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Best Movie And TV Roles From The Original Saved By The Bell Cast

"Saved by the Bell" is an iconic show that has earned its place in the cultural lexicon, and one that has remained relevant for more than 30 years. The show made its debut in 1989, when NBC retooled the sitcom "Good Morning, Miss Bliss," cutting half the cast and moving the setting from Indianapolis to Southern California. Miss Bliss (Hayley Mills) was nowhere to be found in "Saved by the Bell," which focused on a group of six teenagers (seven, if you count the Tori years). The show aired for four seasons, though it seems like longer considering how many years it was in heavy rerun rotation.

Over the years, "Saved by the Bell" spawned multiple spinoffs including "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" and "Saved by the Bell: The New Class." The franchise was recently resurrected with a newer, fresher, totally absurd version on Peacock. With the exception of the late Dustin Diamond, the original "Saved by the Bell" cast members all reprised their roles on season one of the reboot. In preparation for season two (which premieres on Peacock November 24), we are taking a look at some of the originals' career highlights. Here are the best movie and TV roles from the original "Saved by the Bell" cast.

NYPD Blue

Of everyone in the main cast, Mark-Paul Gosselaar has had the greatest screen success in the years since "Saved by the Bell," so it should come as no surprise that he dominates our list. And because the prolific actor had such an expansive resume, we could not even include some of his notable projects like "Commander in Chief" and "Truth be Told." Of all of Gosselaar's work, however, "NYPD Blue" is probably the most significant. After all, it was the revered ABC cop drama that symbolized a mainstream turn in Gosselaar's career and marked his transition from younger roles to more adult material.

Gosselaar was 27 in 2001 when he joined "NYPD Blue" for its ninth season, playing Detective John Clark Jr. He remained with the show until it ended in 2005, and altogether appeared in 87 episodes. According to comments he made at Fan Expo Dallas in 2021, Gosselaar was offered the "NYPD Blue" role without even having to audition, as he had previously impressed show creator Steven Bochco when trying out for the show "Philly," which lasted only one season (per Tulsa World). Gosselaar was proud of his work on the show, telling the Boston Herald in 2008, "'NYPD Blue' was one of the best projects I've ever been a part of."

Raising the Bar

"NYPD Blue" was not Mark-Paul Gosselaar's only partnership with Steven Bochco; the actor also starred on the prolific producer's "Raising the Bar," which ran on TNT for two seasons. While Gosselaar had some other roles between the two gigs — most notably on the television shows "Commander in Chief" and "John in Cincinnati" — "Raising the Bar" was his next big thing after "NYPD Blue." "[Bochco] had me in mind for 'Raising the Bar.' I'm completely flattered. I still feel like I'm indebted to him for 'NYPD Blue' — and now I'm indebted to him for this," Gosselaar told the Boston Herald. "As an actor, you look to work with iconic producers, and to work with him twice, there are no words to describe what a wonderful opportunity this is."

"Raising the Bar" began airing in 2008, and Gosselaar appeared as principled, dedicated public defender Jerry Kellerman. While he admitted to being initially reluctant to play a public defender, Gosselaar said that he thoroughly enjoyed playing Jerry. "It's an exhilarating role in many ways. Jerry feels so much for his clients and, in doing the show, I got wrapped up in how he feels for his clients," he said. "I sometimes take it personally, the absurdity of what his clients go through. I see Jerry's passion for his clients."

Franklin & Bash

Next to "Saved by the Bell" and "NYPD Blue," the TNT legal dramedy "Franklin & Bash" is probably Gosselaar's next best-known credit. In fact, there was even a sly "Franklin & Bash" reference on an episode of the "Saved by the Bell" reboot. "I don't remember whose idea [the Franklin & Bash reference] was, but I would love to take credit for it," the reboot's showrunner Tracey Wigfield told TVLine. "We talked a lot [in the writers' room] about how that would be funny because I don't know which one [Gosselaar] was, whether he was Franklin or Bash."

