It’s time once again for everyone to gear up for the holidays. Bundling up, hot beverages, family time, great food, it certainly is the most wonderful time of year. I’ve never been one for the cold weather so some of the fondest memories of my life was waking up Christmas morning, unwrapping my gifts and freaking out that I just received the latest Marvel action figure or gaming console like the Sony Playstation or Sega Dreamcast. Ah, those were the days!
Another highlight of my holiday season (aside from the festive sweaters) was watching all the Christmas related programming on television. So just like last year, for the next few weeks, I’ll review a specific Christmas special, film or television episode. This week I want to focus on one of my favorite shows of all time, Saved by the Bell. The episodes in question are the season three two-parter entitled “Home For Christmas”.
Now I actually didn’t watch a ton of SBTB during its original run (I guess I was too busy catching Fifteen/Hillside on Nickelodeon). Thanks to syndication, I was able to watch the entire series starting with weekday afternoons in the mid 1990s. It is no exaggeration when I tell you that I’ve watched every single episode of SBTB hundreds of times and now due to the guiding light known as Netflix, I’ve been able to watch them hundreds more. What’s funny is that by the time I watched this sentimental holiday feature, The College Years had already been cancelled!
Initially airing in 1991, this episode of the popular teen sitcom pits the California teenagers outside the classroom and away from their principal, Mr. Belding. This was a time before The New Class would have episodes and sometimes even entire seasons taking place anywhere but the halls of Bayside High School. This holiday classic primarily occurs at the Bayside Mall where most of the gang have taken jobs to earn extra cash for presents. Kelly works in a clothing store, Slater is a gift wrapper, and Jesse is an elf for the mall Santa. Lisa even volunteers at the local hospital caring for children who can’t be home for Christmas. Everything seems to be going well as the gang prepares their roles for the upcoming mall presentation of A Christmas Carol. Resident troublemaker, Zack Morris eyes Kelly’s co-worker, Laura, and tries to woo her over. Suddenly a man collapses in the mall and Zack and Screech recognize him as Frank, a kind homeless fellow they befriended earlier. They rush to his aid and are able to get him to a hospital. When they visit him that night, the gang sees Laura at his bedside and discovers that she’s his daughter and in effect, homeless as well.
The second part of this episode continues with the gang trying to do everything in their power to help Frank and Laura. Zack invites them to dinner at his house since his father is away and they oblige. Kelly and Laura’s boss, the cranky Mr. Moody, refuses to grant the latter time off to participate in “A Christmas Carol” until Zack arranges for the script to include several plugs for Moody’s store thus giving him tons of holiday business. The play goes off without a hitch but later, Moody scares Laura off after accusing her of stealing an expensive sports coat that Kelly had put away to buy for her father so he could go on job interviews. After discovering the pair living out of their car, Zack and his mother invite them to stay for Christmas where they extend the courtesy of living with them until they get back on their feet. A very warm gesture on the Morris family. Oh, and Moody also apologizes for his mistake. See? The holidays change everybody!
This episode may have been the first time I had ever seen an interpretation of “A Christmas Carol” (either this or The version done by The Muppets in ‘92). It was also the most selfless Zack had been in the entire series. We’re used to the wisecracking, scheming big shot but here, we get a genuinely caring person who helps take in a less fortunate family. I think that aspect made me enjoy these episodes a lot more.
Oh but wait, I have a surprise! That’s not the only Christmas themed episode that I’m going to review here on CXF. I have a special treat for you readers because I’m going to also talk about the season four episode of The New Class, “Fire at the Max”, where the Max burns down! Yes, the favorite eatery among Bayside students went up in flames once upon a time.
This was a two parter as well and aired during the Saturday morning block, TNBC, in 1996, serving as the season finale. Wanting to raise money to buy his girlfriend, Rachel, a luxurious jacket for Christmas, Ryan Parker (dimestore Zach Morris) becomes a waiter at the Max. Late one night, as he’s closing, he rushes out to buy the present only to forget to turn off the Christmas tree lights inside. After he leaves, one of them bursts and sets the tree ablaze ultimately taking down the entire restaurant. A distraught Ryan is deemed an outcast by the student body and even threatens to transfer schools but the gang all cheer him up into staying.
Part two sees the crew going to their favorite booth, which is now torched, in the ashes of their favorite hangout one final time and reminiscence about all their fun times there while the Max’s owner listens from afar. Mario Lopez makes an appearance reprising his character of Slater from the original series. He joins the new band of buddies and shares his own memories of the Max. This was one of the only times when clips of the old SBTB were shown on TNC. Finally, the owner who was overhearing everything is moved by all the kids’ stories and vows that he’s going to build a bigger and better Max! Everyone rejoices and somehow Ryan is not charged for arson or negligence.
I loved this one as a kid. I remember the TNBC promos hyping it up. They actually revealed that the Max was destroyed and left the viewer wondering what was going to happen. This was pretty heavy stuff for the series at the time to almost eliminate such an integral part of the show’s aesthetic. The Max did return by next season by the way but it was so bloated with really distracting neon lights that it took all the charm away from the original setting. It’s not nearly as good as the former but I still enjoy it when I happen to catch it. Yes, I know people that have TNC on DVD and yes, we sometimes watch this together.
I’ll see you next week for week two!