When Saved by the Bell‘s hair-gelled hero Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) first strutted into Bayside High on Aug. 20, 1989, he quickly found a home in the yearning hearts of young girls. Despite poor reviews, NBC’s teen sitcom became a ratings success (averaging 5.6 million viewers at its peak during the 1991-92 season) and a staple of the network’s Saturday-morning lineup. The series (which was birthed from the 1988 show Good Morning, Miss Bliss) spanned five seasons, inspired two spin-offs and made-for-TV movies…and don’t forget those mall tours packed with screaming (or should we say Screech-ing) teens. We offer five reasons that, nearly two decades after its May 22, 1993, finale, Bell is an enduring part of pop culture.
1. It has lasting youth appeal
Even Justin Bieber is in on the Bell love. In June he wore a Kelly Kapowski T-shirt to an awards show. Never mind that the Biebs was born a year after the show’s original run ended.
2. It lives on in syndication
The ’90s may be all that thanks to the new TeenNick block reairing some of the decade’s favorite Nickelodeon programming, but Saved by the Bell was one of the first examples of the blooming teen-TV nostalgia revival. The show has remained in continual syndication on TBS since 1994. Die-hard viewers have never had to say goodbye to Slater, Zack & Co., and new audiences have signed on every year.
3. It showed that teens could be serious, too
While known for its high jinks, Bell had a dramatic side as well. It filtered environmental and social concerns through a teen lens and — along with Beverly Hills, 90210, which started a year after SBTB — dealt with a variety of high school issues. (Who can forget Jessie’s harrowing caffeine-pill addiction?!)
4. It knew its archetypes
Bayside had all the high school regulars — preppy, jock, cheerleader, nerd, and even lovable adult mentor — a format that flourishes in shows like Glee.
5. Its alumni are everywhere!
Gosselaar stars on the new series Franklin & Bash, Tiffani Thiessen is on White Collar, Elizabeth Berkley found a permanent place in camp culture with Showgirls, and Mario Lopez is still showing off his abs.