Television show spin-offs are a tricky business. In a lot of cases, they don't seem to do very well, but in other cases, they do extremely well.
But did you know that there are a select few television series that have had their spin-offs last longer than the original show?
One example that I can come up with spur of the moment is “The Facts of Life”. It ran for one season longer than the show it spun-off from, “Diff'rent Strokes”.
And today's television show is also a special case in which the spin-off lasted longer than the original show.
And it aired on Saturday mornings to boot!
Most people in my generation probably have seen at least one episode of “Saved By The Bell”, the NBC Saturday morning series that aired between 1989 and 1993. The show itself was a reworking of the 1988 series “Good Morning, Miss Bliss”, which starred Hayley Mills. As many of you know, the original series starred Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Dustin Diamond, Lark Voorhies, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley, and Dennis Haskins as Mr. Belding.
The show became a huge success, and everything from comic books to dolls were manufactured of popular characters Zack Morris, A.C. Slater, and Kelly Kapowski. I certainly remember watching the show when I was growing up. They made high school seem like the coolest place in the world, and I actually looked forward to having a high school experience just like they did. Of course, that was a fictionalized depiction of high school life, and unfortunately mine was not nearly as idyllic. There weren't nearly as many extracurricular activities, we didn't have a Max, and our school principal simply wasn't the Belding type.
Ah well, I still liked the show.
The show was quite unique in that it spawned not one, but two spin-offs, both of which debuted in 1993, after the show wrapped up. One was “Saved By The Bell: The College Years”, which aired its pilot in May 1993 and showed four of the six main characters of the series attending college. It ended up getting some decent reviews, but unfortunately, it went head to head against the wildly popular “Full House”, and it was canceled in early 1994.
The second spin-off lasted a lot longer than that. In fact, it lasted a grand total of seven seasons...three years longer than the original series! Many people hated this second spin-off, and it was critically panned for being too much like the original series (in all fairness, this claim did seem true, as many later season episodes recycled old SBTB plots). But the show was also a starting point for many future stars, and I'll admit that the show did have some fans...especially those who were too young to remember the original series.
This week, we're taking a look at the TNBC series, “Saved By The Bell: The New Class”, which debuted on September 11, 1993. The series ended on January 8, 2000. That's seven seasons!
The first season was only thirteen episodes, and the sixth and seventh seasons were actually filmed during the same year, but most of the other seasons had an order of 26 episodes each...so all nineteen actors credited in the main cast worked quite a bit.
That's right. Unlike the cast of Saved By The Bell, which remained mostly intact until the show's final season, the show changed its cast members every year. During each season of the show, at least one, but no more than three characters were replaced. Some chose to leave, while others were let go from the series. And some actors were not exactly all that convincing as high school students, so I can understand why they were let go...but I won't turn this into an actor bashing blog post, as it's not my style.
There were some constants during the show's seven year run, though. Dennis Haskins reprised his role as Mr. Belding, and he was the only cast member to appear in all 140+ episodes of the series. Dustin Diamond ended up joining the cast of the show in season two, right after the College Years wrapped up, and also stayed the remainder of the series. And Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Lark Voorhies, and Mario Lopez ended up making guest appearances on the spin-off as well. Watch a clip below.
Some other things that stayed the same were the sets. The show still took place at Bayside High School (it was slightly tweaked though), the gang still hung out at the Max (though it burned down and had to be rebuilt mid-way through the series), and the teachers at the school were still as dumb as a box of rocks..
Unfortunately, much of the show's early criticism was brought on by the fact that the first season cast was almost a complete rip-off of the original cast. The character of Scott Erickson (Robert Sutherland Telfer) was almost like a Zack Morris clone, Jonathan Angel's Tommy DeLuca was a dumbed-down version of Slater, and Bianca Lawson's Megan Jones was a combination of Lisa Turtle and Jessie Spano. This could explain the reason why there was a revolving door of cast members early on in the series.
By the end of the show, the cast of 1999 was completely different from the cast of 1993. But, I am one of those people who preferred the later casts than the earlier ones.
But as I said before, a lot of actors ended up getting their early beginnings on Saved By The Bell: The New Class. Some became bigger stars, and in the case of one cast member, they ended up taking on a whole new career path altogether.
So, let's take a look at some of the cast members of this spin-off show, what characters they played, and how they've done since leaving Saved By The Bell.
Lindsay Warner (1993-1996)
There's not that much to say about Lindsay Warner. On the show, she was almost exactly like Kelly Kapowski, right down to the extreme perkiness and desire to join every extracurricular activity possible. You could tell that the job was Natalia's first, especially during the show's first season, but over time, she got better (I think so anyway). During her three years on the show, she romanced Tommy DeLuca and Ryan Parker, and some of her storylines involved overcoming an eating disorder and joining various clubs and activities.
As for Natalia Cigliuti, she ended up finding lots of television work. She had recurring roles on “Beverly Hills 90210” and “The Glades”, held a contract role on “All My Children”, and starred in “Raising the Bar” with fellow SBTB alumni Mark-Paul Gosselaar.
