Film and TV

Summer TV Club: Saved By the Bell: "Jessie's Song"

This week Jef, Pete and I exposed ourselves into the cruel world of high school pressures, drug addiction and overly-teased bangs; we watched Saved By the Bell the episode where Jessie gets addicted to caffeine pills! And guess what, choosing this episode was not my idea, it was Pete's.

I won't go into great detail as to the contents of this episode because you should just watch it, solely for its musical interlude, but the general idea of this episode is this: Jesse (Elizabeth Berkley) wants an A in geometry and for some reason she can't wrap her curly-haired, scrunchie-wearing head around it. But as she is a "nerd," she is desperate to go to Stanford, like all nerds on TV shows in the 1990s. In a studying frenzy, Jessie finds that gobbling up caffeine pills to keep herself going is the only way to cram for her upcoming geometry test.

In addition to all of this drug-addled behavior, Zach (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) discovers that the girls are really good at impromptu singing the Pointer Sisters and gets them an audition with a real record producer (another thing that seemed to always happen in the '90s). And off we go...

ABBY: I forgot how progressive this show was in Zach breaking the fourth wall and addressing the camera specifically. So many television shows have adopted this method. Should SBTB take credit for advancing this contemporary television style?

JEF: Well, it had been done on television before, but never really to the extent Morris did it. I think that yes, Saved by the Bell should receive credit for giving the practice a wider legitimacy.

PETE: The only thing Saved by the Bell should be credited for advancing is Hypercolor and the splendors of acid wash. And if I may say, it's a much less effective use of the medium than Thomas Magnum's voiceovers.

ABBY: The girls (Lisa, Kelly and Jessie) just bust into song at random moments and no one finds this odd or nerdy in any way. What is this shit, Glee?

JEF: No one finds it odd or nerdy because the entire Bayside universe is controlled by Zack's perception of it. He pictures the girls singing, they sing. You're not dealing with actual physics and laws here.

PETE: Whoa there, Copernicus. This ain't St. Elsewhere. That teased-up leotard fever dream was the last gasp of non-cynical teen entertainment before Kurt Cobain turned the youth of America into self-pitying creeps.

ABBY: What exactly are going on with Slater's jeans? Did you ever own a pair of Cavaricci jeans in the '90s?

JEF: Nah, I tried to cash in on the JNCO thing, but failed so hard I just went back to black thrift store jeans.

PETE: I was born a Jordache man, I'll die a Jordache man. Besides, I could never take medical advice from a guy with two buckles on his pants.

ABBY: Jessie has a dream/nightmare that the only college she will get into is Surf University where they major in hanging loose. Were either of your college experiences anything like that? I went to an art school so we majored in hanging tough and paintings.

JEF: I went to the theater program at the University of Houston. I'm not sure I'm qualified to compare my dreams to those of a someone who dreams of Stanford.

PETE: I was a Liberal Arts major at UT. Surf University looks like CalTech by comparison.

ABBY: Let's talk about Hot Sundae (the name given to the girls' group) and their Jane Fonda-esque music video. How embarrassed do you think these actresses are when they rewatch this now? Why are they in a dungeon gym chamber? Is this what Christian Grey's torture-sex chamber looks like?

JEF: Did you just ask if Elizabeth Berkley is embarrassed about a past performance?

PETE: Olivia Newton-John has much to answer for. And I guarantee you Christian Grey's imagination couldn't possibly have conjured the elegant simplicity of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen jumping rope in slow motion.

ABBY: I love me some good crackhead moments on TV, especially when it involves good girls going crazy going from moments of total elation to a complete and utter breakdown. This action is always paired with horrible acting. But were you touched by Zach and Jessie's relationship in her breakdown moment?

JEF: Zack and Jessie always had a very odd relationship. She's generally the only one who deals with him on an equal level, and for the most part they usually stood united in the end. In Advanced Bell Philosophy it's been postulated that Jessie represents Zack's conscience, and appeals to his better nature.

PETE: I just can't believe we're this far into a Saved by the Bell discussion and have yet to mention Screech.

ABBY: Jessie has some awesome posters on her walls.

JEF: So would you if you were that freakin' high.

PETE: I just remember a peace sign and the ballerina poster my sister had in her room when she was eight.

ABBY: Looking back, do you think this episode had any impact on Paul Verhoeven casting Berkley in her most seminal role as Nomi Malone from Showgirls?

JEF: I think it had more to do with the fact that his first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth choices all turned him down when they were offered the role. It did show off that Berkley could move at least.

PETE: ... sorry, I was (re)watching that scene where she bangs Kyle MacLachlan in the pool. You can really see all of the $2 million Joe Eszterhas was paid up there on the screen.

Next week we decided that we would take all of this "Red Wedding" business head on and for all of you who have not yet watched Game of Thrones' "The Rains of Castamere" episode watch it with us and marvel how we will even be able to find a way to make fun of the most horrific episode of television in the past five years. It's not on Netflix but you can still catch it on demand or by borrowing your friend's HBO GO password. Did I just say that?

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig