Peacock’s ‘Saved by the Bell’ embraces old, new

Rick's Reviews

Original “Saved by the Bell cast members include Elizabeth Berkley as Jessica Spano, Mario Lopez as A.C. Slater, Tiffani Thiessen as Kelly Kapowski, Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Zack Morris. (Photo courtesy of Trae Patton/Peacock)

(KGET) — Television continues to prove that everything old is new again as the streaming service Peacock has revived the series “Saved by the Bell.” The television show about a group of school friends has been around in various forms since the late 1980s.

This updated series – set to launch Nov. 25 – will feature a new group of students but also some familiar faces. Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Mario Lopez reprise their roles as Jessie Spano and A.C. Slater.

Executive producers include Tracey Wigfield, who won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for her work on “30 Rock.” She’s joined by Franco Bario, a producer on “Good Morning, Miss Bliss” plus the original “Saved by the Bell,” “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” and “Saved by the Bell: The New Class.”

Lauren was approached by the studio to see if she would have any interest in returning the role that made her famous. She knew she wanted to be part of the recent incarnation when she met with Wigfield.

“And the fact that Franco Bario also was joining forces – he was one of our original producers – and to just know that this team was putting together and her creativity, her angle on bringing this back but with a whole new reimagining, something really relevant for now but still maintaining and embedding the things that people loved about it,” Lauren says. “Just her take on it, I was in immediately.”

What the creators of the new “Saved by the Bell” have come up with are the events following a decision by California governor Zack Morris (with Mark-Paul Gosselaar returning to the role) after he gets into hot water for closing too many underfunded high schools. He proposes they send the affected students to the schools in the state that have been getting the most funding – including Bayside High.

The influx of new students gives the privileged Bayside kids (who never have a problem that can’t be solved in twenty-two minutes) a much-needed dose of reality. 

Stepping back into her “Saved by the Bell” character was easy for Lauren because while it was a familiar part, there are a lot of differences.

“Just by virtue of us being grown up, that’s extremely different and just kind of understanding where we were,” Lauren says. “I got to look back at a lot of episodes to just remember the trajectory of maybe what Jessie, in my case, has done all these years that has led her back here was really important now being a mother to Belle’s character, Jamie, and her role and function at the school as the guidance counselor.

“After having a career it was just interesting to go back to understand what drove her and then what made her return home.  There’s no place like home, Bayside.”

After Lauren finally graduated from Bayside, she went on to a very diverse acting career including the starring role in the infamous “Showgirls.” Her credits also include multiple appearances on “CSI: Miami” plus roles in “The L Word” and the new version of “The Twilight Zone.”

The cast of “Saved by the Bell” includes John Michael Higgins also stars as Principal Toddman alongside the new class featuring Belmont Cameli, Dexter Darden, Mitchell Hoog, Alycia Pascual-Peña, Josie Totah and Haskiri Velazquez.

Having Lauren and Lopez as regulars on the new version of “Saved by the Bell” coupled with the cast of new faces is a way the show is being aimed at a large audience. Fans of the original will have a connection but it will have ways for younger viewers to want to watch.

“It’s such a beloved part of people’s lives and a certain touch point to when things were more simple and happier and just still, even with the new kind of let’s say edge,” Lauren says. “There’s heart at the core of everything still. Which is something that people also loved about it, is the human connection, relationships, dynamics that really were at the heart of it, all the hijinks and everything.

“But we still maintain that heart with all of the humor. So it can bridge both the people that were nostalgic and then the new generation.”

“Saved by the Bell” is one of several original shows being offered through Peacock. The streaming service is owned and operated by the Television and Streaming division of NBCUniversal.

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