In ExhumeTube, we explore the dirty basement full of VHS tapes that is YouTube and write about our findings…
Saved by the Bell had a lot of wacky episodes; Zack gets framed for murder, the gang finds $5000 and gets chased by mobsters, Screech makes a sex tape.
Their strangest outing, though, comes from the 1989 promotional show Who Shrunk Saturday Morning, which is currently living on YouTube in the same way that Lenin is currently living in Moscow.
In the show, Screech beams half the gang (Zack, Slater, Lisa, and himself) into another dimension known as: NBC Televisionland– which in a case of unintended foreshadowing, is a depressingly barren void of nothingness (it looks a lot like a hastily blacked-out soundstage with shitty Christmas lights strewn about the walls).
There they meet Alf, John Candy, and other personalities from NBC’s Saturday-morning lineup. Then things start to get even more metaphysical and upsetting– Zack and the gang are continually asked what TV show they’re from! Unaware that they are, themselves, fictional characters, they insist that they aren’t from a TV show at all, they’re just regular teenagers leading real lives.
Speaking to Flash, who’s some kind of mustachioed, top hat-wearing, native resident of this parallel dimension, the Saved by the Bell gang desperately try and convince him of their humanity. It’s the closest we’ll ever get to a Charlie Kaufmen-penned episode of Saved by the Bell.
Flash: What show are you with?
Slater: We’re not with any show, we’re here by mistake.
Flash: So are half the shows on television.
Zack: No, no you don’t get it, we’re trying to find our way out of here.
Flash: Low ratings, huh?
Zack: No, no ratings at all. We’re not in a show!
It’s a heartbreakingly tragic post-modern twist—Zack’s biggest worry used to be being expelled from Bayside High by Mr. Belding, now he has to grapple with the existential of angst of knowing that his reality is an artificial construct intended to entertain pre-teens on Saturday mornings. It’s basically Six Characters in Search of an Author, but with Screech and Alf in it.
In the end they are taken to see the “Master Programmer”– the master of this realm, played by Sherman Hemsley.
This God-like ruler shows the gang clips of the show Saved by the Bell, and informs them that their lives are now his new Saturday morning TV show, before sending them back to Bayside. They seem happy to return to their reality, but it’s hard to watch the characters in the ensuing episodes, acting out ludicrous storylines when we all now they have become aware of the fact that they live in but a shell of our reality, forced to perform for the amusement of those of us in the real world. Like puppets… Like Alf.