If you asked us which television character we most resemble, many suggestions would rapidly come to mind. Zack Morris for his blonde hair good looks and cunning. Mike Seaver for his teenage heartthrob good looks and mischievous charm. Cousin Cody for his laid-back surfer dude good looks and martial arts skills. But while those are all great contenders, we have to admit that there’s another character in the television pantheon with whom we most identify: Arnold Horshack, played so brilliantly and honestly by Ron Palillo, who passed away yesterday at sixty-three.
We recall very clearly the summer in which we first fell in love with Welcome Back Kotter. No, it was not the Summer of ’77, but almost twenty years later when the show was in syndication on Nick at Nite, as that network began to shift its designation of “classic TV” from the black & white oldies like The Donna Reed Show and Mr. Ed to the grainy full color ’70s shows like Kotter and The Bob Newhart Show. Nick at Nite would run marathons of Kotter once a week, as part of their “Block Party Summer” programming gambit, and watching those episodes back-to-back-to-back was just about the best block party we ever went to. But we also remember the show airing nightly at 11pm, perhaps the following summer or the one after that. This sticks with us vividly because we recollect having to make a tough decision, a Sophie’s choice: Seinfeld, airing every night in syndication as still does to this day, the undisputed sitcom champ of its time and perhaps anytime, or Welcome Back Kotter, the over the hill has-been who was also the new kid on the block. Even though Kotter was about fifteen years older, and had achieved lunch box-level success, it felt very much like a wily up-and-comer taking on the unbeatable stalwart. But while our head told us that we should choose Seinfeld, that it was the superior show, the one that was not only plugged into the zeitgeist but was driving it, we felt this tug towards the Mr. Kotter and his Sweathogs. Did the latter show have hugs and heart while the former swore off that sort of sentimentality as its guiding principle? Certainly. But we weren’t quite the cynics we are now, not quite submerged in snark-infested waters. And despite the magnetic north of Nielsen ratings and cultural relevance pointing towards Jerry and the gang, and despite our unconditional love for that show then, now and forever, we followed our hearts further up the dial, further into the hinterlands of cable, towards Gabe and the gang.
Before we get to tonight’s Idol, we’re going to continue with our Saved by the Bell themed Gratuitous Search Term Bait of the Day, this time working with the familiar search term “community anthony michael hall.” But, once again, we’re going to put a Bayside twist on this, and to do so, let’s play a little word, or concept, association. Where does Community take place? Well, at a community college, of course. And what’s a broader word for “college?” How about “school?” Sure, school. And when we think of Anthony Michael Hall and school what comes to mind? The Breakfast Club, of course! And where does that movie chronicle? A day of detention! And where have we also seen a day of detention? Why, in the Saved by the Bell season episode literally titled “Day of Detention.” Boom! Six degrees of Saved by the Bell.
So, now, as you might have guessed, here’s a brief but colorful clip from that memorable day:
And, remember, don’t confuse this episode with “Senior Cut Day.” It’s an easy mistake.
The snow is falling outside and we don’t have any plans til Friday night (maybe), so we’ve decided it’s finally time for the Saved by the Bell marathon, something we’ve been planning to do for years. The day has arrived.
For obvious reasons we’re excluding Good Morning, Miss Bliss, The College Years, and The New Class. But that still leaves us with 86 episodes, which works out to about 32 hours of Bayside. We’ve gotten our coffee, picked up some soda, have a couple of bags of Hot Buffalo Wing Pretzel Pieces at the ready, and a half-gallon of Trader Joe’s Coffee Bean Blast ice cream in the freezer. We’re not sure what will come of this, but check back here for some live blogging and keep an eye on our Twitter for random insights and observations. And then, hopefully, when all is done we’ll have some kind of thesis, the definitive Saved by the Bell dissertation.
Zack Morris, I’m coming for all your giant cell phones.
It’s really hard to pinpoint when we fully realized the genius of Late Night with Fallon, because there have been so many brilliant moments, like the California Dreams reunion, or the Muppets dropping by to sing “The 12 Days of Christmas”, or the visit from Zack Morris, or the Lost homage “Late,” or the Parks & Recreation-assisted Glee‘d version of “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” It’s really been an incredible twelve months for Jimmy Fallon and his team, whom we’ve praised over and over again, and plan to keep doing so. But, for us, there was perhaps no greater pop-culture tribute than Late Night‘s very own incarnation of the a capella legends Rockapella, which they gifted us in March of this year. Lost, Glee, even Saved by the Bell, those are rather obvious objects of affection. But to channel something like Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?‘s house band, well that’s truly special, and perhaps more than anything else Late Night has done that showed the depth of their knowledge, humor, intelligence, and a disturbing awareness of references from our childhood that we will go crazy for.
And, just in time for the holiday season, they’ve done it again (this time with more Jason Segel!):
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Hats off, once again, gentleman. Brava.
By the way, did you know that Rockapella founder Sean Altman auditioned for Season 1 of NBC’s The Sing-Off with his new a capella group the GrooveBarbers? They didn’t make the cut. Which somehow feels like if Marcel Marceau was rejected from a mime competition. Must have been the name. Oh, and it sorta sounds like he’s taking credit for the success of The Sing Off. Sure, why not?
Like many, I was hard on Jimmy Fallon when he first embarked on his new role as Late Night host back in March. And the criticism was well-earned. He seemed ill prepared, unfocused, giggly, and generally too impressed by his guests to offer up anything that resembled an acceptable interview. However, while his Q&A skills are still raw, he has proven to showcase some of the best, most off-beat sketches on the late night talkies (take a note, Mr. Leno). From Zack Morris‘ truly satisfying visit to the truly weird “Let us play with your look” to the truly pitch-perfect Hills knock-off series “7th Floor West,” Fallon has taken advantage of the freedom of the 12:35am slot, and has begun to put together a pretty unique, entertaining show (and the place where revered mid-90s indie-rock heroes come to reunite. See: Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbox). Which is all a long way of saying that Andy Samberg visited set the show last night under the guise of Jimmy’s cousin “Jewey Fallon” in order to spread a little Hanukkah cheer. And you know what? In comparison to Samberg I kind found myself liking Fallon as much as I have since 10th grade, when he was the new prince of SNL. Go figure.
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However, as usual, The Roots were the best part. Just. Killing. It.
And if that wet your whistle watch (or rewatch) Fallon and Kimbo Slice wreaking havoc in a commercial for breakaway furniture.