These days, nostalgia is an incredible elixir, soothing television viewers who are yearning for a simpler time. It’s no wonder then, why a reimagined version of NBC’s Saved By the Bell is being welcomed with open arms. This time, Peacock, the broadcast network’s new streaming service, will premiere the series, with members of the original production.
During Peacock’s virtual Television Critics Press Tour, executive producer Tracey Wigfield talked about the series, which originally starred Elizabeth Berkley, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani Thiessen, Lark Voorhees and Mario Lopez.
“The fun thing of our show is Bayside is sort of this bubble that is a little bit like the Bayside you saw in the original show, where it’s a bunch of kind of weird, clueless kids who never have any real problems. And there’s a lot of fun for me in getting to revisit this show that I loved so much growing up.”
While the original series was basically a kind of Saturday-morning show for kids about high school, this is a single-camera, edgier comedy that Wigfield believes will be exciting for people who love the original. “But also if you never saw the show, it’s just a funny comedy about high school in 2020 that I think you’ll enjoy.”
The comedy series will often have moments that hearken to the original show.
“The fun mix of this and the reason why I wanted the premise to be kids from this other school coming into this weird Bayside bubble and being like, ‘hey, this place is really strange’ and responding to it as though they’re walking into this original show in the ‘90s, was so we could do a mix…There’s things like where we poke fun at stories on the original show, mixed with larger arcs and love triangles and we follow characters…hopefully it’s a nice mix of both.”
Original cast member Elizabeth Berkley was excited about her involvement in the new series.
“When I was approached by the studio and sat down with my first meeting with (executive producer) Tracey Wigfield, it was to me just a done deal on the spot,” acknowledged Berkley.
“And the fact that Franco Bario also was joining forces –he was one of our original producers –and to just know that this team that Tracey was putting together and her creativity, her angle on bringing this back but with a whole new reimagining, something really relevant for now but still maintaining and embedding the things that people loved about it, just her take on it, I was in immediately!” she enthused.
Berkley noted that fans have shown the cast how much they have loved the comedy series, which debuted in 1989 and aired for four seasons (as well as one College Years season).
“For many years of course, different generations have come up to all of us from the original show,” she said. “The meaning of the show and the love they have for it is so palpable, it’s so meaningful for them… what better time to bring something back that means so much to so many people and is a part of their childhood and joy, but then introduce it to a whole new generation with this amazingly-talented cast!”
Trans actress Josie Totah, who plays cheerleader Lexi, is equally thrilled to be part of the series. “Getting to play just a transgender role on screen is obviously very rare. There is almost zero representation of people in the trans community. Which, growing up as a young trans girl, I feel like never seeing myself made me never feel truly accepted by the world.”
Totah loves the richness of her multi-layered character. “She’s in theater, she’s like evil. She’s the popular girl in school. But she just happens to be transgender and I feel like getting to do that is such an incredible opportunity. And I just can’t wait for people to be able to see themselves on screen in that way.”
The new cast of Bayside students include John Michael Higgins, Haskiri Velazquez, Alycia Pascual-Pena, Belmont Cameli, Dexter Darden and Mitchell Hoog.
Although the new Saved By the Bell won’t be one of the titles available at Peacock’s launch, it is expected to debut some time in 2020. One looming question does remain about the upcoming series – where the heck is Screech? What the bell?
Susan L. Hornik is an active contributor to Los Angeles Times, Grammy.com, Shondaland.com, InStyle, SFGate, LA Weekly, Irvine Weekly, MensHealth.com, AARP.org, Los Angeles Blade, Washington Blade, Industrym.com.com, Videoage, Alo, Discover Hollywood