Rembert Explains the ’90s: The Saved by the Bell Graduation Finale

Welcome to our newish series, Rembert Explains the ’90s. Unlike the source material for our previous, ’80s-themed series, these videos have been seen countless times, with the result being an unparalleled, almost embarrassing level of expertise. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching the video, then we’ll post those thoughts here. This week’s installment, selected by Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons, is the final episode of Saved by the Bell. If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Explains the ’90s, e-mail us at hollywood@grantland.com.

[Note: The 20th anniversary of this episode was yesterday, May 22.]


0:03 Might have ranked this font too low.

It jiggles to the beat. Just incredible.

0:27 While annoying, this song has aged surprisingly well, shout-out to the shredding.

1:16 I would apologize for the low quality of this video, but this is the only existing copy of the last episode of Saved by the Bell that seems to be on the Internet. NBC Universal really doesn’t want people to watch this show on non-televisions.

1:51 Zack’s hair.

Bless it.

1:55 Nerds really aren’t made fun of like they used to be. Even in the final episode, Zack is still throwing shots at the vested and pocket-protected. What a guy.

2:10 Even when blurry, these are still three of the most majestic fictional women ever created.

2:16 In the bottom-right corner is a blurry word that I haven’t thought about in more than a decade:

“THE SUPERSTATION.”

’90s TBS was a great thing.

2:30 Maybe second only to Cory Matthews and Mr. Feeny in terms of wonderful authority figure–mischievous student tough-love relationships were Zack and Principal Belding.

2:41 Serious question: Did Zack Morris know how to read?

2:52 The audience reaction to Belding telling Zack he’s not graduating is phenomenal. And I’d like to believe fully sincere. I almost gasped myself, and I know how this episode ends.

3:00 Graduating high school was hard. Zack Morris was really a cautionary tale for anyone who enrolled into a class to sit next to a girl and then dropped the class as soon as the girl transferred schools, thus coming up one credit short. Who hasn’t been there?

3:04 Belding, to Zack: “There’s nothing I can do.” Oh, that great lie of academics. THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING THAT CAN BE DONE.

3:12 Zack, upon hearing he might have to go to summer school:

“Those two words don’t go together.” He’s right, especially if you’re a fan of the old insult “she’s like school in the summertime … no class.”

Top-10 class insult, by the way.

3:24 I love it when they line up by height.

3:26 Yes, that’s A.C. Slater, tucking a purple crew-neck into quadruple pleated khakis.

3:57 Completely forgot Slater often referred to Zack as “Preppy.” Shame on me.

4:07 To graduate, Zack has to get in a dance class and perform in the final recital. Five bucks he accomplishes all of that.

4:34 Wow. Big Pete.

Also forgot about him. Slightly embarrassed. Anyway, because he’s a legend/had his life threatened by bully Zack Morris, he’s faking an injury to give Zack his spot.

5:11 Correction, it was Zack and Slater. And it wasn’t a life threat:

It was in exchange for a letterman’s jacket. Great move on Big Pete’s part. I bet he was the man at Johns Hopkins freshman orientation with that thing.

5:43 Zack Morris is one of TV’s greatest schemers. Instead of asking Belding for Big Pete’s spot, he milked it long enough that eventually Belding proposed the idea. Mere mortals like you and I would have immediately suggested themselves as a replacement, risking a blown cover about Big Pete’s mysterious injury.

Not Zack. Never Zack.

6:20 Except for Will Smith as the Fresh Prince, no one broke the fourth wall for a laugh like Zack Morris.

So quick, so effortless, and a 100 percent success rate.

6:51 Lisa Turtle invented fashion.

What, you’re not brave enough to staple Christmas tree ornaments to your black top, BELT IT, and then wear a red mini-skort? That’s your problem.

7:48 Screech just beat Jessie as valedictorian. By 1/10th of a point. This devastation must have been why she went on to do Showgirls. Can’t believe I didn’t make this connection earlier.

8:03 Screech just turned down being named valedictorian, because he beat Jessie. And then tried to convince Belding he cheated. And then called it a “stupid” honor. And then emo–stormed out.

