What Lisa and Megan Watched Last Night #96: Saved By The Bell 2.9 “Jessie’s Song” (dir by Don Barnhart)


Last night, my sister Megan and I watched the classic 1990 Saved By The Bell caffeine pill episode, Jessie’s Song.

Why Were We Watching It?

I was visiting Megan and her family for the holidays, she has every episode of Saved By The Bell on DVD — seriously, how could we not end up watching it?

What Was It About?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and things at Bayside High were pretty messed up.  Self-declared genius Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) was failing Geometry so she started taking caffeine pills.  Then, her sociopathic friend Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) decided that Jessie should also launch a musical career as a member of the disturbingly generic girl group Hot Sundae.  And who can blame him with all of this talent of display?

 And so, Jessie started taking more and more pills.  And then, this happened…

Fear not!  Jessie recovered from her drug addiction in time to be featured in Johnny Dakota’s No Hope With Dope ad campaign.

What Worked?

Jessie’s Song is like The Room of Saved By The Bell episodes, 22 minutes of television that is just so wrong and oddly executed that it becomes oddly fascinating.  For that reason, it’s impossible to judge this episode by standard definitions of quality.

The idea that Kelly, Lisa, and Jessie (a.k.a. Hot Sundae) could get a recording contract, the fact that Jessie ends up getting hooked on the equivalent of can of Red Bull, the fantasy sequence where Jessie imagines having to go to Surf U. because she failed Geometry, the fact that a few pills transform Jessie overnight, and the overly optimistic ending; none of it works.  And, for that reason, the entire episode works.

Consider this — before I had even seen this episode, I knew that Jessie Spano ended up getting hooked on caffeine pills and singing, “I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  I’m so …. SCARED!”  For better or worse, this episode is a part of our culture.

On a personal note, I loved the extremely earnest way Mario Lopez delivered the line, “Hold on, Jessie — it says right here that these may be habit-forming…”

What Did Not Work?

As Megan pointed out to me, there’s a huge continuity error in this episode.  Back in the glee club episode, it had been established that Kelly couldn’t sing.  Now, suddenly, she’s on the verge of getting a recording contract.  Was there no such thing as a consistency at Bayside?  No wonder Jessie ended up addicted to drugs.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Much like Jessie Spano, I have a tendency to push myself.  Whereas Jessie pushed herself to attend an Ivy League college and to try to destroy the patriarchy, I push myself to post a certain amount of film reviews each month.

For instance, earlier this year, I decided that I would post at least 120 reviews in October.  And so, much like Jessie, I pushed myself and pushed myself and, when I felt like I couldn’t go on, I took every pill that I had in the medicine cabinet and then I danced around my bedroom going, “I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  I’m so … scared!”

And some people though that was silly on my part but you know what?  This October, the TSL posted 137 new reviews so, obviously, I was doing something right.  And I’ve already decided that next year, we’re going to break all previous records.  That’s right — 200 posts in October of 2014!  You read it here first.

And, to think, I owe it all to caffeine.

Lessons Learned

There’s no hope with dope!  Wait … no, actually, that was a different episode.  In this one, I guess I learned not to abuse caffeine but I really didn’t learn that because I’ve seen this episode a few dozen times and I’m still addicted to caffeine and, for that matter, I’m still pushing myself and having trouble accepting that I can’t always be the best at everything so maybe I didn’t learn anything from this episode…

Oh wait!  I did learn something.  Geometry leads to drug addiction and causes you to let all of your friends down.

Seriously, geometry sucks.

(For another look at drug abuse in the 1990s, please be sure to check out my review of the California Dreams steroid episode, Tiffani’s Gold.)

What Lisa (and Megan) Watched Last Night #60: California Dreams 4.15 “Dancing Isn’t Everything”


Hi, everyone and Happy Holidays!  I am currently writing to you from Ft. Worth, Texas where the Bowman sisters have gathered to celebrate Christmas.  That’s right, world!  The Bowman girls are back together again!

Last night, after a long day of looking at presents and arguing about whether cats are better than dogs (and, by the way, they so are!), my sister Megan and I bonded over some old 90s sitcoms.  And that is how we came to spend 21 minutes last night watching the “Dancing Isn’t Everything” episode of California Dreams.

Why Were We Watching This?

A few weeks ago, I was really excited because I discovered that there was a YouTube account that was solely devoted to posting old episodes of Saved By The Bell: The New Class.  When I was a little girl, I loved SBTB: TNC (though I always hated Screech) so naturally, I was excited to have the chance to indulge in a little nostalgia.  For two days straight, I watched SBTB: TNC on YouTube and then suddenly, all the episodes were gone and replaced with a message saying that the account had been suspended for “multiple reports of copyright violation.”

Oh my God!  I was so devastated!  And, to tell the truth, I’m still upset about it and I imagine I will be for the rest of my life.  Seriously, who cares if the SBTB: TNC copyright was violated?  Whoever was responsible for those “multiple reports” better hope that they never meet me because if they do, the claws will come out!

Now, I can hear you asking, “Lisa, what does this have to do with an old episode of California Dreams?”  I’m getting there, dammit!

Last night, after everyone else had gone to bed, Megan and I were staying up late and talking about how different the world was now than when we were little.  This, of course, led to me telling her the sad story of how SBTB: TNC no longer has a home on YouTube.  That was when Megan revealed to me why she is the best big sister in the entire history of big sisters.  Megan owns not only every episode of SBTB and SBTB: TNC on DVD, she also owns the first four seasons of the show that came on right after Saved By The Bell, California Dreams!

Now, I have to admit that I don’t remember much about California Dreams.  I may have seen an episode or two when I first started watching SBTB: TNC
and later on, I remember that reruns of California Dreams used to show up in syndication along with episodes of the original Saved By The Bell.  The show, however, never really made much of an impression on me.  Megan, however, claims that California Dreams was “a thousand times” better than Saved By The Bell and since Megan is the best, I’ll give the show the benefit of the doubt.

Anyway, long story short: along with watching several episodes of SBTB: TNC, we also watched an episode of California Dreams.  Megan allowed me to select the episode that we would watch and when I selected “Dancing Isn’t Everything,” Megan said, “Let me guess — because there’s dancing, right?”

Exactly.

What Was It About?

The California Dreams are a rock group who sings songs about “surf dudes with attitude.”  Their groupie, Lorena (Diane Uribe), wants to win a dance contest at the local hangout.  Their manager, Sly (Michael Cade), wants Lorena and enters the dance contest with her even though he’s a terrible dancer.  Meanwhile, the California Dreams sing a song that features the keyboardist chanting, “He’s so funky!”

What Worked?

The show was all about dancing so it all worked!

Seriously though, watching this episode was like opening up a time capsule.  Just check out the guy using a pay phone at the start of the episode!

Megan and I quickly agreed that Sly and Lorena made a cute couple and the scene where Sly continually breaks out into disco moves whenever the judge’s back is turned was comedic genius.  We also enjoyed the look on Sly’s face as he read Lorena’s subtitles.

Finally, how can you not enjoy a show that features a song with a “He’s so funky!” chorus.

What Did Not Work?

Regardless of the episode’s title, dancing is everything.

“OMG!  Just like me!” Moments

Needless to say, I totally and completely identified with Lorena during this entire episode.

Lessons Learned

Everything’s better when you do it with someone that you love.