‘Saved By The Bell: The College Years’ Is A Time Capsule of Early ’90s NBC Awesomeness

136

2020’s Thanksgiving will be one like no other. Most of us won’t be going home and will be playing it safe by staying local this fourth Thursday of November, making it one to remember in the years to come.

And yet, I dare 2020’s Thanksgiving to try and eclipse 1993’s.

Why, was there a turkey shortage that year? Or perhaps some sort of scandal at the Macy’s Parade involving some inappropriate Snoopy and Betty Boop balloon-rubbing?

Nope. On Tuesday, November 23, 1993, Saved by the Bell: The College Years aired its very special Thanksgiving episode, “A Thanksgiving Story.” While not exactly an all-time classic, this time capsule provides a window to a simpler, happier and totally awesome time and place.

Now it’s pretty easy to have forgotten about Saved by the Bell: The College Years. The primetime continuation of the classic Saturday Morning high school sitcom finds the gang (minus Lisa Turtle and Jessica Spano, whose parents must not have shelled out enough bribe money to pass their kids off as rowers like Lori Laughlin did) at California U, with two new female leads (Anne Tremko and Kiersten Warren) and one former NFL defensive tackle turned dorm resident assistant (Bob Golic, terribly out of his depth performing terrible comedy). It ran in the timeslot opposite ABC’s Full House, Fox’s Roc, and half of CBS’s Rescue 911, and quickly proved it was in the bottom of that class.

The reviews were scathing…

They’re not wrong. The show didn’t work. Even the theme song is a travesty (“Standing on the edge of tomorrow… TODAY!“). Not enrolling Lisa or Jessie was a big mistake. Even Executive Producer Peter Engel admitted as such. And after 19 episodes, The College Years flunked off of prime time, never to receive its Bachelor of Arts degree.

But I didn’t come here to bury Saved by the Bell: The College Years, I promise. I came to praise it!

As time has passed from their original airings, Saved By The Bell has become less of a joke and more of a cherished cultural icon, and rightfully so. To this day, I watch the entire series at least once a year. It’s fun to escape over and over again with the gang in their hallowed hallways and sipping on sodas at The Max. It’s not just my generation, as newbies have been sucked into the Bayside by the wayside ways decade after decade ever since.

And none of us will ever let go. There’s plenty of SBTB vittles to carve up these days, like Zack Morris is Trash, the podcast Zack To The Future where Mark-Paul Gosselaar watches and reviews the original series FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, and the Peacock’s refreshed Bell offering that looks to appeal to fans both young and old.

While The College Years will NEVER be revered as the original series is, it’s still canon, a part of the Saved By The Bell universe that exists. You cannot deny it. Sure, it’s not Shakespeare, but hey, it’s better than the New Class!

And if you watch only ONE College Years episode this week, or any week for that matter, make it Episode 11 – “A Thanksgiving Story.” You’ll thank me (s)later.

Plot? It matters not, but the set-up is… Zack, Kelly, Slater and his high-pitched annoying girlfriend are set to drive back home for Thanksgiving, run into car trouble and end up right back at college, where R.A. Bob Golic is desperate for some serious help with his feed-the-needy Thanksgiving dinner. For unimportant reasons, Golic is now wheelchair-bound and isn’t getting much assistance from Screech or the other new female cast member we still don’t care about. Luckily the gang’s all here and ready to pitch in and save Thanksgiving! Not really, but what comes next is the real Thanksgiving delight…

In strolls golden voiced sportscaster Marv Albert, during NBC’s Thanksgiving football halftime show (Dallas 67, Detroit 3!!!), to interview Golic about his good deeds! But it’s more of an embarrassment than the shining spotlight we all had hoped for.

marv screech

OH, NO!!! HOW CAN WE SAVE THIS ROTTEN TURKEY OF A DAY???

(NBC) HEROES TO THE RESCUE!!!

In comes NBC’s seaQuest DSV‘s Jonathan Brandis (R.I.P.) with a much needed cooked turkey! Kelly Kapowski loses it just at the sight of him! What is he doing ABOVE sea level???

brandis

There’s a lot of mouths to feed, so maybe one turkey isn’t enough turkey???

WELL THANK GAWD NBC’s Night Court‘s Marsha Warfield follows Brandis in with another one! Kelly freaks out again. She’s obviously a huge Roz fangirl. Marsha makes a joke about burned turkeys past to make Goliath feel better about himself, and then requests a fork and to be pointed to the direction of the yams!! YOU TELL ‘EM ROZ!!!

roz

But what about the all important T-giving dessert????

OH, DON’T YOU WORRY – Jenna von Oÿ’s got two pumpkin pies raring to go!!! And after Kelly hyperventilates, pointing out that Six from NBC’s Blossom is in da house, Screech corrects her, telling her it’s only ‘one’, not ‘six’ people from Blossom. Oh Screech, I know you didn’t write these dog-awful lines, but you always delivered them as if you did!

six pie

How do you top Jenna von Oÿ and her pies??? You don’t, but…

How about a cameo from America’s Principal, Mr. Richard Belding and some of his famous mashed potatoes!! Kelly, for once, restrains herself. But Beldo’s so taken with seeing Six from Blossom that he rushes over to her to get Ms. von Oÿ to autograph his potatoes!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oÿ, oÿ, oÿ, oÿ… what is going on here?

belding

That has got to be it, right?

NEVER.

This is already the super greatest Thanksgiving guest list of all-time, but then non-NBC* heartthrob Brian Austin Green walks in with cranberry sauce!! JIGGLE JIGGLE!!!! Although they could have shown a shred of puniness and made him bring his signature dish – Brian Austin Green-bean casserole! Kelly’s about to plotz, and it’s no real surprise why, as the two dated in real life from 1992-1994 (before they would co-star together on Beverly Hills 90210… the College Years).

brian austin green

[*Brian Austin Green DID appear in one episode of SBTB forerunner Good Morning, Miss Bliss]

What an amazing infomercial for NBC programming! I mean, what a Thanksgiving!!! Although there was plenty of room at the table for even more NBC guests!!! Imagine if Empty Nest‘s Richard Mulligan had stopped by, or Unsolved Mysteries‘ Robert Stack was on a nearby case and needed a bit of nourishment. I mean, they could have had a crossover event with another new 1993 NBC show and had Valerie Bertinelli’s Café Americain waitress character on hand to serve up food AND laughs!!! Maybe her then-hubby Eddie Van Halen could have made his second NBC cameo within a month!

Thanks for existing, you very special episode.

While our homes this Turkey Day may be filled with less people, it doesn’t mean it has to be less of a Thanksgiving. Get your gravy and juices flowing by inviting the Saved By The Bell crew & “celebrity” NBC friends into your house and be thankful you can socially enjoy it all, from a distance.

Be safe. Stay home, and gobble up Saved By The Bell: The College Years “A Thanksgiving Story”.

NBCing is NBelieving.

Cheers.

Michael Palan is a New York based writer and multimedia producer. He got an A+ in bowling at a midwestern university, and once handed Kurt Vonnegut his coat. In his free time he enjoys Edward Hopper paintings and eating fried chicken.

Watch Saved By The Bell: The College Years Episode 11 (“A Thanksgiving Story”) on Hulu