Ridin’ Low in My Chair: “The Lisa Card”

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January 7, 2014 by billysparrow

“The Lisa Card”

Aired: August 28, 1989 (which was a Monday, so this seems unlikely, unless there was a Monday-morning TV push that I missed in 1989)

In a haiku nutshell: Lisa’s shopping spree/Leads to wheeling and dealing/Her dad forgives her

Trivia that will impress, well, no one: Q: An NBA Dream Team poster can be found on which Baysider’s bedroom door? A: Lisa

I feel comfortable saying that the general consensus is that Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) is probably the least beloved of the main “Saved by the Bell” characters. This seems unfair. After all, of the three main female characters, Lisa had the longest run, never leaving the cast, from day 1 (actually, even before day one, since she was also a regular on “Good Morning, Miss Bliss”), through the difficult Tori years, and all the way to graduation. She was the female rock of the cast, yet you would be hard-pressed to find a “Saved by the Bell” fan who proudly declares that Lisa is his or her favorite. Why must Lisa suffer such a fate?

Perhaps this is because, according to series creator Peter Engel, the Lisa that viewers came to know and tolerate was originally intended to be “a Jewish-American princess from Long Island who moved to California” (again, this seems like an odd statement, as Lisa/Lark was in “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” which was set in Indiana, but who am I to question the veracity of a statement made by Peter Engel?). Maybe this initial switch meant that Lisa’s character got a late start from the writers (yes, funny guy, the show had writers). Or maybe I’m just grasping at straws. If so, get used to that because I will be doing a lot of grasping in the next 12 months.

In any case, it is worth noting that, as the star of “The Lisa Card,” Lisa is the first female character to really be the center of a “Saved by the Bell” episode (the neurotic mess that is Jessie is, at best, a secondary figure in Episode 1). Yes, before we delve into just how much of a brainiac Jessie is or how hot Kelly is (though she does make her first appearance in a bathing suit in this episode, which is tempered by the overalls she wears elsewhere in the episode), Lisa gets the spotlight on her fashion-loving, high-spending ways. So at least she’s got that to hang her (stylish) hat on.

Alas, there’s not much exciting about the second episode, in which Lisa must recoup the money she (over)spent on the credit card her dad gave her (really, that seems like his bad; cash would’ve been the smarter play there, Mr. Turtle). Lisa does get the show’s second fantasy sequence, in which her punishment for being “a father’s worst nightmare” is to be transformed into what, I guess, is supposed to be a punk (I can’t keep taking pictures of my TV; just go here if you’re curious). This would seem to indicate a heavy anti-punk bias on the part of the show’s writers, which I believe will pop up again a few more times in the series’ run. And that’s a shame, for I think we all would have enjoyed an episode where Screech discovered his true self at a GG Allin show.

Other than a creepy scene where Zack sells tickets to kiss Lisa (on the cheek, which, really, seems like a pretty crappy deal for everyone) and the discovery that Slater (whose military brat past has yet to be discussed through the first two episodes) “used to be a busboy in Bolivia” there’s not much else to distinguish “The Lisa Card.” And when the episode ends with Lisa’s dad’s relatively easy forgiveness (sadly, his sweaters are muted), his desire to go to “the Sizzler,” and a cheap, predictable “Lisa Card” joke, Lisa’s moment in the sun comes to a close and she begins her journey to the back of the pack, where she even winds up behind the much-maligned Tori for a spell. Poor Lisa.At least she gets to kiss Zack before Tori does. Barely. But let’s not jump ahead.

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