10 Mind-Boggling Saved By the Bell Fan Theories

Elizabeth Berkley, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani Thiessen, Ed Alonzo, Dustin Diamond, Dennis Haskins, Mario Lopez, and Lark Voorhies in Saved by the Bell.
Elizabeth Berkley, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani Thiessen, Ed Alonzo, Dustin Diamond, Dennis Haskins, Mario Lopez, and Lark Voorhies in Saved by the Bell.
NBC Universal, Inc.

Thirty years ago, on August 20, 1989, Saved by the Bell aired its series premiere on NBC. The first episode introduced us to Zack Morris, Kelly Kapowski, A.C. Slater, Lisa Turtle, Jessie Spano, and Samuel “Screech” Powers, six freshmen navigating high school in the fictional Los Angeles neighborhood of Palisades. Like most teenagers, they stressed about homework, harbored crushes, and got into plenty of hijinks. But if you thought Saved by the Bell was about a bunch of kids eating burgers at The Max and teasing their hair to the ceiling, guess again.

According to certain fans on the internet, the beloved ‘90s sitcom isn’t the cheerful, cheesy show it appears to be—it’s something much more sinister. These theories claim that murderers and eco-terrorists are wandering the halls of Bayside High, along with a certain foul-mouthed superhero.

In honor of the sitcom’s 30th anniversary, here are 10 of the strangest and most interesting Saved by the Bell fan theories, none of which explain Slater’s spandex collection.

1. The entire series was all just Zack Morris's dream.

When it comes to conspiracy theories, “it was all just a dream” is an old classic. The idea that a main character dreamed the entire show has been used to explain series ranging from Friends to The Walking Dead. And back in 2012, Saved by the Bell got its own spin on that trope. 

The theory, which was popularized by Cracked, claims that Zack Morris imagined all four seasons as a way to feel better about himself. In his fantasy, he’s the most popular guy in school—the kind of teen who can charm his way out of any situation and win over any girl he likes. This is a far cry from the Zack Morris we see in Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the middle school forerunner to Saved by the Bell, which aired on the Disney Channel from 1988 to 1989. On that show, Zack lives with divorced parents and a brother in Indiana, where he cooks up schemes that often fall apart and struggles to connect with his crushes. According to the Cracked theory, this Zack dreams up his Saved by the Bell alter ego, a cool California kid with happily married parents and no siblings to steal the attention.

2. Jessie Spano killed a duck.

In the season 3 episode “Pipe Dreams,” Bayside High meets Becky. She’s not a new transfer student or a teacher; she’s a duck. Becky is quickly embraced by the school, but tragedy strikes when oil discovered underneath the football field spills into her pond, killing her and teaching the kids an important lesson about environmentalism. All plans to drill the football field for oil are immediately canceled, much to the relief of student activist Jessie Spano. Which leads us to the next logical question: did Jessie have something to do with Becky’s death? Few people cared about her anti-drilling campaign before the oil spill, since everyone was too busy imagining what they would do with Big Oil money. Engineering an eco-disaster would definitely prove her point, and as any Saved by the Bell fan knows, Jessie will go to extraordinary lengths to do just that.

3. Zack can warp time.

Slater might be the football star, but only Zack can call timeouts. It’s a beloved Saved by the Bell quirk: whenever Zack feels like pausing the action, he’ll say “timeout” and literally freeze the other characters in place, giving him a chance to break the fourth wall and talk to the audience. But are Zack’s “timeouts” real, or just a fun narrative device? It’s a matter of considerable debate on Reddit, where many fans insist that Zack is not only warping time, but subjecting himself and others to dire consequences. Some say he’s shaving years off his life, while others claim he’s splintering off new realities.

4. Good Morning, Miss Bliss and Saved By the Bell exist in alternate timelines.

Could Zack’s time freezing explain the disconnect between Good Morning, Miss Bliss and Saved by the Bell? At least one fan believes all those timeouts messed with Zack’s reality, leading to the creation of a totally new timeline. While the old Zack attended school in Indiana with characters unique to Good Morning, Miss Bliss (as well as crossovers Lisa, Screech, and Mr. Belding), the new Zack goes to Bayside with brand new people like Kelly and Slater. It’s just another rupture in the time-space continuum, brought to you by a teen who didn’t want to get punched.

5. Mr. Belding is a murderer who moved to California to distance himself from the scene of the crime.

Another explanation for the jump from Indiana to California? Murder. According to this unifying theory, Mr. Belding (accidentally?) pushed Miss Bliss to her death at the end of Good Morning, Miss Bliss, and Lisa, Screech, and Zack were the only witnesses. To keep them quiet, Belding promised them "scholarships" to a school in California, where he also got a job. That way, he would never lose track of them—or have to answer for his crimes.

6. The opening credits contain subliminal messages.

Like so many conspiracy theories, this one was inspired by True Detective. If you’ll recall back in season 1 of the HBO series, Rust Cohle and Marty Hart became obsessed with the gruesome murder of Dora Lange, whose body was found covered in antlers, twine, and weird symbols. One of those symbols looks a bit like the very ‘90s squiggle in the opening credits to Saved by the Bell. Supposedly, it’s a signifier of change, with some vague connections to death. Could it mean someone on Saved by the Bell—perhaps Zack?—has been dead the whole time? The idea that Bayside High is Zack’s afterlife isn’t all too different from the dream theory, but there’s admittedly a lot less evidence to back it up.

7. Zack is Deadpool.

What do Zack Morris and Deadpool have in common? Actually, kind of a lot. They both love scheming, breaking the fourth wall, cracking jokes, and their brunette girlfriends—which is why one Redditor sees Saved by the Bell as a strangely wholesome prequel to Deadpool. The stories supposedly connect after the show, when Zack’s marriage to Kelly has fallen apart. He joins the military to find a new purpose and changes his name to Wade Wilson for a fresh start. But soon he develops cancer, joins an experimental treatment program, and becomes disfigured in the process. He emerges as Deadpool, a superhero who, like Zack Morris, enjoys Mexican cuisine.

8. The show is all somehow connected to The Beatles' "A Day in the Life."

According to one Saved by the Bell obsessive, the sitcom is an extension of The Beatles’ iconic song “A Day in the Life"—specifically, the peppy Paul McCartney part. In his verse, McCartney describes rushing to get ready in the morning. He has to fall out of bed, grab his hat, and “ma[k]e the bus in seconds flat,” which all sounds pretty similar to the lyrics of the Saved by the Bell theme song. The music that follows McCartney’s verse is, the theory goes, The Beatles' attempt to mimic the sound of running to “the corner just in time to see the bus fly by.”

9. Screech became Bill Gates.

This theory comes straight from the show’s executive producer, Peter Engel. In an interview with TVLine, Engel claimed that Screech would likely be Bill Gates today, while Slater would probably be a high school football coach and Zack might be a game show host or hedge fund manager. As for the ladies? “Lisa would probably be Vera Wang, or a buyer at Neiman Marcus,” he suggested. “Jessie would have just lost to Donald Trump.” Then there’s Kelly Kapowski, who wound up marrying Zack one year after their high school graduation. According to Engel, she would’ve divorced him long ago, but remarried, had a couple of kids, and started her own cooking show.

10. Zack's dad works with American Psycho's Patrick Bateman.

This theory all boils down to a single photo, but Mr. Morris does look like he’d feel right at home in the offices of Pierce & Pierce.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Good Gnews: Remembering The Great Space Coaster

Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
YouTube

Tubby Baxter. Gary Gnu. Goriddle Gorilla. Speed Reader. For people of a certain age, these names probably tug on distant memories of a television series that blended live-action, puppetry, and animation. It was The Great Space Coaster, and it aired daily in syndication from 1981 to 1986. Earning both a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award for excellence in children’s programming, The Great Space Coaster fell somewhere in between Sesame Street and The Muppet Show—a series for kids who wanted a little more edge to their puppet performances.

Unlike most classic kid’s shows, fans have had a hard time locating footage of The Great Space Coaster. Even after five seasons and 250 episodes, no collections are available on home video. So what happened?

Get On Board

The Great Space Coaster was created by Kermit Love, who worked closely with Jim Henson on Sesame Street and created Big Bird, and Jim Martin, a master puppeteer who also collaborated with Henson. Produced by Sunbow Productions and sponsored by the Kellogg Company and toy manufacturer Hasbro, The Great Space Coaster took the same approach as Sesame Street of being educational entertainment. In fact, many of the puppeteers and writers were veterans of Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Producers met with educators to determine subjects and content that could result in a positive cognitive or personal development goal for the audience, which was intended to be children from ages 6 to 11. There would be music, comedy, and cartoons, but all of it would be working toward a lesson on everything from claustrophobia to the hazards of being a litterbug.

The premise involved three teens—Danny (Chris Gifford), Roy (Ray Stephens), and Francine (Emily Bindiger)—who hitch a ride on a space vehicle piloted by a clown named Tubby Baxter. The crew would head for an asteroid populated by a variety of characters like Goriddle Gorilla (Kevin Clash). Roy carried a monitor that played La Linea, an animated segment from Italian creator Osvaldo Cavandoli that featured a figure at odds with his animator. The kids—all of whom looked a fair bit older than their purported teens—also sang in segments with original or cover songs.

The most memorable segment might have been the newscast with Gary Gnu, a stuffy puppet broadcaster who delivered the day’s top stories with his catchphrase: “No gnews is good gnews!” Aside from Gnu, there was Speed Reader (Ken Myles), a super-fast sprinter and reader who reviewed the books he breezed through. Often, the show would also have guest stars, including Mark Hamill, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and Henry Winkler.

All of it had a slightly irreverent tone, with humor that was more biting than most other kid’s programming of the era. The circus that Tubby Baxter ran away from was run by a character named M.T. Promises. Gnu had subversive takes on his news stories. Other characters weren’t always as well-intentioned as the residents of Sesame Street.

Off We Go

The Great Space Coaster was popular among viewers and critics. In 1982, it won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming—Graphic Design and a Peabody Award in 1983. But after the show ceased production in 1986, it failed to have a second life in reruns or on video. Only one VHS tape, The Great Space Coaster Supershow, was ever released in the 1980s. And while fan sites like TheGreatSpaceCoaster.TV surfaced, it was difficult to compile a complete library of the series.

In 2012, Tanslin Media, which had acquired the rights to the show, explained why. Owing to the musical interludes, re-licensing songs would be prohibitively expensive—potentially far more than the company would make selling the program. Worse, the original episodes, which were recorded on 1-inch or 2-inch reel tapes, were in the process of degrading.

That same year, Jim Martin mounted an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to begin salvaging episodes and digitizing them for preservation. That work has continued over the years, with Tanslin releasing episodes and clips online that don’t require expensive licensing agreements and fans uploading episodes from their original VHS recordings to YouTube.

There’s been no further word on digitizing efforts for the complete series, though Tanslin has reported that a future home video release isn’t out of the question. If that materializes, it’s likely Gary Gnu will be first to deliver the news.