Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Zack Attack!

If the Internet hasn't already shown it to you, you should check out the above appearance by one Mr. Mark-Paul Gosselaar, or should I say Zack Morris, on last night's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." While I've dismissed nearly everything Fallon has done in his career from his giggly run on SNL to his failed movie career to his selection as Conan's replacement, I have to admit this was a total home run. Actually congratulations should be given to both men involved, Fallon for his astounding commitment to bringing back all the members of "Saved by the Bell" and for Gosselaar to being a complete champ about coming back in character and absolutely nailing it. In my opinion, the whole affair went beyond just a memorable late night performance and should be considered landmark television.

Seriously, when has any legitimate actor ever made a full appearance on a late night talk show, completely in a character they last played almost two decades ago promoting a project they are currently doing in reality? I'm not talking about some has-been or bit player coming on for a little sketch or cameo. This isn't Abe Vigoda doing his usual shtick or J.J. Walker coming out and saying "Dy-no-mite!". Gosselaar was there on legitimate grounds to push the new season of his TNT show "Raising the Bar", but absolutely remained completely entrenched in his Zack Morris character for the entire interview.

The truly impressive part was just how devoted and faithful the whole bit was to the original source material. The entire segment was obviously scripted and predetermined but any real fan of "Saved by the Bell" would have been impressed with the attention to detail by the writers. The "Late Night" writers could have just played it lazy and just made broad references to the show that anyone would have gotten but in this case you can tell that they actually watched enough of it.

On the surface the wardrobe was spot on, vintage Morris head to toe. The writers and Gosselaar had the smug attitude, the smile, the eyebrows, the total lack of inner monologue, all down pat. The whole deal about how Mark-Paul Gosselaar is actually the created stage name and persona of Zack Morris was a fairly ingenious way to keep him in character while still referencing his current work. It's also has a sort of intriguing meta bent to it that's far smarter and more sophisticated then every "Saved By the Bell" episode combined. The interview hit on all the big Zack Morris references from the vintage giant cellphone to the time-outs, to the performance of his hit Zack Attack single "Friends Forever"; but again the really delightful parts were in the details.

The introduction of his relationship with Kelly Kapowski was a clever parody of how he introduced her in the very first episode ("Kelly Kapowski: loves volleyball, windsurfing, and at one point me.") complete with the same remote controlled life sized poster. When talking about their eventual falling out he referenced "slimeball" Jeff, that older guy who managed the Max that she briefly dated. The great line about how she moved to a "different zip code", dark times hanging out with Johnny Dakota at the Attic, Stacy Carosi from the Malibu Sands Resort were coming out so fast that it took a second for the more savvy members of the audience to recognize. Finally the pitch perfect performance obviously couldn't have gone as well if Mark-Paul Gosselaar didn't look EXACTLY THE SAME as he did when he was in high school! The guy's freakin' 35 years old! Did he get into Dick Clark's private stash or something?

Overall, just flat out well done. I had my reservations when I first heard about Fallon's quest to reunite the entire cast of "Saved By the Bell". I feared it was some disingenuous co-opting of early 90's camp to score cheap laughs. However if an eventual re-union can be as totally faithful and in character as this appearance then I'm all for it. Hopefully this sets a new precedent in late night guest appearances. How infinitely more watchable would late night television be if the guests all came as their past alter-egos and pushed their new work instead of boring us all to sleep with their mostly awkward banter and discussions of the unremarkable minutiae of their celebrity lives? Imagine Sean Penn coming out and showing clips from his new movie as Jeff Spicoli or Julia Louis-Dreyfus talking about the new season of "The New Adventures of Old Christine" as Elaine Benes. Totally mindblowing.


  1. That was awesome! Loved the brick phone…lol. Check out my SBTB Tribute Rap Video “I Love Bayside” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8mvxPIV6U4

  2. Can I just say that the Zack Morris thing is cool and all, but Iremember watching the first episode of raising the bar and thinking "this'll never last" and here it is in its, what, fourth or fifth season? America really is stupid.