Tracey Wigfield could have dawdled away her childhood on other things – extra homework or clubs or all the other ideas that guidance counselors talk about.
But she had a better project – watching “Saved By the Bell” reruns.
“It was just always on,” Wigfield recalled. “I watched it every single day after school.”
Consider that to be career preparation. Now she’s made a “Bell” reboot (shown here), which arrives Wednesday on the Peacock streaming service, just in time for the long Thanksgiving weekend.
That’s when it might be seen by kids … or by their parents, seeking nostalgia. This is still set at sunny Bayside High, where some of the show’s old stars linger. Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley are on the faculty; Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani Thiessen and Lark Voorheis show up occasionally.
“Mario is one of the first Latinos that we saw onscreen,” said Alycia Pascual-Pena, one of the new “Bell” stars, “and (that’s) one of the reasons I loved the show. And Lisa (played by Voorheis) was one of the first multi-dimensional Black women that we saw.”
Now Pascual-Pena plays a Black Latina who also happens to be a terrific football player. On the flip side, Dexter Darden plays a husky Black teen whom the football coach covets; instead, he soon exhibits a sweet voice for the school musical.
The original series did occasionally shatter stereotypes; the rich kid (played by Voorheis) was Black. But it also had a cliché nerd named Screech and found it amusing to have the handsome guys mistreat him. That won’t happen this time, Wigfield said.
There were many shortcomings to the original, which ran from 1989-93 and had two spin-offs. It aired on Saturday mornings, with low budgets and broad humor. Its strength was in its casting.
Gosselaar has been busy ever since, even starring in one Stephen Bochco series (“NYPD Blue”) and co-starring in another (“Commander in Chjef”). He now co-stars in “Mixed-ish.”
Thiessen has starred in “Fastlane” and had supporting roles in “White Collar” and Netflix’s “Alexa & Katie.” Berkley drew fame and/or infamy in “Showgirls.”
Busiest of all has been Lopez, sometimes acting and often hosting – “Extra,” “Access,” “The X Factor” and many more, including three Miss America pageants.
Now he’s back to playing A.C. Slater on “Bell.” A.C. is a gym teacher and coach of the football team, where his captain is the son of Jesse (Berkley), the guidance counselor. Another student is the son of Zack (Gosselaar) and Kelly (Thiessen).
These reflect the original show, Wigfield said – “a bunch of kind of weird, clueless kids who never have any real problems. There’s a lot of fun for me, getting to revisit the show that I loved so much.”
She had previously created one show (NBC’s “Great News”) and written for several – “30 Rock,” “The Mindy Project,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” Now she’s sort of re-creating – continuing the old show, but making it different:
When another school closes, its students are bused to Bayside. The reboot soon centers on Haskiri Velazquez as Daisy – bright, driven, ready to take advantage of this sunny Bayside world.
All of this feels new to Velazquez. “When I was in high school, I was more focused on acting, rather than school itself,” she said. “So I get to live my second life through Daisy.”
She gets to be the serious core of a school filled with pretty, privileged teens.