What an absurd show.

8:46 I refuse to entertain this plot. Screech’s outfit, however:

9:19 I wish there were a list of the times Belding said, “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.” In this instance, he tells the girls and Zack the ballet is canceled:

Oh. No.

9:23 Even nerd teachers were allowed to call student nerds “nerds.” What a society ours once was. Poor nerds.

10:05 Belding caved in and honored Screech’s insane wish and told Jessie she was valedictorian. Nice, Saved by the Bell. Teach kids that it’s cool and acceptable to not want to be the smartest. WAY. TO. GO.

10:35 I don’t know what happened, but it looks like the ballet is still on.

And here’s Zack:

And here’s Slater:

Bye, Slater:

11:43 This is a horrible production. They should all fail out of school.

12:20 Why is the audience clapping? Seriously, that was the worst.

12:34 Jessie just said the director told her this was the first ballet that the audience didn’t walk out on. This school needs to shut down. Belding needs to be thrown in jail. Turn Bayside into an American Apparel.

12:40 Lisa Turtle: “We’ve got to do this again sometime.” I want to turn this off.

12:45 NEVER MIND.

“Hey, guys, there isn’t going to be another sometime.” — Kelly. I’m a giant sucker for sappy, Debbie Downer, shirt-off-the-shoulder Kapowski.

13:05 Screech is crying.

13:23 I FORGOT ZACK GOT INTO YALE.

NOTHING IS FUNNIER THAN ZACK GETTING A 1502 ON THE SAT AND GETTING INTO YALE UNIVERSITY.

13:51 A very normal thing Slater just said to Jessie Spano:

“And you’ll always be my mama.”

I might throw up.

14:21 Lisa just kissed Screech on the cheek, and held his hand while doing it, and then tells Jessie “I’m going to miss him, he’s a real decent guy.” This moment almost makes up for that horrible thing Slater just said to Jessie. Almost.

14:48 And here it is:

Jessie: “He may be decent, but he’s still a dorky guy.”

Lisa: “Well, if it wasn’t for that dorky guy, you wouldn’t be valedictorian.”

Well done, Lisa. Way to ruin the secret. Seriously, Jessie Spano always deserves it.

15:31 Belding: “You seniors have given me more memories than any others in all my years at Bayside.”

I’ll never forget the day I realized school principals/headmasters/presidents say that to every graduating class, every year.

15:51 It’s commonly agreed upon that Jessie’s the worst, right?

16:07 She just said she learned two life lessons last night, “humility and generosity.” Before you rush off to congratulate her, WHO DOESN’T LEARN THIS UNTIL AGE 18?

16:33 Whatever, Jessie. You told the truth. Get off the stage and let my guy Screech close out this final episode.

17:12 Wait.

WAIT.

Is this a thing? Is it commonly known that they look just alike, or did I miss this? It’s uncanny.

17:38 Zack went from almost not graduating to graduation speaker in a matter of days. He’s unreal. The model exceptional underachiever.

HE ALSO GOT INTO YALE.

17:52 My favorite part of the episode is when Zack acknowledges that he’ll miss all his friends, and Belding lumps himself into that group.

It’s just too cute, especially since he’s so wrong.

18:01 Zack just said he’d miss his 86 girlfriends. Bayside wasn’t that big, so I’m forced to assume he dated 86 percent of the female population.

18:18 I thought about giving this exact speech at my graduation. But then I remembered I didn’t have any friends.

19:03 BIG PETE GRADUATED.

19:15 Belding: “Lisa Turtle, looking sharp.”

This is weird, mainly because she’s wearing the same thing as everyone else.

19:26 [Skips Jessie getting her diploma.]

19:32 Belding gives Kelly tissue, because she’s crying.

19:51 Belding and Slater finally do the handshake right. Very touching.

20:00 Belding, to Zack:

“You know, son, you’ve got something very special inside of you. I hope I’m around to see it when you let it all out.”

Oh, OK. There are the chills I’ve been waiting for all episode.

20:21 As always, highest of thanks to Peter Engel for the memories.

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Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ rembert