Megan Jones (1993-1995)
As I explained earlier, Megan Jones was sort of a hybrid of Jessie and Lisa. She was like Jessie in the fact that she was on the honour roll in school, and she was like Lisa in that she had to fend off the unwanted advances of Weasel Wyzell and Bobby Wilson. Most of her storylines involved having to deal with keeping her grades up, though she did have her loyalties questioned when she started dating a Valley High football player.
Bianca Lawson's star is one that continues to rise. After leaving the show in the second season, she starred in “Sister, Sister” and “Dawson's Creek”. Recently, she can be seen in MTV's “Teen Wolf”, “Pretty Little Liars”, and “The Vampire Diaries”. She's also made some film appearances in movies such as “Primary Colors” and “Save The Last Dance”.
Barton “Weasel” Wyzell (1993-1994)
Before Screech returned to Bayside in the show's second season, we had Weasel Wyzell, a literal Screech lookalike. He was the token geek of the group who pursued Megan Jones, very much like Screech pursued Lisa. He also hung around Scott Erickson much like Screech hung around Zack.
In real life, Isaac Lidsky's career path after Saved By The Bell ended up taking an interesting turn. Shortly after leaving the series in 1994, he began to lose his vision. By the time he was eighteen, he was completely blind, due to a degenerative eye disease. Lidsky failed to let his blindness stop him from becoming a success. He graduated from Harvard University in 1999, and made history in 2009 when he became the first blind clerk for the United States Supreme Court. Not a bad gig, eh? Weasel Wyzell would be proud.
Rachel Meyers (1993-1997)
The character of Rachel Meyers actually started off in a guest appearance on the first season of the series. I guess the producers liked her so much, they brought her on as a regular for the second season after Bonnie Russavage was let go. On the surface, Rachel seemed to be a shopping addicted blonde who cared more about matching scarves than mathematics...but she was also one of the better developed characters in the whole series, often featuring in some of the more emotional episodes, such as the one where she is attacked while on a date, or when she helps a football player deal with a learning disability. I'll admit that Rachel was probably my favourite female character on the show, and I was sad to see her go after season four. On the show, she dated Ryan Parker, and Brian Keller (the latter must have been hard for Sarah Lancaster to pull off, since at the time, she was fourteen and Christian Oliver who played Brian was twenty-two).
Sarah Lancaster has done well for herself since leaving the show. She had recurring roles on “Boston Public” and “Everwood”, had starring roles on “What About Brian” and “Dr. Vegas”, and recently wrapped up her biggest role yet as Ellie Bartowski on the NBC series “Chuck”.
RICHARD LEE JACKSON
Ryan Parker (1995-1998)
Ryan Parker is a Zack Morris wannabe. He's brought onto the show as a Valley High transfer student in the third season along with Maria Lopez and R.J. Collins, and immediately comes up with the same zany schemes that Zack did to get out of tests or homework. Most times, his plans were foiled. But Ryan's also got Zack Morris' mojo as well. He's dated Lindsay Warner, Rachel Meyers, and Liz Miller. He left the show at the end of season five, but not before gaining a new step-brother in Nicky Farina, and being indirectly responsible for burning down The Max.
If Richard Lee Jackson looks a bit familiar, it's because he's the older brother of “General Hospital” actor, Jonathan Jackson. After leaving the show, he had a recurring role as the love interest of Ally McBeal, and guest starred in several television shows. He is also the drummer in the rock band, “Enation”.
Katie Peterson (1996-2000)
Bubbly and beautiful Katie Peterson was given some of the more unique storylines of the series. She was featured in storylines in which she had to stand up to a boss who was sexually harassing her, had to deal with sexist hazing when she enrolled in an all-male program, and was featured in a couple of storylines that involved alcohol consumption. She ended up having just one relationship in the whole series...the on-again, off-again romance between herself and Nicky Farina.
Lindsey McKeon ended up guest starring in an episode of “Cold Case”, and starred on the soap opera “Guiding Light” for three years in the early 2000s. She most recently appeared in several Miller Lite commercials, and wrapped up a stint on “90210”.
Cornelius “Eric” Little (1996-2000)
Eric Little was one of those characters that felt the need to sing on every episode he was featured on. It was fine at the beginning because he did have a decent voice...but after a while, the gimmick ended up being a little bit worn out. It didn't matter though because Eric had some decent storylines, including falling in love with a girl while on a school trip to Paris, having to deal with an agent trying to change his music style, and learning all about the dangers of sleep deprivation.
Anthony Harrell ended up putting his musical chops to good use, forming the R&B group “Brutha” with his four brothers. The group released their debut album in 2008, but Anthony left the group three years later to pursue other opportunities.
ASHLEY LYN CAFAGNA
Liz Miller (1997-2000)
Liz Miller was brought on in the show's fifth season to replace Rachel Meyers, and she found it hard to fit in at first. The captain of the girl's swim team, it took her some time to befriend Maria and Katie, but by the end of the series, they were firm friends. She also ended up dating Ryan Parker, and developed some interest in Eric Little towards the end of the series.
Now going by the name Ashley Tesoro, she got married, and now records contemporary Christian music. Prior to that, she was featured on the television soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful”.
And, that's our look back on “Saved By The Bell: The New Class”.