Back in the 90s there was this thing called Generation X. They were slackers, and spent much of their time obsessing over pop culture and putting off the rest of their lives because, whoah, the future, yeah? They spent their days on their sofas, talking about conspiracies and indie rock and girls they liked but would never talk to (because they were almost all boys), and watching TV. They watched old sitcoms and kids’ channels, like Nickleodeon and Cartoon Network.
This sociological exposé should not be shocking to anyone who’s ever watched the films of Ethan Hawke or read a Douglas Coupland novel, and it’s a shameful way of explaining how I – in my mid-twenties – came to love a show called Saved By The Bell.
Although they didn’t know it – because they hadn’t created it at the time – SBTB’s core audience was ‘tweens, mostly girls. ‘Tweens were those between childhood and teenage years, old enough to grasp the gravitas of a series which sometimes had Very Special Episodes but not yet old enough to dismiss the whole shebang as groundless fantasy. Like ‘tweens, we were able to suspend our disbelief long enough to enjoy the show, mainly because we were too lazy to worry about things like consistency, and quality, and acting.
That’s not to rubbish SBTB. It was – and remains – very watchable, and reading So Excited, So Scared: The Saved by the Bell Retrospective by Stuart Millard brings it all back, only with time-worn added Screech hatred.
Millard wrote the book on a whim. He noticed the complete series was available on DVD and dared his Twitter followers to buy it for him, promising he’d review each and every episode. A few days later, the DVD set turned up in his mailbox, and he embarked on a six-month journey into obsession.
As well as an episode-by-episode recap, he provides new-to-me background on the creation of the show, as well as the intricacies of producing a sequential TV show with a casual disregard for continuity. This last quality was stretched to breaking point by the show’s fourth season, which – as Millard humorously and patiently details – alternated its episodes between two different casts, as well as throwing in rejected episodes from previous seasons, all to make it to the magical number of episodes required for syndication.
Beyond the show, Millard covers What Happened Next? for the main cast and the show’s creator, as well as the slurry-filled, truth-shunning exposés that are Dustin “Screech” Diamond’s autobiography, Behind The Bell, and the Lifetime “true” movie based on that book.
Although watching a show meant for 9- to 12-year olds as a – functioning, no-GenX – adult must have been wearisome, let alone one with such an absolute twonk as Screech in a main role, Millard’s humour and chattiness never dims, and I’m not ashamed to admit that, reader, I LOL’d. A lot.
If you have any fond memories of SBTB, this book is for you. Sure, it’ll mark you out as “that slightly odd one who keeps telling me facts about Bayside High”, but it’s a small price to pay for hours of wallowing in comfortable nostalgia. Go Bayside! Valley sucks!
So Excited, So Scared: The Saved by the Bell Retrospective by Stuart Millard, available on Amazon.co.uk for Kindle, £5.99