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Attack of the “Saved by the Bell” Clones

I fully admit to being one of the biggest fans of “Saved by the Bell.” I’ve seen every single episode front and back, and will even sit through the lackluster re-conditioned episodes of “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” and the odd episodes where Jessie and Kelly mysteriously disappeared and were replaced by Tori, only to return while Tori was never mentioned ever again.

In spite of its flaws, and maybe because of them, “Saved by the Bell” is a favorite that was so incredibly successful it gave way to a ton of wannabes that aired on weekends hoping to appeal to teenagers. Most of the clones aired on NBC, the same network that created “Saved by the Bell” and all with varying degrees of success, even if they never caught on and struck a chord with teens like “Saved by the Bell” did. As a genuine TV junkie, I’ve seen almost all of the series that came and went in the nineties, and thought I’d mention five that stuck out like sore thumbs.

California Dreams (1992)
This is one of the many “Saved by the Bell” clones with an identity crisis, first focusing on characters Matt and his younger sister Jenny, both of whom led the band “California Dreams.” They played mostly pop and romance ballads, and of course struggled with school life and a wacky family. Jenny was then written off in season two, and the entire family were written out, with the series focusing more on the band and less on the wacky home life of Matt and Jenny’s. The show became very band-centric by the time it ended, almost feeling like a spin off of the “Zack Attack” episode from “Saved by the Bell.” All things considered, the series had its moments, and the theme song is still very memorable. I don’t mind busting out the DVD every now and then to take in the goofy music and pre-“Baywatch” Kelly Packard. I remember this series airing every weekday evening on WPIX in my city.

City Guys (1997)
This was “Saved by the Bell” but in an Urban setting. And imagine the episode where the gang forms a radio station, but the plot device becoming a recurring setting for every single episode. “City Guys” is a fairly harmless clone from NBC that centered on two friends Jamal and Christopher, both of whom went to an inner city high school and hosted a popular radio show for their school. Chris was of course from a wealthy and privileged family, while Jamal came from a working class family. Conflict! They both start as rivals and become best friends over the course of five seasons, all the while being foiled by their school principal who always kept the on the straight and narrow. This was another one of those topical teen sitcoms with episodes concerning stuff like peer pressure, racism, and drugs, et al. It’s mainly remembered for being an early starring vehicle for Wesley Jonathan who went on to considerable fame.

Hang Time (1995)
Remember that one episode of “Saved by the Bell” where Zack was a “star” basketball player? Think of this one as a sports-centric “Saved by the Bell” where the focus of the series was always the basketball team called the Tornadoes, and their daily goings on. This series was run during the afternoon block on NBC every Saturday. When “Saved by the Bell” was still on, NBC ran a ton of potential successors including “Hang Time” which became known mainly for being one of the first big roles of Anthony Anderson. Like many “Saved by the Bell” clones, every season vastly differs from the preceding one since the show was always being retooled. Season two saw major recasting and a new direction confronting teen issues and romances since the "Saved by the Bell" showrunner was brought on. “Hang Time” is a neat relic of the mid-nineties with some classic cheese of the decade.

Student Bodies (1997)
This was yet another “Saved by the Bell” wannabe that originally aired in Canada, but was syndicated in America on FOX every Saturday afternoon. This usually came on right after the cartoons and good stuff ended. It aired for one year in America and had possibly the most annoying theme song of all time. “Student Bodies” focused on a very Zack Morris-like character whose main shtick was his art, which he used to exaggerate his every day life, and narrate every event on the show no matter how minute. Like others of its kind, “Students Bodies” was retooled a lot during its three seasons (even the theme song was removed) and is mainly remembered for the animated transitions and segments which would be mimicked in “Lizzie McGuire.” I mostly remember the show for one episode where main character Cody dates an art snob and is forced to listen to her friends pompously refer to Van Gogh as “Van Gog.”

Welcome Freshmen (1991)
Yes, another of the many “Saved by the Bell” clones, this one ran on Nickelodeon and was originally a comedy about high school that involved sketches in the vein of “You Can’t Do That On Television.” They thankfully weren’t as god awful as “Round House” and had some educational value every now and then. By season three, the format was abandoned in favor of a typical high school situation comedy, involving most of the cast returning this time as high school sophomores trying to get through everyday life. This is the Nickelodeon series a lot of people don’t really talk about, which is a shame since it’s at least a somewhat decent effort to mimic the formula of the original series. Even the logo is so nineties-centric, you have to love it.

Honorable Mentions: Saved by the Bell: The New Class, USA High, One World, Breaker High, Sweet Valley High
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Dalek227 Posted on Dec 16, 2018 at 06:46 AM

I remember one more called USA High. I can't remember what channel it was on (haha maybe USA?).

I remember WGN on our Satellite played Two episodes of Good Morning Miss Bliss (But on the guide it was called Saved By The Bell) and then TBS would play like four episodes of normal saved by the bell. 5 days a week. There was for sure not one episode I missed.

mickyarber Posted on Jun 07, 2017 at 07:11 AM

I have recollection of any of these. Regardless, this was a good read.

Hoju Koolander Posted on May 28, 2017 at 01:37 PM

California Dreams was a lot of fun. I enjoyed Sylvester's weasely schemes and Tony's "Sweet Googamoo" catch phrase. None of the songs e ever reached Zack Attack quality, but I can still remember a few of them.

I rarely tuned into to T-NBC on Saturday Mornings to watch those other shows, especially after the first season of The New Class (ugh), but Saved By The Bell and Callfornia Dreams in syndication were appointment TV for me.

pikachulover Posted on May 28, 2017 at 01:05 AM

I really liked California Dreams a lot. I think it was the only show than ran for more than 1 season that I watched on T-NBC regularly.

I only remember City Guys because KTLA used to show it to meet e/i requirements. It came on before Pokemon. I would catch the end of it while waiting to watch Pokemon.

Hang Time was good, but after they really retooled it for season 2 I stopped watching.

I really liked Student Bodies. I liked the cartoon element of it. I liked it because I wanted to be a cartoonist for my school paper back then. I remember there was that clumsy character named Grace.

One show people don't really remember was Running the Halls. It only ran on NBC Saturday morning for one season in 1993-1994.

OldSchool80s Posted on May 27, 2017 at 02:50 AM

I was a big fan of Saved By The Bell the whole way. I think I saw every episode multiple times. Also not familiar with any of the shows you mentioned except a vague memory of California Dreams.

Vaporman87 Posted on May 26, 2017 at 07:34 AM

The one I'm most familiar with here is California Dreams. I think of all the SBTB clones, that one stuck out to me. I think the main draw was the cast, which was not too bad. They did an admirable job of creating appealing characters and scenarios. Most of these are new to me, so it's cool to find out about them.

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