Here’s one more reason to get excited for the return of Saved by the Bell: The 2020 reboot of the classic ‘90s sitcom will address one of Bayside High’s juiciest storylines — that time that Jessie Spano got hooked on caffeine pills. Premiering 30 years ago this month, “Jessie’s Song” easily belongs on the Mount Rushmore of classic Saved by the Bell episodes, and it’s still beloved by fans today. “There’s not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t come up to me or DM me, ‘I’m so excited,’” admits Elizabeth Berkley, quoting her alter ego’s signature line from that episode. (Watch our video interview above.)
“Jessie’s Song” is referenced multiple times in the new version of Saved by the Bell that premieres on Peacock on Nov. 25. Not only is Zack Morris’s son, Mac, seen peddling those energy poppers, but grown-up Jessie — who is now an author and Bayside’s resident guidance counselor — incorporates her youthful transgression into the title of her bestselling parenting guide, I’m So Excited, I’m So Scared… of Becoming a Parent.
While Berkley has embraced the meta-humor surrounding “Jessie’s Song,” she remembers that making the episode was serious business for both herself and her co-star, Mark-Paul Gosselaar. “Mark-Paul and I had a lot of training prior to doing the show,” she remembers. “We were really devoted to the craft of acting. The original [show] was so earnest and light, so we were really excited by any opportunity where we got to flex our acting muscles a little more. And on that one, we went for it!”
Did they ever: For much of “Jessie’s Song,” Jessie tries to hide her dependence on caffeine pills, which strains her relationships with her friends and imperils the success of her fledgling singing group, Hot Sundae. But in the climax of the episode, she and Zack have an emotional scene where the physical and emotional toll of her addiction becomes impossible to ignore.
“Jessie was unhinged, and that moment was a moment where she broke,” Berkley explains. “For a lot of people, it resonated for them, and I think as kids it upset them. Maybe they saw a piece of themselves in it. I know there have been academics who have written papers about this episode, which makes me laugh. But it has had an impact in pop culture, which is a legacy we don’t take for granted and never did.”
And in case you thought that Berkley has forgotten the lyrics to Hot Sundae’s signature song, allow her to demonstrate otherwise. “Put your mind to it, go for it, get down and break a sweat,” she sings, rocking out like she did back in the day. “If you’re going to do a song like that jumping on a mini-trampoline, you have to go for it when you’re taking caffeine pills,” she says, laughing. “There was no holding back!”
Classic episodes of Saved by the Bell are currently streaming on Peacock. The new series premieres Wednesday, Nov. 25.
— Video produced by Jon San and edited by John Santo
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