Review: The Bayside Kids Are Back and 'Saved By The Bell' Still Offers Laughs

by Padraic Maroney

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 23, 2021

Lark Voorhies as Lisa Turtle Elizabeth Berkley Lauren as Jessie Spano Mario Lopez as A.C. Slater Tiffani Thiessen as Kelly Morris Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Zack Morris in 'Saved b the Bell,' Season 2
Lark Voorhies as Lisa Turtle Elizabeth Berkley Lauren as Jessie Spano Mario Lopez as A.C. Slater Tiffani Thiessen as Kelly Morris Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Zack Morris in 'Saved b the Bell,' Season 2  (Source:Trae Patton/Peacock)

When it comes to the rash of reboots and sequel series, it's safe to say that many have growing pains during their first seasons. The showrunners face a tough job of trying to service old fans while also creating something new enough to welcome new fans into the fold. For the "Saved by the Bell" sequel, the show took a heightened reality approach that was instantly forgettable but garnered enough laughs to warrant a second season.

Upon initial inspection of the new season, however, it doesn't seem that the writers learned much from the first season. Quickly addressing the COVID elephant in the room and moving into a post-pandemic world, the show still treats many of the characters as caricature plot devices. In the first handful of episodes, the characters don't really develop much more of a personality beyond their basic casting breakdown traits.

The only one who this really works for is Lexi, played by the hilarious trans actress Josie Totah, who is so over the top to begin with that there's nothing too absurd that they can throw out that feels out of place for her. Even more, Totah is adept enough to be able to sell even the silliest of lines for all of the laughs she can get while also handling more dramatic fare, such as when the show tackles transphobia.

Just as you're about to throw in the towel and head out to the Malibu Sands Beach Club, something peculiar happens in the sixth episode. The series actually starts to take its characters seriously and course corrects. No longer do the characters do things simply to further the episode's plot; they actually begin to feel fleshed out and have more depth. It helps that in the second half of the season the kids are all rallying around a common goal of trying to compete against Valley in the spirit competition.

This unevenness is evident amongst the legacy characters as well. In the first episode, the former Baysiders keep cryptically referring to going to The Max later. It's never mentioned why, but once they arrive, it's clear that they have gathered for Screech's memorial. There's even a burger being named in his honor. Afterwards, there's a short montage plays of Dustin Diamond, who passed away earlier this year. It feels half-baked at best, but at least they invited Lark Voorhies to appear in person this time. The show has also made Voorhies a producer this season, which corrects a misstep from the previous edition by excluding her, except for a last-minute cameo.

In the second half, however, the girls all get to set up booths at the school's career fair, which leads Kelly to question her own career path. In the following episodes she consults with Jessie about possibly going to medical school — a throwback to her career path during "The College Years" — this late in life.

Fleshing out the characters and letting them grow also helps the actors, who seem to get more comfortable as the stories get better. Along with Totah, Mitchell Hoog as scheming Mac Morris, Alycia Pascual-Pena as jock Aisha, and Belmont Cameli as the dim-witted Jamie all come into their own before the finale. A reoccurring cast of characters also get moments to shine as well.

Even at its worst, "Saved by the Bell" still offers laughs. But if you can make it through the first few episodes, the pay off comes in the back half. Not only are there more laughs, but the show finally comes into its own. It is able to still be funny without the characters suffering. Hopefully they can keep the momentum going into any possible third season.

"Saved by the Bell" Season 2 is streaming on Peacock beginning November 24, 2021.