Run Time: 7 Hours 13 Minutes
In 1993, at the end of Saved By the Bell the cast graduated from Bayside High School. It was time for them to move onto the future, a spin-off series entitled Saved By the Bell: The College Years. Just as the title says, this series is about the college experience for some members of the original series cast. Zack, Slater, Screech, and Kelly head off to California University for their freshmen year. While the original series was fairly popular, the spin-off series didn't do nearly as well. It aired for only one season. Still, the series isn't completely without merit. There are a few good qualities about it, but not a lot of them.
It really isn't a big surprise that the series ended after one season. This is because there aren't a lot of differences between the spin-of series and the original. The reason that this doesn't work is that the show just doesn't provide very much new and entertaining content. The first similarity of the two shows relates to the cast. In this series, three cast members are replaced. Filling the void for Lisa and Jessie are Leslie Burke (Anne Tremko) and Alex Tabor (Kiersten Warren). Leslie doesn't bring very much new to the show, except a new love interest for Zack. Her character seems to be based from Lisa, a wealthy well-to-do girl. However unlike Lisa, Leslie has more interest in education, while Lisa was focused more on shopping. Instead of Jessie's feminine demeanor, we have Alex, a wannabe drama queen with a high pitch voice and a fairly down to earth attitude. For the most part, the qualities of Lisa and Jessie are reborn in Leslie and Alex. Of course the girls have a few different aspects of their personality that make them different. For instance, Leslie just isn't very funny and Alex tends to be overly dramatic, which borderlines annoying.
In the place of Principal Belding, Resident Director Mike Rogers (Bob Golic), a graduate student in psychology and a former 49ers defensive line, takes charge of the wily cast. Rogers actually adds a lot more to the show than Belding ever did. This is mainly because Rogers is much younger than Belding and gets to integrate with the cast a little bit more. However like Belding, Rogers tends to be emotionally attached to Zack and friends, acting as both a rival for Zack's ploys and a big brother for everyone else. In addition, there are a couple of reoccurring characters. Jeremiah Lasky (Patrick Fabian) plays a young professor with a PhD in anthropology. He gets the cast through a few pickles and even creates some on his own. However, Lasky isn't a huge pull in the show. On the other hand, Susan McMann (Holland Taylor) plays the dean of students who provides Zack with a true rival. While McMann isn't in a lot of the episodes, it's entertaining to see her challenge and stump Zack in a way that Belding never could.
As for Zack, Slater, Kelly, and Screech, they are very similar to their roles in the original series. However, there are a few subtle differences. One of the better changes is the character of Screech. While it may not be apparent at first, his character has been toned down a level or two. I felt that this was really needed, because in the original series, there was far too much emphasis placed upon Screech doing and saying stupid things. This is a really good aspect of the new series, because Screech isn't nearly as annoying. In fact, he's given a few moments to really shine, where he comes off as intelligent, witty, and really likeable.
Another factor of the series that makes it feels like the original are the episode plots. A good number of stories found in Saved By the Bell: The College Years have been touched upon in its parent series. For instance, this series deals with issues like cheating, drugs, relationships, losing, loyalty, and honesty. Of course, all of these have been covered in the original series. However they're spiced up a bit, taken to "new" levels, but really it just doesn't feel that way.
In the end, this spin-off series feels a little too much like the original that it doesn't bring very much new. The characteristics of the new and old cast members feel and act the same. The stories told in this new series borderline the same content as the original. It's relatively the same show with a different atmosphere, but a little less entertaining. Fans of the original series should really enjoy seeing familiar elements like Zack's crazy schemes and Screech's annoying habits.