Thursday, August 18, 2011

Zack Morris vs. Brandon Walsh

Who is the bigger pop culture icon: Saved by the Bell’s Zack Morris, played by Mark Paul Gosselaar or Beverly Hills 90210’s Brandon Walsh, played by Jason Priestly? Neither one of them can make another acting gig work from type casting, and both of them have spent every day since running from their most famous role. So let the debate begin.

As crazy as this may sound, I have to argue that it’s Zack Morris. I say crazy because I think we can all agree that Saved by the Bell is a far inferior show to 90210. Bell only ran for 4 seasons ('89-'93), on Saturday mornings (NBC) vs. 90210 which ran for 10 seasons ('90-'00) in prime time (FOX). The set for Saved by the Bell was basically that hallway and one room that went from Mr. Belding’s office, to Zack’s bedroom, to a classroom, to the Max, back to Belding’s office. Did they EVER go outside on any episode? There were some scenes when it was supposed to be Zack’s bedroom, and Belding’s principal degree props were still hanging on the wall. It was either plain lazy or running on a soup kitchen budget.

Then the show would write characters in and out, without rhyme or reason. Zack’s main squeeze, Kelly (Tiffani Thiessen), who ironically went from Bell to 90210 in '94 to play that horribly annoying Valerie Malone character, would just appear and reappear as a regular character all the time. Then Bell tried that awful spin off, The College Years. Hi yi yi yi, was that bad. But through it all, who can forget Zack Morris’s huge cell phone, and gigantic sneakers, and ridiculous dyed-blonde hair? My favorite Bell episode was when Zack and Slater fought over that random biker chick, Tori, the show wrote in for 3 episodes then you never heard from again. Leah Rimini as Stacey Carosi for the summer episodes filmed at the country club. I liked that, but still I don't think they ever went outside. Ahhh! Go outside. All the characters are pretty memorable, I grant you that, Screech, Jessie Spano, even Lisa Turtle, and Miss. Bliss (way back), but the show itself was really low grade.

Of course 90210 was the far superior show. In fact, I think it’s one of the best TV shows ever, and probably one of the most copied. The reason why Brandon Walsh isn’t culturally as big as Zack Morris is because the show was so good, and the rest of the cast was rock solid, which left him lost in the shuffle, a little. Shannon Doherty was a great actress when 90210 first came on, the class of the cast in fact. The first 3 seasons of the show belonged to her, and every season the last few episodes always revolved around her character. She carried the season finales. Some of the scenes she did with Luke Perry (Dylan McKay) were A+ television, can't deny it, people. Remember the final scene when Brenda is in Dylan's Porsche, and they're arguing, and LOSING MY RELIGION Is playing? Great last-episode scene. It’s understood that Priestly was the star, but I don’t think he got the best story lines (Dylan), and I don’t think he was the biggest talent (Brenda). In fact you were either a Brandon fan or Dylan fan, maybe a Steve Sanders fan (18A4RE), so that divided the potential influence on pop culture, I suppose. Not too many people were A.C. Slater fans, or Screech fans, over Zack.

Bell just didn’t have the cast of characters, interesting storylines, and consistency of 90210 (Save the last 2 seasons of 90210). But Zack Morris WAS Saved by the Bell, and because of that his character is more memorable than Brandon Walsh’s, even though Walsh was the far richer personality, and drove a really cool Mustang. Of course Zack didn't have a car, I don't think, because they never went outside. Remember the episode where Zack crashes the car after drinking at the toga party? I think they dressed Belding's office up to look like the inside of a car for that scene. I mean: Come on.

Also, when debating this hugely important issue, you must consider that Brandon Walsh couldn’t stop time and talk to the camera like Zack Morris could. That's pretty awesome, I have to admit. So in the end the greatest debate in pop culture will wage on: Zack vs. Brandon. Who was the bigger icon? And perhaps the larger question still remains: How is Mario Lopez the only one who still has a relevant career? Huh?

Let's look at some other Saved by the Bell vs. 90210 Matchups. Who is a bigger pop culture icon . . .

1. DADS: Peter Morris vs. Jim Walsh
2. SCHOOL ADMINS: Mr. Belding vs. Vice Principal Teasley
3. TEACHERS: Ms. Bliss vs. Gil Myers
4. OTHER DADS: AC Slater's dad General Slater vs. Rush Sanders
5. HANGOUTS: Max/Max's vs. Nat/The Peach Pit
6. SUMMER BOSSES: Leon Carosi vs. Henry from the Beverly Hills Beach Club
7. THE GANG: Jessie Spano vs. Donna Martin
8. THE GANG: Lisa Turtle vs. Andrea Zuckerman
9. THE GANG: Tori the Biker Chick vs Steve Sanders
10. THE GANG: AC Slater vs Dylan McKay
11. THE GANG: Screech Powers vs. David Silver
12. KIND OF THE GANG: Stacey Carosi vs. Ray Pruitt
13. EVIL: Jeff who stole Kelly Kapowski vs. Garrett Sland who assaulted Donna Martin
14. MIXED TAG TEAM MATCH: Kelly Kapowski & Valerie Malone vs. Kelly Taylor & Brenda Walsh
15. SCHOOLS: Bayside High vs. West Beverly Hills High
16. QUOTES: "The sauce you can a have, but the secret she's a mine" (Screech Powers) vs. "Donna Martin Graduates!" (Class of '93)

Brian Huba

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