‘Skins’ and ‘Saved by the Bell’: A Comparative Study
In SkinsEpisode 9, our gang introduced Tina to a handy little trick — when in doubt, pull the fire alarm and get saved by the bell. And we were like, did someone mention Saved by the Bell?! We love that show! Sure, it’s not hip or edgy like today’s teen TV, but we can see its influence all over today’s cool kid dramas — we can’t imagine Tony, Michelle, and Stanley without Zack, Kelly, and Screech.
How else are Saved by the Bell and Skins similar? How are they totally different? Let us count the ways:
Characters The Saved by the Bell cast was pretty diverse, featuring an African-American (Lisa), a Hispanic American (AC Slater), and a Nerd-American (Screech). But the show’s cast does have one glaring absence — no openly non-hetero characters like Tea, Skins’ fabulous lesbian-in-charge. Of course, this has less to do with the show than the early ‘90s era in which it aired. Still, it would have been awesome to see the gang hang with a gay or bi friend. We will console ourselves by writing an epic crossover fanfiction in which Tea transfers to Bayside High and seduces Jessie.
Authority figures Saved by the Bell's Mr. Belding was the best principal on TV this side of Mr. Feeny. Sure, he was a little goofy and his weird laugh haunts our nightmares but he always had his students' backs. You could never picture him having an affair with a needy student, à la Tina. Tina is probably the most messed up adult on Skins, but the others aren’t that much better — from Cadie's narcissistic beauty queen mom to Tony’s rageaholic father, the grown-ups are way too deep in their own crap to help our gang with their issues. That being said, there are a few exceptions — Tea's folks are loud but loving and Cadie's shrink seems so sensible we could see him kicking back with Mr. Belding.
Substance abuse No doubt about it — the Skins kids win the substance sweepstakes in a landslide. They smoke pot at school, gobble up prescriptions like M&Ms, and molest wildlife for the sake of a high. To contrast, Saved by the Bell had a Very Special Episode about a harrowing addiction to... caffeine pills. Yes, the drug of choice was super lame, but has any moment of television ever encapsulated the crushing pain of addiction better than Jessie’s “I’m so excited, I’m so excited…I’m so scared” freakout? We think not.
First couple A teen drama featuring a group of friends anchored by a telegenic first couple composed of a charming, scheming dude and his femme fatale girlfriend. Sound familiar? It should! On Saved by the Bell, Zack and Kelly ruled the school. And on Skins, the world revolved around Tony and Michelle. Of course, there were a few minor differences — Zack and Kelly’s epic romance ended at the altar, while Tony and Michelle’s ended in an explosive Nutbush beatdown.
Music Music plays a huge role on both shows. The Saved by the Bell gang rocked the stage at The Max, their diner/music club hangout. The irrepressible Mr. Morris fronted a band, the oh-so-humbly named “Zack Attack” — and who can forget “Hot Sundae,” Kelly, Jessie, and Lisa's rockin' girl group? The Skins kids have contributed to the show’s soundtrack as well — Tony opened the season with Cole Porter’s classic “Let’s Fall in Love” and Stanley and Cadie ended it with an unforgettable cover of “Shout.”Skins is also an awesome vehicle for other artists. We’ve been singing the praises of Matt FX all season long, but we’re happy repeat it one more time — Skins has the coolest music on television.
Social issues Skins is famous for its unblinking yet sympathetic telling of the serious issues featuring today’s teens. Too many viewers can relate to Tea’s anxiety over telling her folks that she’s gay, Michelle trying to deal with her immature mom, and Chris’ heartbreaking abandonment. And while Saved by the Bell took a decidedly more squeaky clean approach to life’s difficult situations, the show does deserve props for being one of the first teen shows to tackle social issues. Saved by the Bell took on divorce, homelessness, bullying, and many other important issues before it was cool to do so.
Clothes Both shows are known for their distinctive fashions. The Skins hotties dress like cooler versions of the coolest kids in school — skinny jeans, preppy plaids, the fiercest leather jackets ever. In contrast, the duds on Saved by the Bell look like duds. Those awkward stone-washed jeans! Those flowered onesie leotards! Slater's curly mullet! But while Bayside’s finest outfits look laughably goofy today, they were the height of fashion way back when. In another 15 years, we're going to totally giggle at Chris' trucker hat.
Hijinks This wasn’t a competition but if it was, Saved by the Bell would take this category easily. Sure, Tony and Stanley attempted to outrun the cops, but Zack and Screech worked as male escorts during a mob-backed diamond heist in Vegas! And then they hatched a plan to save Hawaii from evil developers! That being said, Saved by the Bell aired 86 episodes to Skins’ 10 episodes, so if MTV gives Skins a second season (pretty please!), they can get on that. We think Chris and Abbud would make pretty rockin’ undercover escorts.
Cast Saved by the Bell has been off the air for over 15 years, but the cast has been the gift that keeps on giving! Mark-Paul Gosselaar has starred in crime dramas like NYPD Blue, Tiffani Amber Thiessen's rocking White Collar, and Mario Lopez has cornered the market on chat shows. And who can forget that fabulous camp classic Showgirls, starring our very own Jessie Spano, né Elizabeth Berkley? Unfortunately, Dustin Diamond, a.k.a. Screech, hasn’t done very well for himself — his most recent star turn was in the sex tape he released to try and pay off his back taxes.
Of course, since Skins hasn’t ended, we have no idea where our gang is going next but we do know that even if MTV renews the show for years to come (and we hope they do!), this current cast will wrap up their arcs at the end of the next season. Where they go next is up to them, but if they’re smart, they’ll look to their Saved by the Bell elders and chose their career role models very wisely.