Thursday, August 27, 2015

Saved by the Bell: The Expanded Bayside Universe

If you know diddlypoop about Saved by the Bell, this image should strike you as very strange. Do you know why?

One of the more popular posts on my blog concerns Saved by the Bell and the Tori Paradox — the idea explained in Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs about how final season of the show seemingly takes place in two realities. In one, Zach, Slater, Screech and Lisa are friends with Kelly and Jessie. In the second, the first four are friends with Tori, but Kelly and Jessie don’t exist and maybe never existed.

Of course, there’s a reason for those random final season episodes that feature Leanna Creel but not Tiffani Thiessen or Elizabeth Berkley — it’s all in the original post, if you haven’t had it explained for you — and Klosterman posits that this odd split is actually one of the more realistic things about Saved by the Bell: In his high school experience and mine is well, there were certain people who simply never overlapped. When I went to my ten-year reunion, I met a number of people for the first time. We’d graduated in the same class and had mutual friends but had simply made it through the end of senior year without having met each other. To this day I’ll have conversations with the four or five people from high school whom I still talk to where they’ll insist that I must have known one person or another and I’ll have to convince them that no, their fancy-ass friend simply never crossed into the circles that constituted my high school experience.

Today, my blog is now the No. 1 Google hit for “tori paradox,” and I get a considerable number of hits each month from people who want to know why the hell the last season played out the way it did. I also get hits from people trying to find the image I included in the post and the thing that made be write about it in the first place: a DVD boxed set for the fifth season of the show that seems to include all seven Bayside students — including Kelly, Jessie and Tori — in the cover art.

saved by the bell season 5 dvd cover tori paradox

Since posting it, I’ve gotten comments and emails from people telling me that the image is at least Photoshopped if not from a bootleg version of the boxed set, and that Leanna Creel would have never been in the same promo photo as Thiessen and Berkley.

Today, I stumbled upon what appears to be one of those promo photos.

That is most definitely Tori, with her curly hair and leather jacket, her hand being cupped in a creepy fashion by Mr. Belding’s.

For all I know, I might have scanned right over this image before and not noticed why it was unusual, but yeah — apparently Tori did meet Jessie and Kelly, at least offscreen. According to Google Image Search, this photo is attached to this Time story about the Saved by the Bell cast, but it doesn’t actually appear in the article itself.

I don’t think that DVD box art was faked. I mean, what are the odds that the entire cast was present for a group photo and then someone would digitally insert Leanna Creel into the one shot where everyone is positioned in almost the same arrangement, wearing the exact clothes? I just wonder how this shoot was proposed to Thiessen and Berkley: “Yeah, you’re not on the show anymore, but we need to take this photo so ten-year-old Drew Mackie will be able to rest his mind that the final half of the final season taking place in an alternate dimension where you never existed.”

That’s how I want it to have gone down, anyway.

There is one more weird aspect to Leanna Creel being on the Saved by the Bell that I’m not sure gets raised often enough in discussion about the last season — and I don’t doubt that someone, somewhere, probably drunk or stoned, is bringing this up, asking “Dude, do you ever wonder about what happened to Kelly and Jessie that they just never mentioned them again? Do you think Tori killed them and everyone was too scared of her to say anything?” Back when Saved by the Bell was Good Morning, Miss Bliss, it starred Hayley Mills as the title character, before she too was blinked into nonexistence and the setting of the show switched from Indianapolis to L.A.

Keeping that in mind, isn’t it very suspicious that this exists?

Before she played Tori, Leanna Creel played one of the triplets in The Parent Trap 3, Mills’ next project after the end of Miss Bliss. Creel and her two identical sisters appeared opposite Mills again just a few months later in The Parent Trap 4: Hawaiian Honeymoon, the whole of which is viewable on YouTube.

Clearly, there’s some conspiracy involving clones, abduction, false identities and Tori being a sleeper agent being sent to Bayside to make sure the populace abided by the terms of various residents’ permanent removal. 

But perhaps I’ve said too much already.

One more bit: Have you ever seen the unaired pilot of Good Morning, Miss Bliss that features Brian Austin Green, Jaleel White and Jonathan Brandis but not Zack, Lisa, Screech or any of the original Saved by the Bell characters? And a schmaltzy theme that I’m pretty sure is sung by Hayley Mills herself? That suggests Olivia Newton-John having too much red wine and getting uncomfortably wistful?

Because that is totally a thing.

Weird TV, previously:

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