Hi, guys! I’ve missed you so much! So, here’s the deal: I assumed my buy-Season-5-or-I-won’t-review-it ultimatum would last a lot longer and wouldn’t be resolved until my Mom ended up buying them (my Mom totally reads FHR. Hi, Mom! Maybe you were right about all that tv rotting my brain…). I’d planned on writing a series of articles entitled, “The Writer’s Strike” while the stalemate played out, both to retain readers during the hiatus and also because I thought it would be fun to do some pop-culture blogging that wasn’t strictly about Full House for a change. But, much to my surprise, a few readers seemed pretty eager to get to Season 5 and the DVD’s came right away. Who woulda thunk it!
But there was one “Writer’s Strike” idea that was too good to pass up, so I thought I’d offer this intermission, or “half-time show” for you football fans, before returning to the seemingly-endless slog that is reviewing every episode of Full House in chronological order. And so I offer you this one-time entry that celebrates another shitty show, one I’d call the most divinely shitty show of them all, Saved By the Bell.
I fucking love Saved By the Bell. It’s completely garish and nonsensical in every way imaginable, and since it was continually renewed for syndication throughout my entire upbringing, it’s been a ubiquitous part of my life. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve watched this show so fucking much that I’ve even developed an affection for all the colorful background characters who illuminate the hallways of Bayside High. That’s right, even though 6 kids completely dominate every single class and school activity that takes place at Bayside, there is a large and diverse cast of unsung heroes who populate the school and create a vibrant, living ambiance throughout the series. Some of them do little more than stand in the background and react accordingly to the main characters’ antics, but others eventually graduate to speaking, or even supporting, roles.
And so, without further ado, here it is: the only non-Full House, Full House Reviewed article you’ll ever read. This Friday, rather than commiserate about one awful show for it’s lack of craft or tact, we celebrate the inane minutiae of a much more charming but equally terrible show. This week, we pay tribute to:
The Top 10 Saved By the Bell Background Characters:
10) The Surfer Guy
The Surfer Guy is there to reaffirm stereotypes about early 90’s Southern California surfer guys. His interests include surfing, skateboarding, and, presumably, smoking pot in a van in the Bayside parking lot.
One of the only times he ever speaks onscreen is when he and his doped up surfer buddies pitch their business idea, a collapsible cardboard surfboard, as a class project. Even A.C. Slater, inventor of Buddy Bands, can see what an idiotic idea this is.
9) The Short Girl
The Short Girl likes to party, evidenced by her appearance at just about every school dance or birthday throughout the entire series. She also has some pretty great reactions to all the ridiculous nonsense that occurs on and around Bayside.
Apparently her locker is right next to the staircase, making her a captive witness to all sorts of bizarre spectacles. But, I wonder, would the absurdity of these situations be as apparent to us, the viewers, without her emotive reactions?
8) The Guy With Butt Rock Hair
Originally cast as one of The Surfer Guy’s crew, The Guy With Butt Rock Hair carves out his own unique identity over time. Although he, too, reaffirms Southern California stereotypes and surely spends a great deal of time in that van in the parking lot, he also spontaneously plays air guitar at parties, making him an entity unto himself.
Although obsessive SBTB devotees (I can’t be the only one) will point out that Fat Enid’s name is revealed during the graduation ceremony at the series’ climax to be Margo Mason (what a gratifying conclusion to the series it is to see so many background characters finally named! We also learn that The Short Girl is actually named Wanda Wilcox), she is affectionately referred to by my friends and I as “Fat Enid” because she resembles a plus-sized Enid Coleslaw from Ghost World.
Fat Enid is also apparently the only Jew at Bayside, which we learn when a teacher asks everyone in the class who’s Jewish to raise their hands. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal, but whatever, it only served the purpose of aiding one of Zack’s zany schemes when he claimed to be one of the chosen people to get out of class, so who cares?
6) The Asian Chameleon
So what’s the deal? He seems pretty normal, right? But there’s one thing about the Asian Chameleon that separates him from the rest of these background characters (well, two if you count the fact that he’s the only Asian person.).
