beyond basic mono, but it wasn’t anything dynamic.

Audio quality was more than acceptable. Speech occasionally sounded a bit reedy, but the lines were reasonably natural and intelligible.

Music showed decent pep and warmth, while effects appeared fine, as what we heard seemed adequate. All of this added up to an average mix for a TV series of this one’s era.

Note that this package presents syndication prints for the 13 Good Morning, Miss Bliss episodes. These replace the original credits/theme with those done for Bell. It’s a disappointment that the set doesn’t include the original prints.

This boxed set packs a lot of extras, and we get audio commentaries for 11 episodes. Here’s what we find:

“Dancing to the Max”: pop culture historian Russell Dyball.

“Jessie’s Song”: Dyball and What the Musical podcast host Tara Wibrew.

“Fake ID”: actors Lark Voorhies, Dustin Diamond, and Dennis Haskins.

“All in the Mall”: executive producer Peter Engel.

“No Hope With Dope”: Voorhies, Diamond and Haskins.

“Rockumentary”: Engel, Voorhies, Diamond, and Haskins.

“Mystery Weekend”: Diamond.

“Zack’s Birthday”: Engel.

“The Last Weekend”: Engel.

“Snow White and the Seven Dorks”: Dyball and Wibrew.

“Graduation”: Dyball and DVD producer Henry Weintraub.

That’s a lot of commentaries, but unfortunately, few of them seem especially interesting. Of the whole bunch, Dyball’s chat for “Max” probably fares best, as he gets into reasonably substantial information about the series.

Dyball’s other tracks fare less well, as they tend to favor fanboy happy talk. The addition of Wibrew and/or Weintraub adds little, so these tracks fail to become particularly informative.

At least those beat the actor tracks. Occasionally the performers give us minor show-related insights, but usually they just joke and deliver banal memories.

Engel doesn’t improve on this model. He also throws out the occasional nugget but he mostly narrates the shows and tells us little of import. Massive Bell fans might like these tracks but for me, they turned into an endurance test.

The remaining materials all appear on a DVD devoted solely to extras, and we start with >B>Past Times at Bayside High. In this 51-minute, 45-second show, we hear from Engel, Voorhies, writer/co-executive producer Tom Tenowich, producer Franco Bario, writer/producer Bennett Tramer, and actors Ed Alonzo and Troy Fromin.

We learn about Good Morning, Miss Bliss and its shift into Bell, cast, characters and performances, script writing and development, the series’ visual style, music and editing, sets and production design, and some episode specifics. The absence of more actors disappoints, but we still get a mostly informative look at the series.

You can’t trust memories: Tramer claims that he compared the budget of Bell to that of Friends while Bell remained in production. Given that the original Bell - and it’s clear he doesn’t mean one of the spinoffs – left the air two years before Friends debuted, that’s kind of difficult.

With Bayside’s Greatest Hits, we find a four-minute, 45-second reel with songwriter/composer Scott Gale and musician/composer Rich Eames. They discuss the series’ theme song and other aspects of its music. Despite the clip’s brevity, we get some good notes.

Next comes the 10-minute, 28-second From Toons to Teens. It involves comments from Haskins, Voorhies. Diamond, Engel, director Don Barnhart, TV Guide LA Bureau Chief Michael Schneider, and former NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield.

“Toons” looks at the series’ impact on Saturday morning TV and the ramifications of its success. Though a few decent notes emerge, most of “Toons” feels self-congratulatory.

After this we find It’s Alright, a 16-minute, 57-second reel with Engel, Barnhart, Diamond, Haskins, and Voorhies. The featurette casts a pretty broad net, as it touches on a wide array of show-related topics.

That makes it redundant at times, and the usual trend toward self-praise appears as well. Still, we find some useful nuggets, and we also get this package’s only acknowledgement that “Jessie’s Song” remains famous as a camp classic. Everywhere else, the participants treat it as though it’s Sophie’s Choice.

For the final featurette, we locate The First of Its Class, a 14-minute, 44-second piece with Engel, Tramer, writers/producers Carl Kurlander and Jeffrey Sachs, USC Professor of Critical Studies Ellen Seiter, and fans Lisa Stephenson, Gavin Citron, and Regina Parrott.

“Class” examines some production areas, but it mainly looks at the series’ cultural impact. Like its siblings, a lot of this turns into praise, so don’t expect a ton of strong insights.

The bonus disc concludes with three Photo Galleries. These break into “Saved By the Bell” (65 images), “Hawaiian Style” (21) and “Wedding in Vegas” (22).

Most of these show publicity photos, though “Style” and “Wedding” throw in a couple of print ads as well. I’d hoped for some behind the scenes pictures, so these compilations disappoint.

The package also throws in a 14-page booklet. It includes basics about all of the different series and the movies as well as episode synopses and some trivia. It adds value.

If you grew up with the series, you will likely love “Saved By the Bell: The Complete Collection”. If not, you probably won’t find much to enjoy from this silly, campy package of shows. The DVDs bring mediocre picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. While Bell doesn’t work for me, its legion of fans should dig this box.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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