The show and its characters are closer to "Dobie Gillis" than to "90210." At Bayside High, the colors are vibrant and cheery. There are no graffiti on the walls, no gangs in the hallways, no drugs being sold on the schoolyard. Although Lopez is Latino and Voorhies is African-American, their ethnic backgrounds were never referred to on the show. The teen lingo is far from being on-the-edge.
Engel maintained that his series is in many ways more realistic than other shows intended for youth. "We always thought that what we were doing was the real thing," he said. "Most kids aren't alcoholics, most kids aren't pregnant, most kids don't use drugs. What they're worrying about are grades, communication with their parents, dating and sports."
In contrast to "90210," the hormonal drives of the teens on "Saved by the Bell" are extremely low, despite the skimpiness of some of their outfits. Engel said sexual matters are pointedly avoided. The writers once discussed doing an episode in which one of the girls falls asleep in one of the boy's bedroom. The girl would wake up thinking that "something" had happened even though nothing did. Engel nixed the idea.
"I didn't want some 6- or 8-year-old kid going up to his parents saying, 'What didn't they do?' " Engel said. "Mothers would never forgive us. They put their kids in front of the screen when we come on, knowing that they don't have to worry."
Gosselaar, the show's main heartthrob, said it was not necessary for the show to be realistic to be effective.
"Looking at this show is like reading a fantasy book," he said. "Kids go through all these real-life problems at their school every day, so it's nice that they can look at a school where none of these problems exist."
Engel echoed the sentiment. "I mean, who wouldn't want to go to a high school like this?" he said, smiling.