The Authorized Story of Me Watching The Unauthorized SBTB Story

Last night, instead of working on my manuscript that I’m already behind on thanks to morning sickness, I watched The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. Since you already know that embarrassing factoid, I’ll also tell you that I’d previously read Behind the Bell, so I knew what I was in for. But this blog post isn’t a review. This is a PSA.

Continuity: the unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time. The building blocks of live-action television.  It’s what allows fans to lose themselves inside fictional universes, kick back on their car-shaped couches and make themselves at home in their kooky, loving, ethnically-diverse lives.

What? Your living room didn't have a stoplight and a welder?

I was first introduced to continuity, or lack thereof, by the Bell. This is a show that inexplicably moved from Indiana to California, had five years of high school (hey, so did my ex-boyfriend), and dozens of disappearing siblings.

I dealt. I shrugged. I soldiered on in front of our Zenith console television. And then Tori entered Bayside High School and my world crumbled. Bell fans know the gist, but a quick recap: Tiffani-Amber Thiessen and Elizabeth Berkeley wanted out, so the show brought in Leanna Creel to play new-girl “Tori”, with no explanation as to where “Kelly” and “Jessie” had gone.

Except I had pigtails.
My fourth-grade self was devastated. As the product of a dysfunctional childhood, I could handle absentee family members. But absentee television characters? I felt lost. Betrayed. I acted out. I carved “I Hate Tori” into my Trapper Keeper, something for which I was teased about until high school by a boy who had “I Hate CASE” on his, which – if I understand it correctly – is the Tori of tractors. (I grew up in farm country, where tractor allegiance was encouraged.)

Every truck in my school's parking lot had one of these on the window. Starting to understand why Bayside moved from the Heartland to SoCal.
I couldn’t get over it, though. It just wasn’t fair! It wasn’t fair to Kelly and Jessie, who deserved a send-off, or at least, transfer papers. It wasn’t fair to Tori, who might have been an interesting character had she been properly introduced and developed. And it wasn’t fair to the fans, whose young age didn’t prevent them from remembering two main characters who had been an integral part of the show for four years. (About half of my life at the time.) Was this my first realization that life wasn’t fair?

In the Bell’s defense, they weren’t alone. The Dark Ages of Sitcoms (80s & 90s) were notoriously awful for writers adjusting their show to meet their scripts, as opposed to the writers adjusting their scripts to meet their show.

But a few years after the Bell stopped ringing (well, the first Bell anyway), something wonderful happened. JOSS WHEDON got his very own show, which advanced television in so many different ways: first and foremost, continuity. Now, characters can’t even have a passport without fans rioting and demanding, “When the fuck did that happen?”

This should have been preempted in Season 3 with a twenty-minute scene of Buffy filling out an application at the post office.

So moral(s) of the post: don’t treat your viewers/readers/fans like they have the memory of fish just because they're kids, buy John Deere, and Joss Whedon is God.
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