The show ran for four seasons — from 2011 to 2014 — and, for the record, Gosselaar played Peter Bash, alongside Breckin Meyer, who portrayed his legal partner Elmo Franklin. Meyer and Gosselaar became fast friends on the show, and Meyer even stood up for Gosselaar when "Saved by the Bell" co-star Dustin Diamond released an embellished tell-all book (per the Huffington Post). In their season one review of "Franklin & Bash," Variety wrote, "the show is playful, silly and wholly unpretentious" and called it "unexpectedly quirky." "It's a fine balance of playing guys that aren't growing up while not getting too slapstick, too silly or too obnoxious," Gosselaar told Collider.

Pitch

After "Franklin & Bash," Gosselaar immediately jumped back into TV work with a four-episode arc on "CSI: Crime Scene investigation." He then starred in two short-lived television shows: the sitcom "Truth Be Told" and "Pitch." While "Truth Be Told" was fine, it is "Pitch" that really deserved a much longer run. The sports drama centered on a fictional version of the actual Major League Baseball team the San Diego Padres, which signs Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), the first woman to play Major League Baseball. Gosselaar played Mike Lawson, a veteran player and the team captain who is initially not on board with Ginny's presence, but eventually takes her under his wing.

"Pitch" aired on Fox during the 2016-2017 television season. Though it lasted only 10 episodes, the show was critically acclaimed (it currently has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Lead actress Bunbury was the focus of much of the media coverage, but critics also praised Gosselaar's performance. Writing for The Guardian, critic Brian Moylan opined, "Gosselaar, darker and heftier than in his Zack Morris days, is absolutely perfect as a faded hero and gets to display more nuance than he ever could on 'CSI' or 'Franklin & Bash.'" Other reviews also talked about the giant beard Gosselaar grew for the role.

Mixed-ish

No, this is not a Gosselaar-specific list, but the man does have a strong television background. After "Pitch," he appeared in a recurring role as a fictionalized version of himself on TV Land's "Nobodies" and as the lead in "The Passage," a Fox science fiction thriller that — like a fair number of Gosselaar's TV projects — lasted only one season. But the final role of his we included on our list is "Mixed-ish," which gave Gosselaar a fantastic opportunity to get back to his sitcom roots. It was also cool to see the actor play a father, which is something he has rarely done despite having four kids of his own.

"Mixed-ish" was a two-season ABC show that operated in the same universe as the mega-hit "Black-ish" and its other spin-off "Grown-ish." "Mixed-ish" followed a young Rainbow Johnson (the matriarch on "Black-ish") as she came of age as a young bi-racial teen in the 1980s. Gosselaar portrayed Rainbow's father, Paul Jackson, a stay-at-home dad (and later a teacher) who rejected his wealthy upbringing in favor of hippieism. At the start of the show, the family is fresh off of a commune and adjusting to life in the suburbs. "It's sort of eye-opening to be on a show where we're dealing with topics that are still relevant today — gender, race, individuality," Gosselaar — who himself is mixed-race — told Assignment X.

Showgirls

Okay, so "Showgirls" is perhaps not a conventionally good film. It is, however, so bad that it is good, and has developed such a passionate fanbase that even The Economist has written about its cult following. And while it is the film that nearly broke Elizabeth Berkley's career, it is also — next to her "Saved by the Bell" role as Jessie Spano — the part that has come to define it. Berkley portrayed Nomi Malone in the 1995 erotic drama, which documented the troubled young grifter's rise as a Las Vegas showgirl. 

The reviewers were scathing when "Showgirls" came out, but as we mentioned, it has found new life as the years have worn on. There is even a 2020 documentary, "You Don't Nomi," that aimed to deconstruct the film's "afterlife." Many now view the film as satirical, and recent comments about Berkley and the movie have been much kinder. "The following, and the cult and queer fandom that it has, basically allowed space for it to be revisited and reevaluated," "You Don't Nomi" filmmaker Jeffrey McHale said to Los Angeles magazine. "People are tuning in and checking it out again. Maybe back in the day it was harder to digest the satire that I think Verhoeven was aiming to achieve, but people can step away and look at it a little more objectively now."

