Ridin’ Low in My Chair: “Beauty and the Screech”

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February 15, 2014 by billysparrow

“Beauty and the Screech”

Aired: October 21, 1989

In a haiku nutshell: For just a moment/Screech is thought to be a catch/But that doesn’t last

Trivia that will impress, well, no one: Q: Avery Schreiber, who plays science teacher Mr. Mertz, was a pitchman for what snack food? A: Doritos

(photo from ign.com)

(photo from ign.com)

Well, this is it. Screech’s moment in the sun. Oh sure, there will be tiny little victories along the way–notably, his dalliance with Violet Bickerstaff–but those take place well after Screech has descended into goofy caricature. There is still hope for Screech in Episode 10, hope that he will find a place between lovable nerd and geeky laughingstock. Soon, that hope will be gone faster than the profits from Screech-a-Mia’s Spaghetti Sauce.

But here we find Screech’s brain and offbeat sense of humor attracting Bayside’s most-sought-after babe, one Kelly Kapowski, the very girl of whom Jessie says, “If she wore a pizza on her head and called it a hat, there’d be a run on pepperoni.” After Kelly, the recent contest winner of two George Michael concert tickets, fails her science test and is in danger of not only flunking the class but also missing out on the chance to see Wham!’s better half, Zack volunteers science whiz Screech to help her study, and thus get in Kelly’s good graces so he can grind up against her during a live performance of “I Want Your Sex.”

After Screech agrees (and makes yet another ALF reference…this is really getting out of hand), the two meet up in Screech’s room, where we also discover that Screech has a robot named Kevin. It seems odd that it would take us 10 episodes to learn this. I mean, if a dude in your school had a mobile talking robot, it would be a topic of daily conversation, no? Or at least brought up once or twice at the after-school hangout where the owner keeps doing magic tricks (and Max is back on the magic scene in this episode)?

Anyway, yes, it’s nerdy to have a robot, but, let’s face it, it’s also kind of awesome. I would have gladly been friends with a guy who had a talking robot. Hell, I was impressed with my friends who had the Starting Lineup Talking Baseball game.  But if one of them had a friggin’ robot? Are you kidding? I would have been over that guy’s house every day! I certainly wouldn’t have treated that person like a leper. Shame on you, again, Bayside.

As far as the tutoring goes, it becomes evident pretty quickly that it will be an uphill battle for Screech, as it appears Kelly is a science moron, with a taste for bad puns. To wit:

Screech: What do you know about nuclear fission?

Kelly: Oh, not much. I always end up losing my bait.

But after using some techniques that would have made Mr. Wizard proud (including a cheerleading pyramid of Barbie dolls, which raises the question of why Screech has so many Barbie dolls hanging around the house), Screech gets through to Kelly and she starts to learn things about the wonderful world of science. And she also develops a crush on Screech. Yes, it’s true! She wants to be Screech’s girlfriend! It’s a miracle! The smart, quirky dude has attracted the consensus hottest girl in the school. Score one for the good guys!

Soon Screechie and Kel-Kel (the writers’ suggested nicknames, not mine) are spending more time together, and when Zack and Slater see Kelly kiss Screech (on the cheek; I think she should’ve gone a little further), they worry that they have lost their place at the top of the social ladder to Screech. After word gets around (via background characters who must’ve been thrilled to be allowed to speak) and we see some captioned file footage of George and Barbara Bush and Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev ostensibly discussing the burgeoning Screlly (came up with that myself) relationship, it seems that Screech has finally taken his rightful place at the top of the heap.

There is even a heretofore unimaginable four-person dream sequence (previous record: three, in “The Substitute”) in which Zack, Slater, Jessie, and Lisa dream of a world where Screech is the height of coolness. In this world, Screech is Screech Bond and Zack and Slater are the nerds. And, boy, do they go broad on the nerd humor. Even in a show in which broad is the order of the day, this is a bit much. I can’t figure out how to embed the TBS video (you can see it here), but here’s what Zack and Slater look like as nerds:

As always, Zack has a plan. And, as always, it is terrible. He aims to convince Mr. Belding that Kelly and Screech are getting married and that he, as principal, must put a stop to this. Of course, Mr. Belding completely buys into this ridiculous idea and calls Screech into his office to discuss the matter. After your standard sitcom miscommunication, we are greeted with yet another pun, this one slightly better than the nuclear fission one:

Mr. Belding: Screech, you can’t elope!

Screech: Who are you calling a cantaloupe, you melonhead?

Classic.

Mr. Belding soon realizes that Zack is behind this, and, after Kelly aces her science test, it seems like all is clear for Screech and Kelly to become Bayside’s hottest couple. Alas, one man causes their relationship to crumble. And that man has been arrested in a public toilet. Yes, after Kelly tells Zack and Slater that neither of them will be joining her at the George Michael show because she’s taking Screech, our robot-creating friend says he hates George Michael. This leads Screech and Kelly down a path where they realize that they don’t really have anything in common, and that they are better off not being lovers. Kelly is so dejected that she doesn’t even want to see George Michael anymore. So she gives the tickets to Zack and Slater, who after initially balking at going together, decide to take in the show from their front-row seats and thus build upon the homoerotic undercurrent that runs through their relationship while they sway to “One More Try.”

And so ends Screech’s reign as Bayside’s coolest dude. It was too brief, my friend. The world just isn’t fair.

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