Saved By The Bell

Saved by the Bell's 'Jessie's Song' Turns 25 — But Is It Really Teen TV's Best Pill-Related Freakout?

Young-ish people with Wi-Fi connections everywhere are heralding the 25th anniversary of Saved by the Bell‘s iconic “Jessie’s Song” episode, and it’s really got me thinking… about another show.

For those of you who are tragically unfamiliar with 1990’s “Jessie’s Song,” allow me to begin with a recap: Upon discovering that his three best girl friends are super hot and (at least somewhat) musically inclined, über schemer Zack Morris turns them into a pop music trio. (Empire‘s Hakeem could learn a thing or two from Zack’s business savvy.) In fact, he even books a gig for his new creation at the gang’s local hangout — but when Jessie, the tallest member of the group, develops a crippling (and no doubt scientifically accurate) addiction to caffeine pills, Zack’s master plan begins to crumble:

While the 22-minute production remains a timeless masterpiece — and Elizabeth Berkley‘s performance is both stunning and brave — it’s not the only pony in this race, my friends. Not by a long shot.

Five years after the events of “Jessie’s Song,” another Peter Engel-produced teen sitcom — the criminally under-appreciated California Dreams — attempted a similar feat, afflicting guitarist Tiffani with an out-of-nowhere addiction to steroids. Like Jessie, Tiffani turned to drugs as a method of coping with the seemingly insurmountable pressures in her life, and also like Jessie, Tiffani’s abuse was a real inconvenience for her bandmates.

On paper, I can understand why you might see California Dreams‘ pill-inspired episode (titled “Tiffani’s Gold”) as a cheap “Jessie’s Song” knockoff. But when you actually watch the s–t hit the fan, you’ll see it’s truly its own beast:

I mean, right? The sheer physicality of Kelly Packard‘s performance is beyond comprehension. Plus, Tiffani has the cojones to fly her freak flag in public, embarrassing her damn self in front of countless strangers. Unlike “Jessie’s Song,” this one also leaves you with questions, like: Did they ever get their morning show interview? Who’s going to clean up this mess? And why does Mark’s hand lightly graze Jake’s butt at 1:23?

Look, I’m not saying Tiffani’s freakout is definitively better than Jessie’s; I’m just urging you to consider them both before handing out any crowns.

And one last thought about Saved by the Bell, if I may: I also feel that “Jessie’s Song,” while irrefutably phenomenal, is celebrated for all the wrong reasons. When you take into account that Bell‘s leading ladies, who so far exhibited zero professional musical aspirations, suddenly decide to form the precursor to Destiny’s Child — Jessie was clearly the Beyoncé, no matter what Lisa thought — it makes Jessie’s sudden caffeine-pill addiction storyline seem way less crazy by comparison.

The fact that the group is called Hot Sundae is just, well, the cherry on top.

Where do you stand on “Jessie’s Song” and “Tiffani’s Gold”? Give ’em both a watch — if you haven’t done so already — and drop a comment with your thoughts.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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28 Comments
  1. Sarah T says:

    I completely forgot about the California Dreams episode. I agree, that show was underrated. It was good! I really liked it and Hang Time too. Every time I see Blackish now I think, “Hey, that’s that kid from Hang Time!” :-)
    I think Jessie’s Song for the win. It was clearly a “very special episode” but it was well done for what it was.

  2. Weezy says:

    I’m going to have to go with Jesse’s Song, primarily because I used a reference to that episode as recently at last week….that’s when you know something is timeless. Elizabeth was on point during that episode despite the absurdity of the remaining storyline. Guess she would’ve never cut it in Zach Attack…lol.

    California Dreams was criminally under-appreciated (in fact I used to watch it but forgot the name of it until the author reminded me). By the way whatever happened to Kelly Packard? I think I remember her showing up in Baywatch or something and then nothing…

    • Win says:

      You’ll probably have to take me to jail, because I never got into California Dreams. Maybe subconsciously I didn’t want anyone to top Jessie’s caffeine pill freakout. I did love the most well-known Saved by the Bell (and Miss Bliss) and remember watching City Guys and USA High.

    • steven says:

      She was in a movie called My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend back in 2010.

    • Delirious says:

      It surprises me that the “Just Say Yo” episode from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air isn’t listed here as well…

  3. Lola says:

    I always watch the video on YouTube comparing Jessie/Tiffani freakouts. Cracks me up every time.

  4. Steven says:

    Thank you! California Dreams was my childhood!

  5. Jbj says:

    Okay, THIS is why too much ironic love is dangerous!

  6. Steven says:

    “And why does Mark’s hand lightly graze Jake’s butt at 1:23?”
    OH MY GOD! It totally does. New headcannon accepted.

  7. Alicia says:

    Omg I loved California Dreams loved that episode too. Saved By The Bell was an awesome show too make me wanna watch them again probs have the old vhs videos somewhere 😂

  8. Diz says:

    I watched both in their heyday. My bit goes to Jessie’s song. Elizabeth is a better actress to me and totally delivered.

  9. Ame says:

    FINALLY someone else recognizes the glory that was California dreams!

  10. LJT says:

    Not even Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas could debate whose meltdown was better. This will be argued for years to come. Oh great catch on the hand grazing incident. It adds to the scene.

  11. Kermit says:

    No other comments?!

    You had me at California Dreams, Andy Swift. You had me at California Dreams.

    • Kermit says:

      …well, I feel stupid now, but I swear those other comments weren’t visible until after I hit post. Good for you, 19 fellow California Dreams fans.

  12. I loved California Dreams. Sly was way better than Screech.

  13. NBC Fan says:

    Ah NBC Saturday morning. Never missed it. Remember the short-lived series “The Guys Next Door”? So cheesy. So fun.

  14. Lloyd says:

    I thought they were both very good. Jessie and Tiffany both under lots of pressure, was heart breaking. Jessie crying in Zack’s arms was heartbreaking.