Grab your brick phone, put on your neon tank top, and get ready to go back to Bayside High in Peacock’s Saved by the Bell reboot.
In the series’ opening moments, California governor Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) gets into hot water for closing too many underfunded high schools and proposes they send the affected students to the most well-funded schools in the state – including Bayside High. This storyline is what immediately sets Bell apart from other reboots: it actually has something important to say.
The arrival of said students shakes things up for the teens at Bayside — including Mac Morris (Mitchell Hoog), Zack and Kelli’s (Tiffani Thiessen) troublemaker son; Jamie Spano (Belmont Cameli), Zack’s best friend and son of Jessie (Elizabeth Berkley Lauren); and Lexi (Josie Totah), the most popular girl in school whose transition was the subject of a reality show.
The Douglas High transfer students — led by Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez); Aisha (Alycia Pascual-Peña); and Devante (Dexter Darden) — allow the series to explore themes of class and poverty in a way that feels both fresh and nuanced. Sure, the series is full of inspirational lessons and heartwarming speeches that hallmarked the original; but showrunner Tracey Wigfield and the rest of the writers understand not all of these issues can be solved in 22-minutes.
The show also manages to blend the humor and heart with ease. For example, an episode early in the season begins with Mac and Jamie unknowingly vying over the same woman — a gag that feels straight out of the ’90s sitcom — before switching to a plot involving missing iPads, wrongful accusations, and a deeper discussion about implicit bias. These storylines are more timely than ever, never feeling out of place or forced.
We would be remiss not to mention the casting of transgender actress Josie Totah (who also serves as producer) to portray the role of Lexi, whose character has recently transitioned. Casting actual LGBTQ+ actors to portray LGBTQ+ characters is unfortunately still a rarity in Hollywood, making such representation a breath of fresh air. Mainstream LGBTQ+ visibility onscreen is centered around a character’s struggle to come out or come to terms with their sexuality and/or gender identity, which is not the case here. Totah and the writers subvert expectations with the character: being transgender informs parts of who Lexi is, but this never defines her or her story arcs.
Fans of classic Saved by the Bell will find plenty to love here as well. Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley Lauren reprise their roles (as A.C. Slater and Jessie Spano, respectively) and a running subplot throughout the first season revolves around Jessie’s troubled marriage and A.C.’s lingering feelings for his former flame. Though Lopez and Berkley Lauren are the only returning series regulars, other characters — Zack (Gosselaar), Kelli (Thiessen), Lisa (Lark Voorhies), and more — pop in for guest spots sure to put a smile on your face. There are plenty of Easter eggs along the way — from the obvious (Daisy’s fourth-wall-breaking “time outs” à la Zack) to the obscure (Tori’s unexplained disappearance) guaranteed to please even the most diehard fan.
Saved by the Bell is a clever tribute to the classic series, delivering both heart and humor in equal measure. Fans of the original will find a lot to love, as will newbies to Bayside High — just be sure to avoid anyone offering caffeine pills.
Stream all 10 episodes of Saved by the Bell season one November 25, only on Peacock.
Tracey Wigfield serves as writer and executive producer for the series, alongside executive producer Franco Bario. Peter Engel also serves as executive producer. Saved By The Bell is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group.