February 23, 2014 by billysparrow
“The Friendship Business”
Aired: October 28, 1989
In a haiku nutshell: Young entrepreneurs/With awful business ideas/Find wealth in friendship
Trivia that will impress, well, no one: Q: The rarely heard alternate version of the “Saved by the Bell” theme song was sung by what soap opera star? A: Michael Damian
The first of many jarring moments in this memorable “SBTB” episode is the jolt you get right off the bat from the weird, alternate version of the show’s theme song, performed by the man having the best year of his musical career (not much of a contest), Michael Damian. Not only was Damian in the middle of his successful run on “The Young and the Restless” in 1989, but he rocketed up to the top of the charts with his cover of David Essex’s “Rock On” from the soundtrack of the genuinely weird “Dream A Little Dream” (coming to an At 25 post near you next week!). Perhaps this was why he was pegged to do a version of the “SBTB” theme song. And perhaps because it sounded like this, it only became an alternate version.
Sure, it has its charms, but it doesn’t top the original (props to Ed Gale). Damian is a little too into it for my taste. But, hey, if you like it, good for you.
This episode also brings the introduction of another member of the Bayside faculty, Mr. Tuttle, played by the late Jack Angeles. By IMDB’s count, Mr. Tuttle appears in five episodes, which might make him the teacher with the most appearances on the show (sure, I could research this and get you a definitive answer, but, hey, I’ve got things to do…I’ll try to get you the official word on this by the end of the year). But he is undoubtedly in the top tier, and I was legit saddened to find out he had passed away at the age of 59. But, in reading his LA Times obituary (see, I do some research), I discovered a fun fact: Mr. Angeles gave a speech at the 1968 Republican National Convention. Well, it’s a fun fact for me.
Anyway, in this episode, Mr. Tuttle is in charge of a completely odd class assignment in which, as far as I can tell, each group of students is given $100 (that’s actual $100, not pretend money) to start a business, any profits of which they can keep for themselves. And they don’t need to even pay back the $100. Did this happen in a lot of schools? Did they just give money away to students? I remember my high school bribing us to sell raffle tickets by dangling a day off from school in front of us, but I don’t recall them ever handing us money. Maybe I was out that day.
The gang (and, really, they’re kind of starting to feel like a gang at this point, seeing as they never work with other classmates on projects and seem to get the bulk of the faculty’s attention) decide to go into the friendship bracelet business (a business that I’m pretty sure already existed in 1989). But then things go awry because Zack (for a supposedly smooth dude, Zack is quite adept in the going-awry business) gets power-hungry, leading to dissension in the group. So Slater, Kelly, and Jessie decide to form their own company and create what is both the dumbest accessory idea and the most laughable accessory commercial you might ever see (though kudos to them for putting it together for under $100).
Do you think the producers were so enthralled by Mario Lopez’s dancing ability that they kept putting it into episodes or do you think he just pestered them until they wrote it in? It has to be the latter, right?
That stupid point-to-the-leg thing aside, Buddy Bands is a pretty terrible product. Friendship bracelets work because they’re subtle little things that go around your wrist. Buddy Bands go around your head. There is almost nothing more noticeable. And I don’t tend to speak on behalf of all male high school students very often, but please allow me the opportunity to do so now and tell you that no teenage boy in any era of history wants to wear a headband to school. Even if the hottest girl in school is selling them (and they are, after all, Buddy Bands, so she’s not giving you any anyway).
Of course, Buddy Bands become a big blockbuster at Bayside (I feel like I’m starting to write like a “SBTB” writer at this point), so Zack’s equally moronic counter-plan is to offer a rent-a-friend with each purchase of a friendship bracelet. And what great guy who everyone wants to be friends with does Zack have in mind for the task? That’s right…Screech. The guy who his own “friends” don’t really even want to be friends with. I’m guessing if any student wanted to “rent” Screech as a friend, he would be happy to do so at no charge. Because his two best friends are a robot and a guy who uses him at every possible opportunity! And, yet, this scheme temporarily works, to the point where Screech is exhausted from all his new “friends.” Are the kids at Bayside all imbeciles? First, they can’t buy enough of the dumbest accessory ever created and now they’re enthralled by the idea of having one of the least popular kids in school as their friend. If it weren’t for the fact that they’d figured out a way to have the school give them $100, I’d say they were the dumbest students in the history of formal education.
This episode makes me a little crazy (well, crazier). I apologize for the ranting. But I stand by my opinion that Bayside is full of dummies.
OK, let me try to rein myself in here.
So, Lisa becomes upset at the way Zack is treating Screech (yeah, I know), and soon both of them join the Buddy Banders, leaving Zack and the friendship bracelet business crushed. But then Zack gets Belding to wear a Buddy Band (while Mr. Belding is, for some reason, doing arm curls in the boys’ locker room), the customers who thought headbands were supercool are disgusted by the idea that Belding is wearing one, and everyone demands and, due to what can only be deemed an extremely suspect return policy, receives their money back for their Buddy Band purchase. So now both businesses are failures.
But, wait…all is not lost. After the gang forgives Zack and everyone’s friends again, they decide to combine their products to make what quickly overtakes Buddy Bands for the title of Worst Accessory Ever. Say hello to Love Cuffs.
Now you’ve gone too far, “SBTB” writers. I cannot believe they “sold just enough to break even.” I can only go so far in my efforts to suspend disbelief and ignore logic in your program.
And, oh yeah, even though the gang failed to make any money with their business, because they realized the importance of friendship, the man in charge of teaching them how economics works gives them an “A,” the same grade given to the Poindexter-led (yes, the nerd’s name is Poindexter) group, which made a profit from buying out the surfer group’s inventory of cardboard surfboards and turning them into car visors and also got the Buddy Band/friendship bracelet supply for no money at all. Apparently, the teachers are as dumb as the students at Bayside.
And, lucky for you, I’m dumber than all of them, because they’re fictional and I’m writing 1200-plus words about them on my weekend.