Spinning off of the failed series, Good Morning Miss Bliss, this was the very first episode to air for what would eventually become the extremely successful Saved by the Bell television series.
The episode appropriately opens with a packed house at the gang’s favorite hangout, The Max. Surprisingly, Max speaks the first lines of the series when he reads a telegram announcing that Casey Kasem is hosting a televised dance contest for the Bayside students at The Max. I have no idea how Max managed to pull this off, unless Casey Kasem was his uncle.
Zack and Slater fight over who gets to be Kelly’s dance partner, which is a common theme in these early episodes. Slater, who is never shy to show off his slick moves, starts dancing in the middle of The Max to try to entice Kelly to pick him. His dancing was “hot” according to Kelly. I’m not sure if there’s a word that’s further from describing Slater’s dancing, but whatever.
Zack throws a couple insults at Slater, but refuses to dance. We find out later that he actually doesn’t know how to dance, and he enlists Jessie’s help to teach him some moves. She gives Zack a couple dance lessons in her room, and I guess because he’s Zack Morris, he instantly picks it up. During one of the lessons, they have a nice conversation where she opens up about her insecurity regarding her height. It’s actually a really good scene, and it’s a rare moment of true friendship bonding in these early episodes.
Jessie’s height concern was one of the side stories for this episode, and it all started when a kid asked her to be his partner in the dance contest. She’s fine with it until she realizes how much taller she is than him when she stands up. Her paranoia continues throughout the episode, and she even imagines that guys try to ask her to the dance, but she grows taller right before their very eyes.
Meanwhile, we get the first real good look at Screech’s obsession with Lisa with the other side story in this episode. He wants Lisa to be his dance partner, so he wears a fake tuxedo and dances with a creepy looking doll in the hall to impress her. Sadly, she already decided to go with some wannabe Zack Morris kid, who had asked her that morning.
Drama strikes the next day at school though, when Lisa comes in walking on crutches. She injured her foot kicking the TV when she found out that they discontinued her favorite nail polish, which causes the wannabe Zack Morris kid to back out. He decides to go with his “backup” instead. Ouch! How would you feel if you were that girl? “Well, the girl I really wanted to go to the dance with hurt her foot, so I guess I’ll take you instead.” Did he tell her to wait around just in case?
Kelly tries to get Zack and Slater to have a dance off to help her make a decision about who she should choose, but in a surprising twist, Zack decides to go to the dance with Jessie instead. Kelly’s reaction of absolute disappointment is hilarious. It’s not disappointment because she can’t have Zack as her partner, but disappointment that someone actually chose another girl over her. She won’t get to see the guys fighting over her anymore, which she totally loved.
The big dance contest finally happens with Casey Kasem hosting (yes, he’s actually in the episode). The main characters are shockingly the three finalist teams, and we get to see them perform their final dances. Each team does very well, but Lisa and Screech win with their new dance called “the sprain”.
I’m not entirely sure when Lisa decided to finally go with Screech. The last interaction we saw between them was Screech stepping up to take her after the wannabe Zack Morris kid backed out. Even after this, she seemed like she still had no interest in having him as her partner.
Anyway, the dance contest wraps up with everyone doing “the sprain”, and we’ve officially made it through episode one of Saved by the Bell.
Things We Learn
- Zack doesn’t know how to dance.
- Mr. Belding won the 1963 Chubby Checker twist-off.
- Jessie went to dance camp when she was a kid.
- Screech has loved Lisa since kindergarten when he glued his face to the back of her sweater.
- Jessie dreaming that she’s growing taller than all of the other guys right before their very eyes.
- Casey Kasem
- Slater with a muscle shirt tucked into his Bayside sweatpants in the opening scene.
Real Life Questions
- Why would a dance contest hosted by Casey Kasem take place at some local fast food restaurant? Wouldn’t having it in a gym, or banquet hall, or something along those lines make more sense? It could have still been sponsored by the Max.
Odd Moments of the Episode
- First, there’s a weird scene where the gang is in music class. Another music teacher got her head stuck in a tuba, and since there was apparently no teacher at this school that had a free period, their normal teacher has to conduct two music classes at once. He conducts them while they play Johan Sebastian Bach, but whenever he briefly leaves to go to the other class, they pick up the tempo. This is where the absolute weirdest moment of the episode happens. One of the times when the teacher leaves, Jessie just randomly starts dancing in front of the class (early auditions for Showgirls, perhaps?). It comes out of nowhere, and makes literally no sense. Funnily enough though, it ends up being the only part of the scene that has any type of connection to the rest of the episode. While Jessie is practicing her pole dance moves, some kid comes up to try to dance with her, but she immediately sits back down when she sees how much taller she is than him.
- Next, there’s a scene where Casey Kasem makes a surprise visit to Mr. Belding’s office. The always confused Mr. Belding thinks that he wants him to help host the event, but all he needs is a school banner. It’s a comical scene, and probably the funniest moment of the episode, but it’s totally unnecessary.
Teacher – “Today we’ll be playing a piece by Johan Sebastian Bach.”
Screech – “Piece? Why can’t we play the whole thing?”
Teacher – “Are you feeling what I’m feeling?”
Screech – “Yes sir…it was the fish sticks at lunch.”
Teacher – “You are what you eat, Powers.”
Zack – “There’s a lot of guys taller than you.”
Jessie – “Name one.”
Zack – “Kareem Abdul Jabbar.”
Great start to the series, as they established some storylines, had some funny moments, and got a cool celebrity appearance. It was a good episode to get viewers hooked to the new show.
Jessie teaching Zack how to dance, Zack helping Jessie to feel less insecure about her height, Slater giving Screech advice about Lisa, the whole gang sticking up for Lisa when her date dumps her, and everyone cheering on for Lisa and Screech to win the dance contest were some nice true friendship moments. Even Zack, the king of all schemes, who tends to sell out everyone close to him when there’s some sort of money-making scam involved, was there to help a friend in need.
The lighthearted jabbing tends to take over many Saved by the Bell episodes, to the point of where it’s surprising that these people are even friends. I think that it was important for a first episode to establish the caring portion of this friend group’s relationship before getting heavy into the rivalries.
How would you rate this episode?
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