The Asian Chameleon occasionally plays the role of a nerd. He’s the only extra who plays a dual role, presumably because they wanted an Asian nerd but refused to hire another actor. What’s most amazing about it is that he sometimes plays both of these roles in a single episode. What, we’re supposed to think that he’s two different guys? Don’t rerun your show four times a day for twenty years if you want to try to get away with a stunt like that.
Ollie, the Nerd With a Frog in His Throat, is a more well-known background character, as he tends to get a few lines whenever he appears onscreen. He’s often on committees or in school clubs and contributes his opinions with his trademark scratchy baritone. He’s also a common easy mark whenever Zack tries to sell some bullshit product to a bunch of rubes.
I wonder if the actor who plays him really talks like that or if his weird voice is just some schtick he came up with to score more lines. He does get a laugh pretty much any time he says anything, regardless of whether it’s a joke or not. I also find it remarkable that so many of the background characters at Bayside are nerds. Is it because of the popularity of the Revenge of the Nerds movies? Seriously, Bayside’s like %40 nerds.
Herbert is probably the hardest working extra of them all, as his unwavering dedication towards fixing his face to look like he just sniffed a turd has got to be pretty strenuous. He also moves in quick, jerky movements that are surely the product of years of study at the Oxford School of Drama.
Ox almost doesn’t qualify for this list, as he’s more or less a supporting character in the Tori episodes, but, fuck it, I never saw his ass in the credits. Besides, there’s just so much to say about him.
Ox originally appeared as Scud, the red herring character in the “No Hope With Dope” episode, but for some reason he was later recast as a different one-dimensional character. What’s even weirder is that there was already a dumb jock character named Moose on the show.
Ox really draws attention to the fact that Saved By the Bell is more or less a live-action adaptation of Archie comics. Although the characters at Bayside aren’t one-to-one analogs of the kids at Riverdale, they’re both essentially stories about the improbable adventures of archetypical teenage stereotypes, written for children by out-of-touch hacks. These parallels are never as evident as when the character of Ox shows up, who actually is a one-to-one analog of an Archie character, who interestingly enough is named Moose.
2) The Twins
The Twins are your best choice for a Saved By the Bell background characters drinking game, as every time there’s gossip, every time Jesse is looking for supporters for her feminist cause, every time Zack needs to swindle someone or hit on them, they’re there.
Although This Guy is less conspicuous than many Saved By the Bell background characters, mostly because he’s considerably less cartoonish in his appearance than most of them, I can guarantee you that once you’ve seen him, you will never un-see him ever again.
This Guy offers so many amazing moments, as he’s present throughout the entire series. No background character better exemplifies the collective reactions of Bayside’s student body to a given situation than he does.
In a lighter scene, This Guy lets us know that Slater’s drumming for the talent competition is supposed to be good by rocking out behind him and giving him a congratulatory pat on the back when he’s done.
This Guy provides a sense of empathy to the audience that the main characters cannot. You see, Saved By the Bell is a story presented to us by Zack Morris, an omniscient narrator who knows he’s in a story and controls every element around him, be it the winning results of a raffle or the movement of time itself.
Since we, the viewer, can never know what it’s like to control the very fabric of reality, we can only see Zack as the other, an unknowable entity. This Guy embodies the experience that more closely resembles our own, as a passive spectator in the drama surrounding Zack.
This Guy is the face of Bayside’s largely marginalized student body, forced to dance aimlessly in the background in a wizard robe as the real drama plays out in the foreground, a plane only attainable by 6 students at Bayside and maybe whoever they’re trying to bang that week.
This Guy only speaks once in the entire series, despite being present for damn near every episode. When he and his friends are asked to voice their opinions about Bayside’s radio programming, they praise everyone’s performance except for Slater’s. What is it with This Guy and Slater? They seem to have a pretty complex relationship…
Finally, since I had to fast-forward through the entire fucking series to create this blog entry, I took a few more screencaps of moments that were too good not to share.