Roger Dodger

Despite becoming a late-night punchline in the aftermath of "Showgirls," Berkley established a decent career in the years since its release. Highlights include small parts in films like "Any Given Sunday" and "First Wives Club," a four-episode guest arc on "The L Word," and a recurring role in seasons six and seven of "CSI: Miami." That said, one of our favorite Berkley roles is as Andrea in the indie film "Roger Dodger."

The 2002 comedy-drama follows callous womanizer Roger (Campbell Scott) whose earnest nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) enlists his help to learn about how to lose his virginity. Berkley plays one of the women they meet while out on the town. USA Today film critic Mike Clark called Berkley's performance "terrific," and Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Berkley, heretofore stained by the 'Showgirls' fiasco, is the big revelation. See for yourself: She's very, very good."

Beverly Hills, 90210

Tiffani Thiessen was the first "Saved by the Bell" alum that was able to shed their teenybopper image, when she took on the role of "bad girl" Valerie Malone on "Beverly Hills, 90210" right after the end of "Saved by the Bell: The College Years." Thiessen appeared on the show from 1994 until 2000, and Valerie was just about as far from Kelly Kapowski as one could get. She was a manipulative, smart, and complicated woman who enjoyed drinking, drugs, and sex. It was a high-profile gig that completely changed the type of roles Thiessen would occupy in the future.

Thiessen joined "Beverly Hills, 90210" after Shannen Doherty (Brenda) departed, which of course led to constant comparisons between Valerie and the much more innocent Brenda. "'I'd call her a bad girl in the sense that she does bad things," Thiessen told the Los Angeles Times back in 1994. "She's had a lot of difficulty in her life and doesn't know how to deal with them."

Fastlane

Thiessen continued to work after the end of "Beverly Hills, 90210" and some of her credits from this time period include the 2002 Woody Allen movie "Hollywood Ending," the "Saturday Night Live"-inspired movie "The Ladies Man," and the TV show "Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place," on which she appeared for eight episodes in 2000. In 2002, Thiessen took on the role of police lieutenant Wilhelmina "Billie" Chambers in the Fox police dramedy series "Fastlane," which was the brainchild of "Charlie's Angels" director McG. According to the A.V. Club, the action-heavy show reportedly cost $2.6 million per episode to make.

Thiessen's character was the handler for two undercover cops (played by Peter Facinelli and Bill Bellamy), and the show earned generally favorable marks. "'Fastlane' is a light-hearted action series, not a postmodern satire," wrote The New York Times critic Caryn James. "The trick is to wink at the detective shows that have gone before, borrow the pieces that have worked, then rush them into the present. It's a balancing act that 'Fastlane' usually pulls off with ease." Despite being rather fun and campy — "Fastlane" was cancelled after only one season (a high budget and middling ratings are never a good mix). Still, it remains one of Thiessen's most interesting roles and one we would love to see her revisit one day.

White Collar

Next to Gosselaar, Thiessen has arguably had the most successful post-"Saved by the Bell" career. And like Gosselaar, she too has been somewhat of a television staple over the years. In addition to the shows we have already mentioned, Thiessen had memorable recurring roles on "Good Morning, Miami" and "What About Brian," and recently had a main role on the Netflix original sitcom "Alexa and Katie." But the role we chose for her third entry on our list is the one she played for the longest time — Elizabeth Burke on the USA Network's "White Collar."

Airing from 2009 to 2014, "White Collar" focused on Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) who gets an early release from prison by helping the FBI catch other white collar criminals. Neal works closely with Special Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), and Thiessen plays Peter's wife. "Ever since I read the script, which has been a little over a year ago now, I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the characters. I fell in love with the show, and more and more, when the cast was brought together, the more excitement I had for the show and wanting to be a part of it," Thiessen told Cinema Blend in a 2009 interview. "This is really the first time I feel like in my whole entire career which has been over 25, 26 years of doing this that I finally feel like I'm kind of playing a role a little closer to home for me, which is kind of exciting."

Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story

Three years after "Saved by the Bell: The College Years," Mario Lopez appeared in a far more dramatic role than that of A.C. Slater when he starred in the docudrama "Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story." In the 1997 television movie, Lopez portrayed the titular gold medal-winning Olympic diver who later came out as HIV-positive and became an LGBTQ and HIV awareness advocate. The role was Lopez's first big adult role and predates his transition into hosting.

Lopez has not always gotten it right when it comes to the LGBTQ community — and in fact, caused a stir with some controversial comments he made about transgender children in 2019. But it is important to note that "Breaking the Surface" came out at a time when queer representation was far less common, and when straight male actors were warned against taking gay parts. The film is based upon Louganis' autobiography, and it remains one of the meatiest roles Lopez has ever tackled.

Pacific Blue

Lopez has not had a ton of series regular roles, so his multiple seasons on the USA Network's "Pacific Blue" are an obvious standout on his resume. Lopez played Officer Bobby Cruz on the show, which was about Santa Monica police officers who ride around on bicycles.

While "Pacific Blue" ran for five seasons, Lopez only appeared in the final two. In a 2000 interview with La Prensa San Diego, Lopez said, "Right now, I'd like to just continue on a series where I am doing good work with a balance of comedy and drama. That and do occasional features and movies. Eventually though, I'd like to have my own production company. Then I could create great opportunities not only for myself, but for other actors as well." Clearly, he did not see himself hosting every celebrity news television show in the game, but who ca blame him for not foreseeing that?

Nip/Tuck

At one time, Lopez played a doctor (Christian Ramirez) on "The Bold and the Beautiful," the long-running daytime soap which at one time also featured his "Saved by the Bell" co-star Lark Voorhies. But Dr. Ramirez was downright boring next to Dr. Mike Hamoui, the character that Lopez played on the incredibly entertaining but also downright bananas FX show "Nip/Tuck." And though he only appeared in eight episodes (guesting on the show in season four and recurring in its final sixth season) Lopez was unforgettable in the role. 

"Nip/Tuck" was a darkly comedic show about two Miami plastic surgeons and the insanity that surrounded them, their families, and their practice. Lopez's character starts as a source of fascination for one of the main surgeons, Dr. Christian Troy (Julian McMahon), who is jealous of his body — a memorable scene had the doctor eyeing a naked Lopez in the gym showers. When Christian finds out that Mike is also a plastic surgeon, Mike operates on Christian and eventually purchases his apartment. In season six, Mike moves to Los Angeles — where the two main characters have started a practice — and joins the duo in business. The role was a more risqué one than Lopez had ever taken on, requiring him to use profanity, do nudity, and even wear lingerie.

In the House

Rounding out our list is one of Lark Voorhies' best roles, that of Mercedes Langford in seasons four and five of "In the House." While Voorhies has fared less well in Hollywood than some of her "Saved by the Bell" co-stars, she seemed to have an easier time finding work in the 1990s than in the ensuing decades. The biggest roles she had after "Saved by the Bell" were both in daytime television — first as Wendy Reardon on "Days of Our Lives" and then as Jasmine Malone on "The Bold and the Beautiful." By the time "In the House" came along, Voorhies was 23 and four years past playing Lisa Turtle.

"In the House" was a five-season sitcom that aired on NBC for two seasons, and then UPN after that. LL Cool J starred as a former pro football player named Marion Hill, who rents out his house to a single mother (Debbie Allen) and her two kids. Voorhies appeared in 18 episodes of the show as Mercedes, the love interest of Dr. Maxwell Stanton (Alfonso Ribeiro), who helps Marion manage his sports clinic. The two have an on-again off-again relationship but end up married and expecting by the end of the series.