If there's one episode of Saved By The Bell that pretty much everyone remembers, it's the one in which Jessie gets hooked on caffeine pills to help her study, and ends up having a major meltdown when Zack confronts her about it. In a new book by exective producer Peter Engel, called I Was Saved By The Bell: Stories Of Life, Love, And Dreams That Do Come True , we discover that the original script for that episode allegedly didn't revolve around caffeine pills at all. Instead, it was actually about speed. Wait, what? Saved By The Bell could've been a very different show indeed. Bustle reached out to NBC for comment, but they were not able to comment on this matter.
In an excerpt published by Vulture on Tuesday, Engel is totally open about the writing process of Saved By The Bell, and about why the pivotal script featuring Jessie had to switch speed for caffeine. Engel claims,
"Standards and Practices, the censorial department of NBC, vetoed it, saying speed was too serious for Saturday mornings. I insisted that we needed to start dealing with more important issues than we had in the past, and that speed was a vehicle not only for exploring drug use but also the pressure that kids put on themselves to achieve."
While it's unsurprising that Saved By The Bell was allegedly censored in this way, especially since that's a very heavy subject for children and teens at that time, it's enlightening to hear that the show's producers were keen to amp up the drama early on and didn't want to shy away from difficult topics like drug abuse. It's hard not to wonder what the series might've become if Jessie had been addicted to speed way back in Season 2 of the show.
In light of Engel's revelation, it's clear that the Saved By The Bell writers wanted their characters to deal with heavy issues. But, despite filming the episode as it was written, he claims of the change,
"I wasn’t pleased about it — after all, the average caffeine pill was the equivalent of a cup of coffee, if that, so we might as well have had Jessie get addicted to earl grey, or breaking into the Max to snort coffee grounds. But hey, we had to start somewhere."
As a teenager, the effectiveness of caffeine pills didn't even cross my mind when watching Jessie Spano's meltdown, and it seemed clear that the character was in trouble. However, Engel's remarks are hilarious in hindsight, especially since the whole world is pretty much addicted to caffeine now. If Saved By The Bell had featured speed in the episode, who knows where the show might've ended up going? Would Jessie have developed a serious drug problem? Would Kelly Kapowski have become an alcoholic? Maybe Screech would've gone to prison?
Engel's book will make you want to re-watch Saved By The Bell from the beginning, and that's no bad thing. It's still a total classic.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated from its original version.
Images: NBC; Giphy