Guilty Pleasure No. 52: Saved By The Bell 3.21 “No Hope With Dope” (dir by Don Barnhart)

Saved By The Bell is the show that will not die.

Saved By The Bell started out in 1989, airing on NBC on Sunday mornings.  The show followed the adventures of Zack Morris, AC Slater, Screech, Jessie Spano, Kelly Kapowski, and Lisa (hey!) Turtle as they navigated their way through Bayside High.  It’s bit of an odd show, in that there was no real continuity and Zack was a designated hero who often came across as being a young sociopath.  Zack and his friends were rich and, with the notable exception of Jessie, apolitical.  The only time they all, as a group, cared about anything was when there was an oil spill near the duck pond that was just because Zack had befriended one of the ducks.  The humor was goofy but the acting was occasionally better than it had any right to be.  (Mario Lopez was the cast MVP.)

Saved By The Bell had a loyal audience when it originally aired but it owes it popularity to syndication.  When I was in high school and college, Saved By The Bell always seemed to be playing somewhere.  I have friends who scheduled their day around, though none of them will admit it now.  As I sit here writing this, Saved By The Bell can currently be viewed on about a dozen different streaming services and there’s currently a very self-aware reboot streaming on Peacock.  Reruns of this show will probably be outlive us all.  There’s no escaping the Bell.

Interestingly enough, for all of the show’s cultural cachet, there are really one three episodes of Saved By The Bell that are really “must-see.”  The first one, of course, was the infamous episode where Jessie got hooked on sugar pills and ended up shouting, “I’m so excited!” when Zack tried to get her to wake up.  The second one was the episode where Zack passed out in his garage and dreamt about the future of his band, Zack Attack.  (“Friends forever.  It’s an nice idea.”)  And finally, there’s the “No Hope With Dope” episode.

First airing in 1991 (on November 30th, to be exact), “No Hope With Dope” feels like a time capsule.  Big-time movie star Johnny Dakota (played by Eddie Garcia) comes to Bayside and, after Zack leads the students in an anti-drug rap song, Johnny decides to shoot his latest anti-drug PSA at the high school.  This not only gives Jessie a chance to once again tell everyone about her sugar pill addiction (which I’m sure everyone at the school was sick of hearing about) but it also gives Zack, Slater, and Screech the excuse to become amateur narcs.  When they discover a joint in a Bayside bathroom, they immediately accuse Scud, who is wearing a Slayer t-shirt and is therefore the number one suspect.  Scud reveals that he only smokes cigarettes because, when it comes to marijuana, “Not even I’m that dumb!”  Slater still destroys Scud’s cigarette because cigarettes can kill too.

However, at a big movie star party, Zack and Kelly are offered a joint by — OH MY GOD! — Johnny Dakota!  Though Johnny doesn’t actually try to force the death weed on the two of them after they initially refuse it, Zack and Kelly are so disgusted by Johnny’s actions that they leave the party.  The Bayside Gang announces that they cannot sanction Johnny’s buffoonery.  (“The reputation of Bayside was at stake!” Jessie says.)  Johnny gets mad and leaves.

Watching this episode today, most viewers will probably say, “BUT IT WAS JUST A JOINT!”  Seriously, it’s not like Johnny was snorting coke in Mr. Belding’s office or shooting heroin in the school’s locker room or anything similar to that.  Johnny was only doing something that, today, is legal in many states and probably will be legal in every state by the time 2030 rolls around.  And yet, everyone at Bayside acts so shocked to discover that someone who is apparently the biggest film star in the world occasionally smokes weed.  The way that Zack and the gang react to marijuana in 1991 in comparison to how most people react to it in 2022 is one of the things that makes this episode such a guilty pleasure.  It’s a time capsule with a laugh track.

(Of course, one reason why “No Hope With Dope” became such a popular episode is that much of the show’s later audience was probably high when they first saw it.)

Anyway, Johnny’s gone and Bayside is still eager to make an anti-drug PSA.  Fortunately, Mr. Belding has a friend at NBC!  It turns out that the then-president of the network went to school with Mr. Belding!  He agrees to come to Bayside and share with everyone his hit new idea for the fall season: Don’t.  Do. Drugs.  He also does the old, “Maybe I could produce a TV show about a bunch of rich high school kids …. nah, it would never work!” joke.  “Come back and visit any time,” Jessie tells him.  Yeah, Jessie, I’m sure that’ll happen….

The show ends with the Bayside “No Hope With Dope” PSA and these few minutes are what transforms this episode into a true cultural landmark.  Watch it below and be sure to note that, when Screech pops out of the locker, there’s a picture of John Lennon smoking a joint on the door.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean
  37. Death Wish
  38. Shipping Wars
  39. Ghost Whisperer
  40. Parking Wars
  41. The Dead Are After Me
  42. Harper’s Island
  43. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone
  44. Paranormal State
  45. Utopia
  46. Bar Rescue
  47. The Powers of Matthew Star
  48. Spiker
  49. Heavenly Bodies
  50. Maid in Manhattan
  51. Rage and Honor

12 responses to “Guilty Pleasure No. 52: Saved By The Bell 3.21 “No Hope With Dope” (dir by Don Barnhart)

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