Saved By the Bell's "1-900 Crushed"... Or How Zach Morris Tried to Get Rich Seducing a 13-Year-Old Girl
Welcome to “Failing the Test of Time,” a new regular feature at HNTP where we relive a particularly awful episode of a classic TV show!
Did you ever have one of those friends who was the quintessential early adopter? From smartphones to social networking sites to shoes to hairstyles . . . your trend-setting friend was always on board on day one. This made them the absolute coolest person to be around on the fateful day that a new trend arrived . . . and the most embarrassing person to be around about a week later . . .
Why? Because a good majority of trends end up dying a quick but still painful death, and for good reason. Most tend to be tacky, cheesy, funny-looking, and just plain ill-advised. And if you happened to be one of the unlucky few who spent big bucks buying into these DOA trends, you would, sooner than not, find yourself alone, left holding a very heavy, not to mention hideously ugly, bag.
In the ’90s, the television embodiment of that ill-fated, early-adopting friend was Saved by the Bell. Sure, it was always cool on the Saturday morning that you watched it, on the floor of your childhood bedroom, still in your pajamas, while picking the colorful marshmallows out of your bowl of Lucky Charms. Zack was just so cute. Kelly was so pretty. And Jessie was so smart. (Ridiculously dramatic caffeine pill addiction notwithstanding.)
With a mouthful of marshmallowy orange stars and purple horseshoes, you vowed to grow up to one day become a “cool teenager,” just like them.
Yet, a mere Saturday later, everything about the previous episode you watched was laughably dated, and basically just embarrassingly bad all around.
No episode of Saved By the Bell better exemplifies this bizarre phenomenon than Season 3, Episode 11, which is cleverly entitled, wait for it . . . 1-900 Crushed.
In this groundbreaking episode, Zack reads a MAGAZINE article about people under the age of 20 who have already made over “A MILLION” dollars . . .
. . . and decides he wants to be just like them! Fortunately for Zack, a ridiculous get-rich-quick scheme is literally on the next page. An advertisement promises that if he invests in a 1-900 number, he can charge a bunch of unsuspecting, underage boobs $2 a minute just for the pleasure of being on the other end of his massively over-sized cell phone with the metal rod hanging from the top.
(This ad must be the 1990s equivalent of those modern-day spambots who flood the comment section of every e-zine article you’ve ever read with promises that “My cousin works from home and makes $20,000 a month selling useless crap on her computer, and you can too!”)
Enter super savvy Lisa, who (surprise!) is also reading a MAGAZINE! (This was the pre-Wikipedia era, after all!) Lisa’s magazine features an advice columnist, “Dear Donna,” who hawks advice to vulnerable teens that is guaranteed to come to them at least a month later than they actually need it.
I am hanging on the ledge of my three-story home by just my pinkie. How do I not die?
Two months later:
Dear Pinky Swearer,
Get someone to call the fire department and help you, you moron. Wait . . .are you already dead? If so, RIP Pinky Swearer.
Hugs and Kisses,
Jessie conversationally mentions to Zack that Lisa is so instinctively good at giving one-month-too-late advice that she is almost always able to successfully parrot Dear Donna’s sage responses to these dumbass teenagers even before reading it in print! (Lisa must be psychic!)
This gives Zack an idea! He can exploit Lisa and her useless talent by paying her less than minimum wage (like she’s a five-year-old sweatshop worker from a developing country) while, at the same time, also exploiting his barely literate high school classmates (who are using their parent’s credit cards, without permission, on dumb sh*t) by starting his own 1-900 advice line!
It’s genius! It’s foolproof! It’s guaranteed to fail spectacularly within the next 30 minutes (including at least eight minutes of commercials, during which, obviously, nothing can happen).
In other news, Kelly’s tomboy little sis, Nicki, has a HUGE crush on Zack. We know this because Nicki daydreams that Zack is the cheesy “prince” rapper in her vaguely racist, definitely sexist, “modern” Cinderella tale . . .
Zack ends up running the help line out of his bedroom, naturally, and using a really fake Australian accent to help Lisa give awesome advice to . . . well, basically only Jessie, Kelly’s sister Nicki, some stereotypically nerdy girl, and her stereotypical dumb jock boyfriend, who is naturally named Moose.
