Many people seem to live in the “what if” zone. As in, “What if I’d taken that job?” “What if I’d stuck it out with that girl?” “What if I’d gotten that writing assignment?” “What if I hadn’t had that 13th beer?”
I try not to wallow in this mindfield, mostly because I love who I ended up with and the journey I took to get here. But I was reminded of the “what if” concept when I noticed that #SavedByTheBell was trending on Twitter today, thanks to this hilarious sketch Zack and the gang (minus Screech) pulled off on The Tonight Show last night. (Nice job, Jimmy Fallon! How do these people look almost exactly the same 20 years later?) Watching this sketch and hearing the crowd go nuts for the cast zapped me back 20 years ago. To a meeting I had at a drab Hollywood production office on Santa Monica Blvd., pitching story ideas to Saved By the Bell executive producer Peter Engel.
The pitch meeting happened because I knew a writer on the show, a guy named Jeff Sachs who’d been on the 2-man writing staff with me at this excruciatingly bad NBC sitcom. As happy as I was to get the meeting, the truth of the matter is I thought the show was cheesy and poorly written. And since I was a good 15-20 years older than the target demo, I failed to see the potential writing gig as anything more than a possible paycheck. I didn’t realize the show was carving out a place in the psyches of an entire generation. I missed the show’s lasting kitsch factor and its audience’s ability to see through the wooden acting, trite story lines and tired jokes.
I had no idea that 20 years later audiences would be screaming at the site of the Bayside crew.
But I’m not sure it would have mattered. Despite my snobby attitude about the show, I did manage to come in armed with what I thought was a batch of solid ideas. One day I’ll dive into our overstuffed closet and dig up those old plot lines to see how reliable my memory is.
Bottom line is, Peter Engel didn’t buy any of my ideas, providing yet another opportunity to fortify our rejection armor. Maybe he was only seeing me as a favor to Jeff and wasn’t really looking for fresh ideas or new writers. Or maybe my ideas just stunk—which is saying something for a show with consistently odorous plots. Who knows? Either way, I hold no bitterness or animosity.
But I can’t help but admit that it would’ve been nice to have had at least one produced Saved by the Bell episode to my credit, if for no other reason than to have another bizarre notch on my show biz belt.
Especially on days like today. When I’m reminded that Screech and his pals were getting a lot more love than I ever realized.