Lost Episode of Saved by the Bell: It will change how think of the show...
Who Shrunk Saturday Morning?, was a promotional Saturday morning preview for that season’s upcoming cartoons hosted by the Saved by the Bell cast. These type of episodes were a tradition across the main networks, often airing during primetime right before the start of the upcoming season. The Bayside gang introduces the audience to some cartoons, which is somewhat ironic since they are now credited for killing-off cartoons by kickstarting an era of live-action Saturday morning programming.
Saved by the Bell was notoriously bad at airing episodes out of order. Who Shrunk Saturday Morning? aired about a month after the first Saved by the Bell episode aired. But the first aired episode was not the pilot and the pilot aired mid-season, which is weird since it introduced Slater on the first day of school. Therefor, based on the ending of this special (discussed at the end of this article), I would list it as “Episode 0” for the series.
You may want to watch before reading on < < spoilers! > >”, The video is posted below for your viewing pleasure. Some parts are missing at the beginning and end, so if you find a complete episode, let us know. I recommend watching it on a Saturday morning.
The start of this video starts with Kelly, AC Slater, Lisa and Jessie in the homeroom classroom at Bayside High in front of a TV. Zack and Screech appear to be late for their first morning of school.
Slater mentions a truant officer, who makes “Freddy Kruger look like the easter bunny”. The gang turns on a TV they are standing by and immediately find Zack and Screech on the screen and amazingly, they can communicate with each other. They appear to be situated in a pitch-black room filled with static strings of light.
We are all familiar with Screech’s early genius on the show. He single-handedly built a robot that still easily beats today’s artificial intelligence. However, somewhere along the way, maybe after the incident of getting struck by lightening and being able to transmit radio through his mouth, he progressively became dumber, eventually becoming a freakish assistant principal that could barely function in The New Class. But before all of that, his pinnacle of innovation, previously unknown, was a “shrinking machine” able to teleport someone to a “television wavelength”. When Screech realized that his invention worked, he asks someone to go to his basement and flip the reverse the switch on minimizer. Slater says it’s a man’s job, but instead of Jessie affirming her feminism, Lisa steps up and says a girl can do it just as well. Zack also gets a dig in about how Slater’s not a man, and I note this is the early phase of Zack Morris before his voice dropped and he filled out with less than 10% body fat.
We see a view of Screech’s basement, which will never be seen again.
Lisa and Slater get sucked into the beam and are locked into a grippy embrace.
When they reappear in the quantum TV world, Screech’s possessiveness of Lisa comes out and he tells Slater to get off his lady while Zack cheers him on. Lisa deftly brushes them all off with her red hat society attire.
With all these constructs out of the way to explain how they are now in a land of television, we hear Alf yelling for makeup. Alf is in his usual puppet form, but conjures up his cartoon self through his dressing-room mirror. They tell Alf if they don’t get back to school, they’ll get kicked out forever. And if you’re a connoisseur of 80’s TV, you won’t be surprised by the Dan Quayle reference. He sends them off to the “Master Programmer”. They have to drag off Screech as he asks ALF about “Gordon Shumway and a bazooka”, which is odd since that is ALF’s name.
They follow the circuit path road to “Flash” the circuit maker. Fans of the show will notice that he is portrayed by the Micro Machines actor John Moschitta, Jr., who later plays Mr. Testaverde in the lightening episode I referenced earlier. He wants to know what show they are part of and in a meta exchange they tell them they have no show, but he is convinced they just have low ratings.
Back to the classroom, we see Ms. Badwin the truant officer, portrayed by Marsha Warfield, who also played a bailiff on NBC’s awesome show Night Court. But in LA / the Palisades, the officer’s uniform is transformed into something a security guard would have worn at the Neverland Ranch at the time. She’s pissed that the crew is missing and she is going to sick her attack guards on them to I am guessing kill them off (aka permanent detention) for their crimes against humanity.
The officer says they only have 2 hours before their demise, and they get caught up in Mr. Miyagi's drama over a missing shrine with an intro to a new Karate Kid cartoon.
They then go through a foggy door into Smurf’s village and we see some clips of The Smurfs cartoon. I don’t remember them being able to travel in time...