The hotline is a huge hit, thanks to the great advice given by Lisa and Fake-Accented Zack . . . and the fact that all their classmates are really stupid and, apparently, have lots of their parents’ credit card money to burn!
Through the hotline, a very underage Nikki is advised by just-on-the-cusp-of-being-no-longer-underage Zack to aggressively pursue her “secret crush.” This results in a really disturbing exchange, whereby Zack ends up hiding the perky, love-starved prepubescent in his locker and sort-of/kind-of kissing her behind his assumed girlfriend Kelly’s back, which, of course, does not go unnoticed by Kelly and Zack’s mutual gal pal, aggro-feminist Jessie.
Later that day, Zack and Screech notice that the hotline is dead now that Lisa has expertly solved the problems of all four of the teens at Bayside High with speaking parts on this show!
So, Zack and Screech decide to fire Lisa and give those same four teens crappy advice so their lives go down the toilet, which forces them to keep calling back for more crappy advice. Zack is the Bernie Madoff of way-dated 1-900 teen hotlines, basically.
The first unlucky caller under the hotline’s new “bad advice” regime is Slater, who is promptly advised to dump Jessie. He conveniently does so, just as Jessie is revealing to Kelly what a pedophilic creeper her boyfriend Zack is for getting up to some creepy S&M locker sh*t with the latter’s 13-year-old sister behind her back.
The next night, things get really “crazy,” when both Kelly and Little Sister Nicki call the hotline at the SAME TIME regarding their feelings for Zack. This forces Zack to seek his own advice from Lisa while still trying to use that ridiculously fake Australian accent on two women who supposedly know him better than any other women on the show, and yet suspect nothing!
On Lisa’s advice, Zack tries to confess to Kelly that he is, in fact, the “Aussie guy Nitro” behind the hotline, and he only loves her . . . except Zack ends up telling Nicki this instead, which makes him seem even creepier and more pedophiley than he did back when he was doing that S&M locker sh*t earlier!
What’s an almost-legal Casanova . . . who is absolutely terrible at doing Australian accents, has the stupidest friends in the world, and was born about twelve years too early to own his own cell phone . . . to do?!
All this poor advice eventually comes to a head in art class. This results in a “wacky” silly string fight between the whole class! It just doesn’t get much more ’90s than a bunch of early twenty-somethings playing teens having silly string fights while clad in oversized denim art smocks!
Anyway, one thing leads to another, and the whole class eventually gets called to the principal’s office. This causes everybody to point a finger at the crap advice they got from “that dumbass help line” to justify their “undignified behavior.” (Because the 1-900 number told them all to wear unflattering three-sizes-too-big denim smocks to school?)
Principal Belding soon figures out that Zack and Screech are behind the hotline and informs them, in no uncertain terms, that they have to fix everyone in the school’s love lives ASAP or they will both be expelled. Riiiiiight, because that is exactly what public schools do . . . threaten to expel kids for something they do outside of school, unless they agree to pimp out all their underage friends and help them to engage in sexually explicit activities with one another!
Desperate, Zack once again enlists “good advice guru” Lisa for help. Lisa solves the entire student body’s relationship problems in about two minutes because she’s Lisa, obviously. But Zack’s own pickle is a bit more complicated. Lisa’s solution for Zack involves him dressing like Screech so that Nicki won’t find him inappropriately sexually attractive anymore!
The only problem is that prepubescent Nicki absolutely loves Zack’s nerdy side and still wants a little something-something from this beany-wearing late teen!
This “unexpected result” forces Zack to tell Nicki the truth: namely, that he’s in love with her older sister, Kelly, but only because she’s way dumber than Nicki or any other 13 year old and, therefore, way easier to manipulate, sexually. Nicki is understandably furious and storms off. Fortunately, Kelly is in the next booth (dressed like a ridiculous porn star with a terribly gross blonde wig, of course), and she approves of all this wholeheartedly!
And so they all lived happily ever after! At least until the following Saturday . . .
That was it. That was the “1-900 Crushed” episode of Saved By the Bell. So, think about that the next time you have the gall to want to return to the horror, ugly clothes, and lack of technology that was your youth!
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