The sign of a legendary television show is the length of its syndication. One of my favorite teen sitcoms of all time, Saved By The Bell transcends all boundaries. Still in syndication twenty some years later in pretty vigorous rotation, the show was a landmark series.
It showed NBC that kids were willing to watch live action shows on Saturday mornings outside of their usual cartoon lineup. It blossomed several young stars, spawned a spin off college series featuring the unforgettable Browns beast Bob Golic, a wedding special, and even a more modern “New Class” version that sucked all kinds of ass.
Along with its television iterations, Saved By The Bell was responsible for all kinds of merchandising. We’re going to visit one of the most 90s examples of television-show-turned-trading card and appreciate it for all of its cheesy, colorful, neon, saccharine glory. Today, we have the pleasure of looking at some sensational Saved By The Bell Trading cards.
I came across these cards via a lovely friend who found them stashed away in her closet. She’s freeing up space and unloading unwanted items from her house currently, and I told her I’d be happy to have these in my pop culture collection. Little did I know that I’d be receiving what I consider to be miraculous works of art.
The packaging itself is unassuming enough. It’s your typical shiny foil packet emblazoned with the Saved By The Bell logo and lots of squiggly lines and spirals. They’re described as generic “T.V. Photo Cards,” but they contain so much more than that boringly succinct description. The fact that they cost only 25 cents is an outright atrocity.
The first card in the set is the star of the show, a young Mark-Paul Gosselaar, showing off his wind-swept hair and chick-wooing half smile. The open button-down shirt with a t-shirt underneath is classic 90s fashion and I really dig the random crazy shapes all over it. We need more of that.
The back of the card reads:
The son of Dutch parents, Mark-Paul was born and raised in Los Angeles in a bilingual household with two sisters and one brother. He is seventeen years old and enjoys sports. His favorite activities are weightlifting, football, skiing, surfing, dirt-bike racing and the martial art of Tae Kwon Do.
It seems that Mark-Paul is truly a renaissance man.
The second card has a somewhat creepy vibe, but it’s obviously intended for young girls to obsess over. A shirtless A.C. Slater hangs upside-down from olympic rings on a jungle gym, shirtless and wearing jorts and socks pulled up way too high. The smile on his face shows that he’s exceedingly happy about this. Zack is dressed in short shorts and another crazy multicolored neon t-shirt. He really seems to like the color “electric blue.”
The back of the card contains a quote from Zack:
This history class is a kid’s worst nightmare. I mean, our teacher Mr. Dickerson is more horrible than four zits on a first date.
There’s also a trivia question asking eager readers what Zack’s last name is. If you don’t know already, you wouldn’t be buying these cards. Way to settle for the lowest common denominator, Pacific.
Next up is the pitifully geeky Screech’s real-life counterpart, Dustin Diamond. His shirt looks like something out of Sinbad’s closet and he’s trying desperately to make a cool pose, but coming off completely pathetic.
The back of the card reads:
A native of San Jose, CA, Dustin began his show business career at the age of eight as a human-mannequin in a San Francisco department store. Soon afterward, he appeared as a catalog model and in commercials, which brought him to Los Angeles. “I was hired for my first commercial on Friday the 13th and now it’s become my lucky day,” he quips. Dustin made his series debut as a guest star on “It’s a Living,” followed by a starring role in “Good Morning, Miss Bliss.” He has also made guest appearances in “The Wonder Years,” “Flip,” “Mozart: ITV” and “Hollywood Close-Ups.”
Wow, I had no idea this nerdy bastard had been in such legendary series as “Mozart: ITV” and “Hollywood Close-Ups.” I guess when the long-donged moonlighting porn star isn’t writing bogus shit about Kelly Kapowski and the gang in his tell-all books, he’s reminiscing about the glory days of playing a human-mannequin in a department store. Why he hasn’t won an Oscar is beyond me.
It’s funny that Screech’s card backing is like five times as long as Mark-Paul’s as well. You’d think Screech would be given a sentence as most. He wasn’t exactly the fan favorite.
This next card is my favorite of the bunch. It features young Kelly, Jessie, and Lisa smiling like idiots while they pretend to play volleyball. Their outfits are absolutely fantastic. Lisa is sporting a neon vomit two-piece shorts set and the old Pebbles Flintstone hair-do. Kelly has what look like children’s bed sheets fashioned into Mom shorts and a tie-together bikini top. Jessie is wearing black Mom shorts and some kind of pointy, colorful blouse. I don’t think I’ve ever been more in love with 3 women in my entire life.
The back of the card contains a Saved By The Bell shooting schedule for a typical Friday:
8:30 – 9:30 School
9:30 – 10:30 Hair/makeup
10:30 – 2:30 Blocking and taping
2:30 – 3:30 Dinner and notes
3:30 – 4:00 Loading of audience / introduction of cast
4:00 – 6:30 Taping of show with audience
It’s interesting that they eat dinner at 2:30 PM like time-worn geriatrics in a nursing home. What an exciting life.
The last card is by far the most nostalgic. It features Zack, Slater, Screech, Jessie, Kelly, and Lisa sitting together in a family photo type setting. It almost seems like this picture was taken at a local Sears. Maybe they were having a family discount. They all look really happy to be there and they’re sporting their most exquisite 90s black-tie-appropriate formal wear. The pink gradient background only further classes up this picture and makes me wish I could be a part of it. I would give anything to go back in time and photobomb this picture between the heads of Zack and Kelly.
The back of the card showcases a picture of the cast gathered around Screech and some bong-looking apparatuses. Zack and Slater appear the most stoned and it seems that Kelly is having a bit of a bad trip. Jessie is smiling like an idiot and Lisa is looking up at her, confused. The card reads:
How “Saved By The Bell” is made each week
Wardrobe – The six teenagers in the cast usually wear five or six outfits in each show. That adds up to more than thirty outfits that have to be bought for each episode, not including the wardrobe for Mr. Belding.
I would love to be the guy that had to pick out these outfits. Imagine raiding a local California mall in the early 90s and buying to your heart’s content, picturing how Kelly or Slater would look in this outfit or that one, figuring out what colors suited each cast member best. That would have been the peak of any costume designer’s resume. I also love that Mr. Belding’s wardrobe was purchased totally separately. Of course the aging pimp daddy of the show would get his own special treatment.
I hope you enjoyed this little rewind button to the past and you’re now contemplating scouring Amazon to find the full set of these things. If so, my job is done. If not, fuck you.
It’s all right, cuz I’m Saved By The Bell.