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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Saved by the Bell - Seasons 3 & 4
Saved by the Bell - Seasons 3 & 4
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // April 27, 2004
List Price: $44.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted May 26, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Third & Fourth Seasons

Saved By the Bell is an icon amongst teen sitcoms, which started from another sitcom that aired for one season, Good Morning, Miss Bliss. The releases of Saved By the Bell on DVD have been a joint effort by NBC Video and Lions Gate Home Entertainment. For some reason, the releases haven't been exactly true to their airing date. In this latest release, we're given the third and fourth seasons, but it's really a few episodes from the second season and the entire third season. This pseudo-third-and-fourth-season box set presents some wild and crazy episodes from the cool kids of Bayside High School.

Like many in my generation, I curled up in front of the television each Saturday morning to watch Zack and friends wreck havoc in the halls of Bayside. So what was it that attracted thousands of kids (and a few adults) to spend countless hours in front of the television? Well, for some it was Zack's weekly crazy scheme, Kelly's insatiable smile, Screech's delusional acts of grandeur, Slater's big muscles, Jessie's feministic attitude, Lisa's sound words of advice, or even Mr. Belding's fatherly figure. Or maybe it was the simple interaction of the cast and the laughs they produced in each episode. For whatever reason, Saved By the Bell was loved by many. The show's popularity led to two spin-off series, Saved By the Bell: The College Years and Saved By the Bell: The New Class.

While I have always enjoyed Saved by the Bell, the show doesn't hold the same appeal. For instance, while I once found Dustin Diamond's Screech to be ridiculously funny, Screech now comes off more or less annoying. He plays Zack's right arm, doing his bidding. The comedy of Screech revolves around his odd behavior and the sticky situations he gets into. This kind of comedy can be hilarious and because of that, it's used a lot of sitcoms. For instance, Woody Harrelson in Cheers plays Woody Boyd, a bartender from a small town who seems to be dumb to the obvious. It's his lack of intelligence of the obvious that makes for a few laughs. This similar approach has been made with Diamond's Screech. However, the approach is slightly different. Screech is obnoxious, loud, and generally makes decisions that would even make Woody look like a genius.

While Screech is the only character that I find overly obnoxious, he isn't the only one who is prone to making some pretty dumb decisions. For instance, in part 1 of a two-part episode, "Wicked Step Brother", Zack gets the wonderful idea to loan a brand new Mazda Miata to a fellow Bayside'r. Of course, Zack doesn't own the car and he didn't even take the time to verify whether or not his friend had car insurance. In another episode, "Glee Club"¸ Zack and his gang embark on a journey, where they commit the act of fraud. The bad decisions don't stop there, as in another episode "Check Your Mate", Zack and friends commit a couple of felonies, conspiracy and kidnapping. Of course, these bad decisions are intended to carry a moral. After all, this was a Saturday morning show, targeted at a rather young audience.

Like many other shows that aired with similar timeslots, the show is full of good wholesome moral messages. One of those most obvious messages comes from the episode "No Hope With Dope", which holds the same moral message found in many other programs that are targeted to young audiences. In this episode, Zack and his friends are faced with a terrible decision, drugs. Of course the message gets put out, there's no hope with dope. Some of the other wonderful do-gooder messages include that you shouldn't judge a person by their appearance, helping people in need is a rewarding act, fake ID's are bad, lying is wrong, cheating is wrong, and many more.

The entire reason that I have droned on about the annoying Screech, the bad decision making, and the oh-so-catchy do-gooder messages, is to point out that they don't mix well together. In the end, we're left with a fairly corny show that would pale in comparison to some of the more popular and (somewhat) mature television comedies like Friends. While it probably isn't right to compare the two, Saved By the Bell just caters to the wrong audience and I no longer fall in it.

Despite that it may seem that I do not enjoy this show, the truth is, I just don't enjoy it as much. While there are several different aspects of this series that I have difficulty enjoying, this box set contains some of my favorite episodes. These episodes drift away from the halls of Bayside High School and Mr. Belding to the sunny beaches of Southern California, at the Malibu Sands resort club. In these episodes, the major adversary of the Saved By the Bell cast is replaced with the sleazy tyrant resort owner Leon Carosi (Ernie Sabella) and his New York daughter Stacey Carosi (Leah Remini, The King of Queens). One of the reasons why I always enjoyed these episodes was because of Leah Remini. While she isn't exactly a comical character, she brings her smug New York attitude into the fray, which seems to produce some fairly good entertainment. This effect is somewhat similar to her role with Kevin James in The King of Queens. While this box set does contain some other entertaining episodes than just the Malibu Sands episodes, it doesn't change the fact that the stories aren't meticulously written, the comedy is a bit too clichéd, and the acting isn't exactly perfect. In the end, the show is great for a younger audience, the fans, and an occasional laugh. In general, the show isn't extremely strong. So unless you fit in one of the previous categories, you probably shouldn't run out and buy this box set anytime soon.

The DVD

Video:
The pseudo-third-and-fourth season box set of Saved By the Bell is presented in its original television aspect ratio, 1.33:1 full frame color. While some television series that are ported to DVD undergo a significant improvement in terms of their visual appeal, the picture quality in this case seems to not be much of an improvement. Similar to Adam Tyner's review of Saved By the Bell - Seasons 1 & 2, the picture quality has a good number of countable defects. In general, the picture houses a very distinct grain, along with noticeable compression issues. While most people won't be troubled by the lack of quality, those with an eye for detail will be just as disappointed with this release as they were with the first Saved By the Bell box set when considering picture quality.

Sound:
The audio in this box set release is presented in English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. The sound is quite clear, with only a slight distortion in the audio track. The audio remains fairly flat, but this is due to the audio being primarily dialogue. Still, this audio track was not extremely impressive, as are most television DVD releases, but it was still better than broadcast television. The stereo audio track is supplemented with subtitles in both English and Spanish.

Extras:
While the first box set of Saved by the Bell episodes were shipped without any extras, this release has been filled with audio commentaries. These commentaries include the voice and opinions of executive producer Peter Engel and cast members Dustin Diamond, Dennis Haskins, and Lark Voorhies. The commentary is fairly entertaining, especially when Dustin Diamond makes an appearance. The commentary for "No Hope With Dope" is probably my favorite. It features Dustin Diamond making some really great jabs at himself as Screech. On the other hand, executive producer Peter Engel provides some very informative commentary, but don't expect him to make you laugh. This was a definite improvement over the previous release.

Final Thoughts:
My general impression of a good box set means that after watching one episode that it's nearly impossible not to watch another. It's unfortunate that despite my previous love for Saved By the Bell, I found it all to easy to not watch that next episode. Granted, most people probably don't enjoy sitting eleven hours in front the television, I don't mind if I'm watching the right show. Gripping television box sets should have that effect, whether you plan or unintentionally have a DVD marathon. The third and fourth seasons of Saved By the Bell just isn't one of those shows. Unless you're a die hard fan, you won't find this an extremely gripping comedy. Especially when considering the rather poor video quality, this box set doesn't really stand out amongst others. The pseudo-third-and-fourth seasons of Saved By the Bell is wonderful for filling those moments of nostalgia, but for the new comers, this four disc DVD box set will suffice as a weekend rental.

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