They then come across Camp Candy with John Candy. He offers them to hang around join in the camp activities. He shows them some previews with a magical map. I have to say this cartoon looks really interesting, what happened to it? Candy tells them the Master Programmer is upset because he needs one more new show for his line-up.
We find the group lost among a signpost with a bunch of arrows referencing other NBC shows, Cheers sticks out among them.
They meet back up with Flash and head over to a giant controller that they can stand on. As Screech and Slater manipulate a joystick together, they converge on the Captain N: The Game Masters cartoon.
If you've been following the 80's Playground Saved by The Bell News Thread , that image of the giant Nintendo looking joystick controller showed up with this in-front-of-the-scenes photo:
Kelly and Jessie now look like they are in music class and tune-in to find the rest of the gang in the Chipmunks neighborhood.
There’s some good continuity here since we see Kelly with a cello and Jessie with a flute, their instruments in another class. Badwin comes back and complains about the terrible Chipmunks music and says the crew has 5 more minutes before she does them in.
Just in time of their dire final moments, they come upon the Master Programmer’s lair (played by Sherman Hemsley). He sits in front of an elaborate array of screens and lights.
The gang is scared and he has them by the balls.
He uses his position of leverage to pitch them the idea that he wants their talents to be broadcasted in the remaining unfilled timeslot. They have no idea what the concept would look like, so he gives them a glimpse into his crystal ball to their collective future. He declares “Saturday Mornings will never be the same”. He calls it Saved by the Bell with an ominous laugh. AC Slater asks why that name, and is told they will know soon enough. They are desperate and make a deal, and the whole thing has a creepy vibe to it. With a wave of his hands he sends the crew back to Bayside.
They asked why that name, and we find that right after they appear before officer Badwin out of thin air in the hallway, the bell goes off. Slater in his cocky swagger, say “Saved by the Bell, eh, Ms. Magwin”. Zack gives a typical blow-off statement to tidy up the situation and all is good again.
The ending really blew my mind, because it is an origin story that is not easily discerned through watching the regular show. Peter Engel, in his wisdom, decided there needed to be a reason for some of the outrageous aspects that are trademarks for the show.
I have read a few theories try to explain Zack Morris’ talking to the 4th wall and being able to stop time. One theory, is the show is just Zack Morris’ dream since it centers around him being an omnipotent character compared to everyone else. However, this episode reveals the Bayside gang knew they were the subjects of a TV show, in perhaps an early example of a scripted reality show hybrid, mixed with a documentary/mockumentary setup. They become the only students who ever do anything at Bayside and everyone else just floats around them in the background. The quantum magic of television in this universe, is woven together in static strings of lights that make you wonder what is wave or particle just as we wondered how Zack can stop time. Zack talks to the camera because he knows he is on a TV show meant for Saturday mornings.
Another mystery potentially clarified is the Tori paradox. Kelly and Jessie were not with the others as they pleaded for their return to Bayside with the Master Programmer. Therefore, they were not contractually bound to the network. Perhaps Tori had made some kind of deal with the Master Programmer, and she was sent off to Bayside for some unknown reason. Tori's presence upset the group balance and time-continuum on the show with the girls going into a tug-of-war of screen time between Kelly and Jessie as if they were oppositely charged particles. Several episodes into the Tori mess, the Master programmer realized the mistake he made from declining ratings and Tori was booted from the show right before the graduation episode.
One major issue unfortunately not addressed is the lack of plausible continuity between Good Morning Miss Bliss and Saved by the Bell. Some theories have been floated to explain how junior high school students Zack, Lisa, and Screech move to the Palisades along with their principal Mr. Belding. All I have to say is this Episode 0 belongs more with the regular series than the Miss Bliss episodes.
This episode probably ranks among one of the cheesiest, but having seen them all, it is a blast to view some new content. It is like seeing the few minutes they cut out of episodes for the syndicated versions of episodes that make the stories just a little bit more concrete. It was also interesting to see some retro cartoons and Alf and other actors interact with the kids from Bayside. It would be great if the episode received an official release, it would have made for great DVD (or perhaps future Blu-ray) bonus material. So after watching this episode what do you think?