Disclaimer: I have never seen the original version of “Saved By The Bell.” I was born 20 years too late and never had the nostalgic urge to time travel back into the early ’90s. However, given the intelligent writing of the reboot’s pilot alone, I can only imagine the gratifying easter eggs and continuities weaved into new episodes that would catch the eye of pre-existing fans.
A reboot of a ’90s coming-of-age sitcom doesn’t exactly scream creativity and innovation, but the new “Saved By The Bell” creators Sam Bobrick (“Saved By The Bell”) and Tracy Wigfield (“Great News”) break all preconceived notions and expectations. The original’s basis on a predominantly white, occasionally socially aware show is the reboot’s best asset instead of its worst enemy.
In the reboot, original protagonist Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, “Mixed-ish”) becomes an ignorant, apathetic governor unaware of his area’s serious systemic problems. His sheltered upbringing, as shown in the original sitcom, has led him to a delusional life in which his government position helps virtually nobody but himself and his family, all of whom are privileged regardless. Zack serves as a representation of the ignorance of the original show, and emphasizes the reboot’s intent to portray a more realistic and diverse high school experience.
By comparing the underfunded, underprivileged neighboring high school with the overprivileged, sheltered world of the show’s Bayside High School, “2.0” presents a significantly wider range of characters than the original. While students like protagonist Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez, “The Forty Year Old Version”) only have the broken printer at their local public library, rivaling students Mac (Mitchell Hoog, “Harriet”) and Lexi (Josie Totah, “Champions”) have “poster guys” on call to print anything they desire.
The economic disparities and social separation between students like Daisy, Mac and Lexi spark a multitude of conversations regarding educational experiences and their social implications. Apathetic, rich parents’ racism is immediately shut down by Principal Toddman (John Michael Higgins, “Pitch Perfect”) as he comedically retorts “Excuse me, sir, but you are currently on probation for embezzling money from a nursing home!” to a parent voicing theft concerns from underprivileged students. These small but impactful jokes reflect real microaggressions and double standards that many people experience today.
“2.0” highlights the implications of an isolated education and calls for a more genuinely integrated public school system. Daisy perfectly encapsulates the issue of educational disparity while walking through the extravagant Bayside High when she says, “It’s almost messed up how nice it is.” This resource gap is both problematic and dated for ambitious students like Daisy and her classmates.
Beyond its plot, “2.0” is caring and respectful in its desire to represent a larger demographic. Lexi’s identity as a transgender woman is casually celebrated and accepted, as it should be. DeVante (Dexter Darden, “The Maze Runner”) refutes the Black male stereotypes pushed onto him by well-meaning but close-minded adults and follows his personal interests in musical theater.
The reboot purposefully contrasts with the white, privileged unawareness of its predecessor and ensures not to make the same mistakes. Its characters and plot progress far beyond the constraints of a high school hallway in order to raise awareness of prevalent issues in our ever developing conversations about societal restrictions. It intentionally and empathetically strays away from the constraints of its white-washed predecessor and encourages a more inclusive, progressive environment for the modern-day student.
Daily Arts Writer Emily Blumberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.