Saved By the Bell: The Complete Collection appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, dual-layered DVDs. Due to those dimensions, the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I wouldn’t expect a TV series from the late 80s/early 90s to look good, and Bell offered the expected ugly visuals.
Sharpness was fairly mediocre. Close-ups demonstrated passable clarity at best, while wider shots tended to be ugly.
The image was blocky and soft much of the time. I noticed mild jagged edges and shimmering, and some edge haloes appeared as well. The series came with occasional specks and marks, though these weren’t heavy.
Colors seemed similarly bland. The series tended toward a natural palette, but the hues appeared fairly dull and drab.
Blacks were acceptably dark, but shadows tended to be muddy. While I can’t say the visuals fell far below expectations, this was still a pretty unappealing presentation.
Note that I thought matters improved slightly as the series progressed, so College looked a bit better than the main Bell. This occurred mainly because colors felt a little more lively.
However, these upgrades really did stay modest. While the later shows seemed stronger than the earlier ones, the shows remained less than appealing.
Also note that although they shot the Vegas movie on film but finished it on video. That meant it came with the same restrictions of the episodes, even though it started with a superior source.
At least the Dolby 2.0 audio was pretty decent. Not that one should expect much from the restricted soundfield, as it provided little excitement.
The audio remained fairly centered, as most speech and effects came from the front middle channel. Music, laughter and effects spread gently to the side and rear speakers, but those moments didn’t add much dimensionality to the piece. The mix broadened a little beyond basic mono, but it wasn’t anything dynamic.
Audio quality was more than acceptable. Speech occasionally sounded a bit reedy, but the lines were reasonably natural and intelligible.
Music showed decent pep and warmth, while effects appeared fine, as what we heard seemed adequate. All of this added up to an average mix for a TV series of this one’s era.
Note that this package presents syndication prints for the 13 Good Morning, Miss Bliss episodes. These replace the original credits/theme with those done for Bell. It’s a disappointment that the set doesn’t include the original prints.
This boxed set packs a lot of extras, and we get audio commentaries for 11 episodes. Here’s what we find:
“Dancing to the Max”: pop culture historian Russell Dyball.
“Jessie’s Song”: Dyball and What the Musical podcast host Tara Wibrew.
“Fake ID”: actors Lark Voorhies, Dustin Diamond, and Dennis Haskins.
“All in the Mall”: executive producer Peter Engel.
“No Hope With Dope”: Voorhies, Diamond and Haskins.
“Rockumentary”: Engel, Voorhies, Diamond, and Haskins.
“Mystery Weekend”: Diamond.
“Zack’s Birthday”: Engel.
“The Last Weekend”: Engel.
“Snow White and the Seven Dorks”: Dyball and Wibrew.
“Graduation”: Dyball and DVD producer Henry Weintraub.
That’s a lot of commentaries, but unfortunately, few of them seem especially interesting. Of the whole bunch, Dyball’s chat for “Max” probably fares best, as he gets into reasonably substantial information about the series.
Dyball’s other tracks fare less well, as they tend to favor fanboy happy talk. The addition of Wibrew and/or Weintraub adds little, so these tracks fail to become particularly informative.
At least those beat the actor tracks. Occasionally the performers give us minor show-related insights, but usually they just joke and deliver banal memories.
Engel doesn’t improve on this model. He also throws out the occasional nugget but he mostly narrates the shows and tells us little of import. Massive Bell fans might like these tracks but for me, they turned into an endurance test.
The remaining materials all appear on a DVD devoted solely to extras, and we start with >B>Past Times at Bayside High. In this 51-minute, 45-second show, we hear from Engel, Voorhies, writer/co-executive producer Tom Tenowich, producer Franco Bario, writer/producer Bennett Tramer, and actors Ed Alonzo and Troy Fromin.
We learn about Good Morning, Miss Bliss and its shift into Bell, cast, characters and performances, script writing and development, the series’ visual style, music and editing, sets and production design, and some episode specifics. The absence of more actors disappoints, but we still get a mostly informative look at the series.
You can’t trust memories: Tramer claims that he compared the budget of Bell to that of Friends while Bell remained in production. Given that the original Bell - and it’s clear he doesn’t mean one of the spinoffs – left the air two years before Friends debuted, that’s kind of difficult.
With Bayside’s Greatest Hits, we find a four-minute, 45-second reel with songwriter/composer Scott Gale and musician/composer Rich Eames. They discuss the series’ theme song and other aspects of its music. Despite the clip’s brevity, we get some good notes.
Next comes the 10-minute, 28-second From Toons to Teens. It involves comments from Haskins, Voorhies. Diamond, Engel, director Don Barnhart, TV Guide LA Bureau Chief Michael Schneider, and former NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield.
“Toons” looks at the series’ impact on Saturday morning TV and the ramifications of its success. Though a few decent notes emerge, most of “Toons” feels self-congratulatory.
After this we find It’s Alright, a 16-minute, 57-second reel with Engel, Barnhart, Diamond, Haskins, and Voorhies. The featurette casts a pretty broad net, as it touches on a wide array of show-related topics.
That makes it redundant at times, and the usual trend toward self-praise appears as well. Still, we find some useful nuggets, and we also get this package’s only acknowledgement that “Jessie’s Song” remains famous as a camp classic. Everywhere else, the participants treat it as though it’s Sophie’s Choice.
For the final featurette, we locate The First of Its Class, a 14-minute, 44-second piece with Engel, Tramer, writers/producers Carl Kurlander and Jeffrey Sachs, USC Professor of Critical Studies Ellen Seiter, and fans Lisa Stephenson, Gavin Citron, and Regina Parrott.
“Class” examines some production areas, but it mainly looks at the series’ cultural impact. Like its siblings, a lot of this turns into praise, so don’t expect a ton of strong insights.
The bonus disc concludes with three Photo Galleries. These break into “Saved By the Bell” (65 images), “Hawaiian Style” (21) and “Wedding in Vegas” (22).
Most of these show publicity photos, though “Style” and “Wedding” throw in a couple of print ads as well. I’d hoped for some behind the scenes pictures, so these compilations disappoint.
The package also throws in a 14-page booklet. It includes basics about all of the different series and the movies as well as episode synopses and some trivia. It adds value.
If you grew up with the series, you will likely love “Saved By the Bell: The Complete Collection”. If not, you probably won’t find much to enjoy from this silly, campy package of shows. The DVDs bring mediocre picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. While Bell doesn’t work for me, its legion of fans should dig this box.