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Published:January 26th, 2010 11:05 EST
I Now Have A Drinking Problem

I Now Have A Drinking Problem

By Andy Wright


I now have the beginning of a drinking problem and like most alcoholics, it stems from the way I was raised.  I am one of the millions of victims of early 90`s daytime television.  Whether you are a Fresh Prince victim, Blossom victim, or even a victim projecting onto Growing Pains (Growing Pains never did anything wrong, you`re a victim of something else) we are all in this together.

My drug, and consequently my only friend, was Saved by the Bell.  For years they made us believe nothing was wrong and nothing could go wrong - never the possibility of a bad celebrity cameo or a reappearance of an actor from the awful Good Morning, Ms. Bliss sitcom.  They taught us to laugh at potentially serious situations like feminism, cheating on loved ones, stealing, M(I)LFs, and drug use.  However one day they decided to stop laughing and teach us a lesson - a lesson on drunk driving.  I felt like a victim of sexting and I had no idea who to turn to, mainly because nobody is ever a victim of sexting.  It`s one of the few areas of life where there are only winners and somewhat lesser winners. 

I was only 9 years old at the time; I had no intention of even touching a beer when I grew older, mainly because I was still ignorant of alcohol`s abundant advantages, but now after having witnessed an incident that was tragic without comedy, unlike Jessie`s hilarious stint with over the counter drugs or Lisa`s comical portrayal of a stereotype by playing bass guitar every time the gang played as a band.  No not like those at all.  What made it even harder to swallow was that this was a Tori episode - the much dreaded part of the final season where even Zack`s ability to close was affected.  As a pre-adolescent I wasn`t ready for a reason to drink.

The episode started as so many did - innocent and hilarious.  It was Saturday morning, and I was ready to believe Mario Lopez was straight and Screech was probably a really cool guy outside of television.  The Home Coming game was fast approaching because the fall was happening again which really put a stick in the spokes of continuity and Lisa was up for Home Coming Queen.  Coincidentally, that same year there was no Home Coming King up for nomination - probably for fear that it would make the plot too bulky and the issue less relevant. 

The football team was planning a party, Screech was over selling the idea of being a nerdy loser by being the team`s water boy, and Tori was winning at unique alternativeness.  The blend was homogenous and natural order had been in place.  There was something off about Zack though and it was puzzling; he had nothing going for him.  No girl of interest, no scheme in the works, not even a well executed punch lined forth wall breaking monologue.  Could this have been the start of a new formula?  One where each character matters without their issues relating back to Zack in some significant way?  If it was, I was ready to say no thank you writers. "

This incidental issue started at the Max - the usual after school hangout for the gang and a greasy diner with bad service and dead ends to us in the real world.  Some say the issue started at the party, to them I say watch it again being mindful of intentions and morality.  As Slater grows annoyed trying to sort out the details of the party with his ignorantly stereotyped football friends, Tori, still trying to fit in, suggests a toga party like her friends back home used to do.  There are at least four things wrong with this: 1) she didn`t say it loud enough for the jocks to hear her across the Max, 2) Zack`s role is still minimal, 3) nobody Tori ever knew had a toga party, and 4) Tori still doesn`t fit in after having suggested that.

The episode fast forwards to the party skipping over crucial details such was where everyone got their togas, who drove with who, what was Zack up to, wasn`t Zack`s mom still suspicious of him for sneaking out to the 18 and up night club, and how long was Tori waiting by the phone for somebody to call before she gave up?

The party was probably the biggest hit since Zack Attack; everybody was there and in togas.  Lisa was dressed like a Greek goddess or some form of royalty, and Tori for some reason was dressed like a Tantooine native who found a leather jacket.  Screech was continuing to sell his water boy position by his beating the dead horse method.  Slater was bro-ing out and Zack had two girls on his arms whom I`m sure he planned on exercising the rape myth with and shortly thereafter stealing their self esteem had it not been for the introduction of alcohol.  Just as things were looking promising for a good time - the football jocks brought in the beer.

Everybody dove in and started enjoying one of the many benefits of being an adult - except for two key people: Screech and Tori.  Screech because he chose the high road and went with water, and Tori because she rode her motorcycle to the party - the party she was the brainchild for - apparently hoping to make a bad ass, alternative entrance.

Soon the episode flashes forward again, only this time to the end of the party.  Tori, looking visibly uncomfortable as she does in so many episodes, takes off, clearly afraid of looking bad for making such a bold suggestion and hoping to maintain enough credibility so her episodes continue to air.  However, this is where the morality sinks deeper than Zack`s usual motives - Tori, knowing very well that her close, and only, friends had been drinking, did not offer to drive anyone home.  Then came time for everyone else to leave. 

