time after time

(8 april 2009)

i’ve been watching saved by the bell in the mornings lately. primarily because every episode has been seared into my brain, thus obviating the need to wear contacts or glasses. but i was struck by something today.

how devastating is zack and kelly’s breakup?

you know, the one where they sit on the picnic table outside the costume ball while slater and jessie (I’M SO EXCITED!!!) spano lip-sync that sad, sad michael bolton song about how can you possibly go on living when the person you love no longer wants you.

let’s think about that for a minute, because that is awful.

a truth the gravity of which i think we were spared in our youths because saved by the bell unfolded largely outside of time.

most of us grew up with it in syndication (tbs from 3:05-4:05 and wgn from 4:00-5:00) so we’re accustomed to the patchwork sequencing. slater and zack would be best friends at 3:05 and then the knives would be out come 3:35. zack and kelly were dating one hour then just friends the next. tori was everywhere and then she wasn’t. and at 4:30 zack would kiss lisa, something no one would ever mention again.

since it was a show set outside any logical order, it’s appropriate that the dvds reflect a similar chronological disarray. there, the episode of zack coping with the kelly breakup actually precedes the breakup itself. which is nice in a way, because watching them break-up, you already know that, after acting out with screech’s strangely attractive cousin and getting a lecture from the gang, zack will recover and he and kelly will reunite as friends at lisa’s birthday party and zack will admit that the college guy kelly dumped him for is actually kind of cool.

it is when you make the sadistic effort to watch these episodes in logical order that you realize how completely ridiculous an interpretation of a post-breakup this really is.

because this is an awful breakup.

they are sitting on a picnic table in full elizabethan dress. because kelly’s parents apparently practiced the rhythm method and consequently have 800 kids, kelly couldn’t afford to buy a dress of her own, thus, she is wearing a dress that zack has bought her and which, in a surprising touch of realism, exposes way more bosom than is probably right for a saturday morning kids show. her breasts seem to be taunting him as he, in a move that seems the final emasculating blow, wears tights- tights!- for her and yet still she has just called him by the name of another man as they win the bayside equivalent of Couple of the Year.

as if that weren’t devastating enough, as they sit together on the picnic table, serenaded with the lyrics “how am i supposed to carry on/when all that i’ve been living for is gone,” zack asks kelly for a last dance

ouch, my heart.

of course, zack morris would do this. because zack morris could be nothing less than a gentleman. he would have to do the honorable thing.

but i like to think there’s an alternate universe. one where kelly goes out dancing and catches jeff the douche with a college girl and realizes she made a horrible mistake.

but then, that can’t happen now. that happened eight episodes earlier.

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