Saved by the Bell: The College Years
"Cause we're standing at the edge of tomorrow . . .today, today, today."
Regrettably, the College Years did not last long. It's model seemed to be almost perfect. For years Saved by the Bell built up an incredibly loyal fan base of people who were with the show for 6 - 7 years of them being in junior high and high school. And, the fan base was getting older, and no matter how naive the new generations would be, the kids were just getting too old to be in high school. So, you class up the show a little bit, make it less ridiculous, get a higher production value and put it on in primetime where the loyal fanbase will watch the show, and maybe they could even get new viewers to watch, too.
And, you know what? They did. They cut AC Slater's hair and actually put him in hooded sweatshirts and dressed him like a human being. Zack Morris grew out his hair like a rebellious college lad. Screech was still goofy but became less of a caricature of a nerd and more of a character. They lived near girls in a dorm which was obviously the most unrealistic dorm set up of all time (a communal area that's as big as a mansion family room with full fridge and kitchen that they get to share with 3 decent looking girls), and a large RA played by the indomitable Bob Golic; their opening theme song was an actual (terrible) song, and they played music that wasn't just Peter Engel's synthesizer. There were some legitimately very good and entertaining episodes: When Dr. Laske had Zack do an assignment on what women actually want, was funny and interesting throughout. They had Kelly come back and get involved with Dr. Laske which was a masterstroke.
However, the problem was, with all of the realism and production value, Saved by the Bell stayed afraid to make "that leap" into real college life. In the high school Saved by the Bell, the world that was created was SO incredibly odd that nothing seemed out of place. Let's see, they f-around with the principle, spend all their time at some school affiliated burger-joint, are never in class, everyone in the school is either "the gang" or a nerd (and the occasional jock), and Zack Morris can stop time. Nothing about that place had any semblance of normalcy, so it's fine the students didn't drink, didn't get into trouble,didn't have any form of sex, had essentially zero pressures other than the occasional test or break-up. We could all accept that.
And, the thing is, I don't think they would have had to make it as racy as Animal House or even Fox's old show "Undeclared." But they needed more of an ackowledgement; or avoid the whole thing altogether. In the pilot episode, Bob Golic makes a bunch of hard-ass rules that there will be "no partying and no drinking" in his hall. So, of course, Zack throws a party right away. All of this is fine. Then while Zack is walking around the party, he sees a guy drinking a beer and STEALS IT AWAY FROM HIM and tells him not to drink. Now, honestly, some people in college don't have sex all the time, some people in college don't drink, not everyone wakes up in a pile of vomit; but NO ONE would throw a party and be mad that someone was drinking beer in college. I don't care if Betty Ford threw a goddamn party in college, no one's getting mad at someone for bringing beer to a party in college unless it would be advertised as a no beer party.
Then, in a later party, Zack throws a RAVE for chrissake. A rave. Now, I have never been to a rave. But here's what I know about them:
1) They play raver music (Paul Oakenfeld?)
2) Wear raver clothes (Baggy electric orange parachute pants?)
3) Do raver dances (glowsticks?)
4) Do raver drugs (ecstasy?)
Even in this episode is a kind of funny storyline about Screech getting some kids nitrous oxide from the chemistry lab (he actually accidentally gets them helium). It's not bad; Screech is trying to be cool and gets involved with some kids who are cool and like drugs. Fine, reasonable enough. There's even a nice scene where AC Slater steps up to these kids to protect Screech from taking a beating. However, Slater also goes upto him and tells him how how nitrous is dangerous or some shit from an after-school special. Slater . .YOU'RE AT A RAVE you're friend hosted. He should have said "You probably shouldn't steal from your lab cause you're on scholarship." Hey, College Years, you can't have a rave without raver kids and drugs and Zack can't host it.
I think, feasibly, College Years could have avoided these issues. But you can't have parties and raves and then moralize about them. It's far too akward. (Also, we all know Zack would have drank heavily. He would have essentially been his character from Dead Man on Campus. And, on second thought, didn't Van Wilder essentially steal Zack Morris' character from Dead Man on Campus does anyone care about this? Since they are both delightful movies I guess not.)
That was the fatal flaw of the College Years: this is why college aged kids tuned out. The students started to look and act a little more like real people, but they completely overlooked the aspect of beer in the American college experience. They even could have gotten away with this if they stayed away from the notion of parties all together. They could have danced around that issue and had Zack battling with the professor and the dean, having daytime schemes, injuring his knee, working in the hospital, Slater trying to cut weight for the wrestling team. I think there was actually enough material for a show that totally ignored drinking and drugs. But they walked a stupid line that gave college and high school aged students a glimpse of real life, but then perversed it into Saved by the Bell world.