The 1980s and 1990s were a goldmine when it came to television aimed at kids and young teenagers. Whether in the form of animated series, soap operas, or wholesome sitcoms, the decades were filled with friendly faces and important messages that the growing younger television audience needed to learn - but also sometimes probably were too young for. One of the most beloved series to impart such pearls of wisdom was the NBC hit Saved by the Bell.
The series followed a group of friends (all with distinct, stereotypical personalities to match) at the idyllic Bayside High School in California. Over the course of the series, there were plenty of Very Special Episodes, but also tons of over the top and ridiculously goofy episodes, too. Here, we're taking a look at what IMDb considers to be the best and worst of the series after all these years.
10 BEST: "Snow White and the Seven Dorks" - 8.6
There are certain storylines that show up in every teen-focused television show. One of them just so happens to be utilized to great success in the episode "Snow White and the Seven Dorks," when the gang finds themselves tasked with putting on a production of Snow White with their own hip and trendy flair.
Well, about as hip and trendy as things can get with a bunch of privileged kids rapping their take on the classic fairytale, at least. The episode's central storyline finds conflict growing within the group, as sparks fly between costars Jessie and Zack, leading to jealousy between Zack and Kelly, and inventive rewriting of the fairytale.
9 WORST: "The Lisa Card" - 7.6
Lisa Turtle is a character who has plenty of interesting traits and storylines. But her tendency to act like a spoiled rich brat is hardly ever one of them, and episodes that focus on that aspect of her character above all the rest of them are almost unbearable to watch as a result.
"The Lisa Card" is only the second ever episode of the revamped Saved by the Bell, following the move from Good Morning, Miss Bliss, and the series already manages to make one of its main characters incredibly unlikable. Thankfully, subsequent episodes fix this, but an episode dedicated entirely to Lisa panicking over spending too much on her credit card is hardly a good first impression to make.
8 BEST: "Jessie's Song" - 8.6
Though the episode might be the subject of much satire and internet mocking, there's no way to deny the fact that "Jessie's Song" is arguably Saved by the Bell's most powerful Very Special Episode. The episode features the girls forming a music group, and rapidly rising to the top in terms of success.
But overachiever Jessie quickly finds herself overwhelmed by keeping up her grades, maintaining her relationship with Slater, and working in the band - so she turns to taking speed pills. The episode culminates in a heartbreaking breakdown on Jessie's part, as she falls apart in best friend Zack's arms and offers a harrowing message about the importance of staying off drugs of any kind.
7 WORST: "The Babysitters" - 7.6
It probably sounded hilarious when the idea was first pitched: the gang finds themselves tasked with babysitting an infant for a day, while still attending school. And sure, there are a couple of chuckles to be found in the second season entry "The Babysitters."
But overall, the episode is cringeworthy from start to finish. Kelly has a baby brother that we've never seen or heard of before, and she has the group take care of him during the day while she gets her picture taken for cheer squad, which... will apparently take all day. But the worst part of all is that Zack decides the best way to babysit the poor kid is to hide him in a duffel bag in an attempt to smuggle him into school. What kind of message was this episode trying to send again?
6 BEST: "Home For Christmas: Part 1" - 8.6
Holiday-themed episodes of sitcoms usually allow for fluffier fare and wholesome family-friendly content. And there's definitely some of that in the two-parter "Home for Christmas," featured in Saved by the Bell's third season. Part one of the two-parter focuses on the gang working at the mall in order to save up money for the holidays.
They're also working toward a production of the Christmas classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and volunteering at the local hospital, too. But the episode introduces two key characters - Laura and her father, Frank - that take the series to more serious fare when the gang learns that they're homeless.
5 WORST: "Best Summer of My Life" - 7.6
Clip shows are usually not exactly among the best episodes of a series. But it's particularly unforgivable when a show uses a clip episode to highlight what is routinely agreed upon as one of the series' worst storylines - and does so over a year and a half later, and with one of its last-ever episodes.
"Best Summer of My Life" is the fifth to last episode of Saved by the Bell's entire run - not including the short-lived college years spinoff, at least - and finds Zack and the gang reflecting on the polarizing at best Malibu Sands storyline from early in the third season.
4 BEST: "Fake ID's" - 8.7
It's basically a rite of passage in the world of teen fiction: the main characters foolishly decide to embark upon drinking, or getting into night clubs, or doing anything that is clearly above their age range. How do they manage to do just that? By obtaining ridiculously fake IDs, of course.
Saved by the Bell delivers a memorable entry in the history of this trope when Zack falls for an older girl and ropes the guys into a fake ID scheme so he can get closer to her. In the end, the guys uncover some uncomfortable truths about themselves, and about Kelly's current boyfriend being unfaithful.
3 WORST: "Pinned to the Mat" - 6.7
Wrestling is a major part of Saved by the Bell, particularly given Slater's talent at the sport, his apparent love for it at times, and his father's desire for him to compete in it. But during the episode "Pinned to the Mat," Slater abruptly quits the sport - which puts a real wrench in Zack's ongoing bet that Slater would win a match.
Looking past the gambling aspect of the storyline (Zack Morris, always a great role model), the episode takes a really uncomfortable turn when Zack convinces Screech to join the wrestling team somehow in Slater's place - as if they're the same skill level, or size, or wrestling class. Poor Screech is often the butt of Zack's plans, but this is arguably one of the worst of them.
2 BEST: "Home For Christmas: Part 2" - 8.7
The second part of the previously discussed two-part episode arc "Home for Christmas" finds the gang working to do all they can so Laura can get her job back after she is wrongly fired by the prejudiced boss at the clothing store she and Kelly have been working at for the holidays. The production of A Christmas Carol also, of course, goes off without a hitch.
The episode also finds Zack and Laura's connection deepening more than most of his other relationships do. Zack goes to great lengths to help Laura and her father - including convincing his mother to allow them to stay at their home through the holiday season, while Frank tries to locate a job.
1 WORST: "My Boyfriend's Back" - 6.6
As we've already established, the Malibu Sands storyline in Saved by the Bell's third season is arguably the weakest storyline in the series - except for maybe the infamous Tori experiment. It's only fitting, then, that the worst episode in the series hails from this arc.
"My Boyfriend's Back" centers on a love triangle that absolutely no one cares about, between Zack, Malibu Sands girl Stacy, and her snotty ex-boyfriend who's come to visit. There also is, for some reason, a massively hyped up ATV contest that the guys enter, as if they're remotely qualified for such competitions.