What it made me realize is that people like Joel (and like me, I suppose) were drawn to this unentertaining show because we felt like we knew what was going to happen next. Understanding Saved by the Bell meant you understood what was supposed to define the ultrasimplistic, hyperstereotypical high school experience---and understanding that formula meant you realized what was (supposedly) important about growing up. It's like I said before: Important things are inevitably cliche.
. . .
It served no education purpose, and it served no artistic purpose. But what it did was reestablish everyone's moral reality. If Saved by the Bell was cliched, uncreative teen sitcom (and I think we would all agree that it was), it needed to deliver the cliched, uncreative plot: If these kids drink and drive, they will have to have a bad accident---but no one will actually die, because we all deserve a second chance.
As I watched that particular episode in college, I took satisfaction in knowing that American morality was still basically the same as it had been when I was thirteen years old. It proved I still understood how the mainstream, knee-jerk populace looked at life, even though my personal paradigm no longer fit those standards.
Saved by the Bell was well-suited for conventional moralizing, because none of the characters had multifaceted ethics (or even situational ethics). Every decision they made was generated by whatever the audience would expect them to do; it was almost like the people watching the show wrote the dialogue.
Tags: Klosterman, Saved by the Bell