This ‘Saved By the Bell’ Star Is Calling Out the Series for Its ‘Morally Abhorrent’ Storylines

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When it comes to the popular TV shows of the past, plenty of fans who revisit their favorites have been in for a shock. Lots of “iconic” moments from shows of the 90s and early 00s have simply not aged well. Plots built around gendered double standards, stereotypes, and casual discrimination are cringe-worthy when viewed through modern eyes. 

And it’s not just fans who grimace when they stumble across these out-of-place storylines. Even the stars who said the lines and played the parts are calling out their former series for helping to promote problematic ideas. That’s been the case for Saved By the Bell, a popular teen comedy that hasn’t exactly held up to current standards. 

Saved by the Bell cast: Lark Voorhies (left) as Lisa Turtle, Ed Alonzo as Max, Tiffani Thiessen as Kelly Kapowski, Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Zack Morris, Dennis Haskins as Mr. Richard Belding, Elizabeth Berkley as Jessie Spano, Dustin Diamond as Screech Powers, and Mario Lopez as A.C. Slater
‘Saved by the Bell’ cast | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Mark-Paul Gosselaar played Zack Morris on ‘Saved by the Bell’

Saved by the Bell premiered in 1989 and followed six teen friends through their time at Bayside High School. Running for four seasons before ending in 1992, the series was mostly about the laughs but occasionally dipped into more serious territory with episodes that tackled topics like drunk driving, homelessness, and drug use. 

While the actors who played the six primary cast members were young when they started working on the show, their roles would go on to define them in Hollywood for the rest of their lives. This is certainly the case for Mark-Paul Gosselaar. While the actor is still active in his career and has worked on successful series like NYPD Blue and Mixed-ish, he’ll always be associated with Zack Morris, the popular and athletic teen he portrayed on Saved by the Bell

Mark-Paul Gosselaar calls some storylines from ‘Saved by the Bell’ ‘morally abhorrent’

On the September 4, 2023 episode of Pod Meets World — a podcast run by former stars of Boy Meets World, another teen-centric TV show from the 1990s — Mark-Paul Gosselaar appeared as a guest and had some thoughts to share about how Saved by the Bell measured up to today’s standards for morality. 

Gosselaar is himself hosting a podcast titled Zack to the Future, which is a re-watch of Saved by the Bell with commentary including his own personal experiences and memories. It didn’t take long for him to run into problematic content as he started his journey through the former episodes.

The second episode of the series is titled “The Lisa Card” and revolves around Zack urging fellow students to kiss classmate Lisa without her permission. Gosselaar says, “I feel a little conflicted by this particular episode.” He admits that it lacks the “carefree and innocent” nature of the first episode he rewatched.

He goes on to explain that he won’t ignore the tensions between modern sensibilities surrounding topics like consent and sexual equality: “We’re not going to say that we don’t see some of the morally abhorrent or dated situations and responses to certain things.”

Mark-Paul Gosselaar ultimately wants to give fans a ‘fun’ podcast

While Gosselaar refuses to ignore the glaring disconnect between modern standards of decency and some of the storylines from Saved by the Bell, he also isn’t determined to dwell on them. Calling out the problematic aspects isn’t the goal of Zack to the Future.

Gosselaar aims for the podcast to be “fun” and “a celebration of Saved By The Bell.”

Still, celebrations don’t come without accountability. One episode in particular that has Gosselaar apologizing for past behavior is titled “Running Zack.” In it, he appears in a stereotypical Native American headdress. Gosselaar says he blocked out memories of this moment: “This is one of those that I don’t, I don’t like remember putting on the headdress. I don’t remember putting face paint on.” He goes on to say, “This episode would never get made in current times, and rightly so.”

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