It was that Slater, Lisa, and Zack realized they didn`t plan for the moment of drinking and driving.  Screech did the right thing and offered to drive, but instead of letting him do that, the irrational drunk talk took over and Lisa just put him down by questioning his motor skills as a person.  At this point any sober and good friend would put ego aside and still step up and drive, but apparently that`s too much to ask from Screech.  Zack, instead, tried to be the good friend and, despite a few beers, drive his friend`s home safely.

As the gang drives home hoping to make it to tomorrow with minimal error as with most episodes, the song Wild Thing " comes on the radio and, like any person drunk or sober, they can`t resist singing its relevant and layered lyrics.  Soon, however, disaster strikes as Zack becomes too involved in the song and, in an obvious motion to drunkenly strike his meek friend Screech; he loses control of the car, crashing into a telephone pole.  A perfect opportunity to turn the episode in a less loaded direction and tackle an issue such as reckless driving which can be easily laughed at and written off as a small obstacle that can be overcome with great looks and easy puns.  The writers boldly forged ahead - confident to decrease mortality thus increasing Nielsen ratings.

The gang made it back to Zack`s house with the help of the one and only in it for the popularity, Tori.  The first one to bail on them, never once thinking of their safety, and then saves " them when they`re in a tight spot?  Sounds like someone who doesn`t care about anyone but herself - not a friend at all.  It seems like it would have been a lot more difficult to pick up four people from an accident on a motorcycle than to just drive everyone home from the party and get the bike the next morning.  Hm, Tori, hm.

It was immediately that all of their lives fell apart with a couple notable exceptions - Screech and Tori.  Lisa, Slater, and Zack were all hung over (apparently nobody thought to drink their first beer on a weekend night) and in trouble because it was Lisa`s mom`s car they were driving and the cost of the damage was outrageous - almost more than the fun and Tori`s friendship combined.  All the while Screech was hiding in his own obliviousness.  Shortly thereafter things got worse - Slater finds out his arm is actually broken and Lisa feels guilty for lying to her mom while winning Home Coming Queen - not for the years of materialism or heartless gossiping - just for one lie that could have saved the gang a lot of time and work.  Some of them got off easier than others. 

Such a situation is where Zack thrives and rarely fails to get away with minor repercussions; however, just as the lies all come together and Zack and the rest can take them to the grave, Zack acquiesces.  He had it almost completely cleaned up and spoon fed to his dad and Lisa`s mom and Mr. Belding and God and whoever else was watching.  The half hour mark was within reach and a handful of unlikely stories were about tied together without any loose ends - but Zack just stopped and told the truth.  Zack and Lisa both received stern talking-tos and Slater was sent home to deal with his father. 

Some light groundings were in order and some privileges were taken away and once again people in television got off much easier than real people - like those in medical dramas.  But the episode was left without closure.  Not one person who was at fault got what they had coming and those who were the victims received fault only due to the writer`s wishes.  Screech and Tori got off on all charges because nobody thought to charge them; a minor detail lost in the stress that Screech and Tori decided to take advantage of.  They were bad friends for letting the others try to drive home drunk and for not being there to help them lie their way out of the mess when things started to become translucent.

I could no longer laugh at serious situations knowing the top students at Bayside could not turn them all into mockeries by getting away with things.  Sure drinking and driving is a serious issue with plenty of funny avenues innately built into it but the fact that Screech and Tori selfishly left their friends out to dry was just a dark twist that is tough to forget.  There`s no doubt that when Tori became a character she brought with her the most dramatic episodes of the series much like an attention craving sociopath - but to play with your friends " (who don`t really reciprocate the friendship) lives like that is just sick.  Tori and Screech should have been shunned from the group for being bigger buzz kills than ever before. 

When Zack finally admitted what happened, he never ratted out Tori or Screech for being there or being passive observers or for allowing them to drive - that`s a good friend.  Things could have been far worse for Screech and Tori had Zack and Slater decided to go balls out and get wasted at the party.  You know Zack would have forced himself upon Tori, again this time drunk; Slater would have been threatening to fight everyone; and Lisa is so obviously an over dramatic drunk - all of these in tandem would have caused a lot more trouble for Screech and Tori emotionally, especially had the gang not made it out of this situation alive.  The real lesson to be learned, emphasized by the weak punishments at the end, is that friends who don`t have any other friends make great designated drivers as long as they don`t crack under drunken scrutiny and drinking isn`t that big of a deal when you`re in high school.

What unfolded after the night of drinking (with exception of Slater`s one day late broken arm) was just a series of events that probably would have happened anyway even had they not been drinking - all of them easily side stepped by the gang.  It could have been a lot worse and a lot better (had Zack just continued to do what he does in situations like those); but overall the episode ended on a solid point: hold your liquor, wait an hour longer, and don`t hang out with people who are only trying to be cast in a spin off.