How 'Saved by the Bell' changed after the pilot
Twenty-five years ago, Saved by the Bell began teaching teens important life lessons, and that didn’t just include how to “get yourself a look” or be on time for school. Rather, it demonstrated what it meant to be a true friend, how caffeine pills are always a bad idea, and of course, that wearing jean-on-jean is always acceptable.
But reflecting back on how the series began, it wasn’t always about Zack Morris, A.C. Slater, Kelly Kapowski, and the gang. In fact, the kids were more of a secondary storyline.
In honor of the show’s anniversary, I went back and rewatched the pilot that started it all. Here are the biggest differences between the show it started as and the one we all remember it to be. UPDATE: While Good Morning, Miss Bliss was conceived as an entirely different show, it’s now more or less considered to be season 1 of Saved By the Bell. On Netflix, an episode of Good Morning, Miss Bliss is listed as episode 1 of Saved by the Bell; it even uses the Saved by the Bell theme song.
Miss Bliss was the main character: Hayley Mills’ Miss Bliss was 100 percent the focal point of the Saved by the Bell pilot. In fact, the show was originally called Good Morning, Miss Bliss and was set in Indiana as opposed to California. Instead of Zack, it was Miss Bliss’ voiceover that kicked off the series, which focused on how returning to school was a bigger deal for the teachers than it was for the kids. From there, we followed her through her day, her interactions with students, and even her hot date that night. Instead of going to Zack’s house, Zack showed up at hers for some guidance at the end of the episode. Their relationship gave off a Mr. Feeny-esque vibe that would later disappear from the series.
Oh, hey, Tina: Joan Ryan’s Tina served as Miss Bliss’ overenthusiastic bestie within the four walls of the school. Tina was the school art teacher who couldn’t seem to take a compliment. She didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose. They probably just needed more teachers, considering they were originally telling the adults’ story.
Where’s the rest of the gang? Looking around these familiar halls, we were missing a few very crucial players. Specifically, A.C. Slater, Kelly Kapowski, and Jessie Spano were nowhere to be seen. In the pilot, Zack’s best friend was a Slater look-a-like named Mikey, and Lisa Turtle spent her time with Nikki, while Zack tried to romance Karen. Screech? Well, he was always there.
What’s a cafeteria? Either The Max wasn’t built yet or the gang couldn’t get there because they didn’t yet have their drivers licenses, but either way, they used to eat in the actual school cafeteria, which also seemed to serve as the school auditorium? Let’s just say The Max was a big upgrade.
No locker room: Mostly thanks to A.C. Slater, the locker room would eventually become one of the most visited sets on the show, but in the pilot, it’s nowhere to be seen. We also don’t get to see any of those amazing wrestling onesies.
No time-outs: Without Zack as the show’s narrator, there was no opportunity for him to call a “time out” and tell us all about what was really going on in any given situation, a.k.a. what he’d just lied about. Although in the pilot, he was still a (lovable) liar.
Mr. Belding’s office: It could’ve been camera angles, but it didn’t appear that Mr. Belding’s office had its own entrance in the pilot, but rather was just attached to the main office. Once the show switched the focus to the students, it probably realized how often they’d be in Mr. Belding’s office and had to give everyone easier access.
All that being said, a few things were the same, such as the theme song, the fashion, and for the most part, the set. Once the show realized what a star it had in Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s Zack Morris, it’d be good to go.
Saved by the Bell