Today’s Search Term is “Johnny Dakota,” which, of course, means you readers out there are looking for the Saved by the Bell episode “No Hope With Dope.” And sure, we could give you a clip from that episode featuring fictional mega-hunk Johnny Dakota, played by dancer/choreographer Eddie Garcia, but that would be the easy way out. We prefer to present you with a clip that offers the biggest guest star in the episode, the truly special guest star, NBC Chairman Brandon Tartikoff.
By this point – 1991 – Tartikoff had a habit of popping up in NBC shows as himself, or as a version of himself, and this was a particularly meta appearance where he posited the idea of an NBC sitcom about a principal and his students. He ultimately ruled the idea out, but of course, that very idea was the show that he was on, one of a string of a hits on NBC under Tartikoff’s reign. It does say something special about Saved by the Bell’s specific success that it inspired the network chairman to appear on a Saturday Morning teen show, which is decidedly a different hosting SNL, which Tartikoff did in 1983. But always adept at self-promotion, Tartikoff knew an opportunity when it presented itself.
And speaking of promotion, you can read more about Tartikoff’s tenure at NBC in the new book Top of the Rock: The Rise and Fall of Must See TV, just like we did last week. Written by Tartikoff’s protege and successor Warren Littlefield (well, more curated than written by), the book takes a look at NBC’s dominance in the 90s. And while most of the tome focuses on the post-Tartikoff era at the Peacock, he was an important figure in shaping the network and laying the groundwork (Cheers, Cosby, Hill Street Blues, etc.) on which Must See TV was built. It’s that perfect gift for anyone who likes to read oral histories but hates anything of substance. But, be warned, there’s no talk of Saved by the Bell in the book, so you’ll have to rely on Behind the Bell for that.
Remember kids, say no to drugs! Or you could end up like Dustin Diamond.