Saved By The Bell Meets Game 2 of the Mavs/Lakers Series

5 05 2011

On November 30, 1991 NBC ran an episode of television. This episode has more to say about the second game of the Lakers and Mavericks’ Western Conference semi-final than any other piece of early 1990s pop culture. The show is Saved By The Bell and the episode is “No Hope With Dope.” Most people probably remember this…

Here’s a brief synopsis of what you may not remember from the episode.

1) Movie star Johnny Dakota and his director “Dean” want to film an anti-drug commercial at Bayside. And if you think choosing the name “Johnny Dakota” was odd, I’d like to remind you that this was the early 90s; an era where all movie stars had to have ‘movie star’ names. River Phoenix, Tom Cruise, and Charlie Sheen are examples of movie stars whose last names connote easily identifiable coolness. The producers of SBTB really upped the ante by choosing the last name “Dakota.” Think about it this way. If John Krasinski wanted a career in the early 90s he would have been advised to change his name to John Alaska, John El Paso, or Johnny Luster.

2) Zack really wants the commercial done at Bayside and, though it’s not actually shown, takes ten minutes out of his day and organizes a group of eleven students to do a “Just Don’t Use” rap on the steps outside the principal’s office. For some reason, Johnny and Dean are really impressed and agree to shoot the commercial at Bayside. If you fast forward to 2:45 of the video below you can see just why Johnny was so smitten with Zack and the gang.

3) Johnny Dakota meets Kelly and they immediately hit it off. Johnny’s desire to bang Kelly was probably the real reason why he wanted to do the commercial at Bayside. Also, shouldn’t Zack have been more upset about this? I know he was wrapped up in Johnny-mania, but if someone’s ex is making out with a movie star at his own hang out spot (The Max) that person should be pretty jealous. I know I was pissed when I caught my ex making out with Timothy Hutton in the parking lot of a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut combo.

4) Zack and Slater find a recently smoke joint in the school bathroom. Johnny walks in and it seems like all hope of the commercial is lost. We’ll come back to this point later.

5) Johnny and the gang (plus a girl in a leather jacket who was never in an episode before or after) discuss the dangers of drugs.

6) The gang goes to a party at Johnny’s house the night before the big commercial shoot. Lisa and Jessie dance with (more great early 90s Hollywood star names) “Luke Diamond” and “Storm Sutherland.” But we must admit that Storm Sutherland sounds more like a local tv meteorologist who was later convicted of statutory rape. Anyway, Screech gets hurt pretending to be Johnny’s stunt man and it’s decided that Zack,  Slater,  Lisa, and Jessie are all needed to take him home. This leaves Kelly alone with Johnny. They kiss, “woooh!” After this, though, someone offers Johnny a joint and he’s more than happy to accept it. This scares Kelly and later Zack returns to take her home. This brings us back to the joint in Bayside’s bathroom. I think it’s safe to infer that the joint was Johnny’s. How brazen! Seriously, this dude was a fictional bad ass. Not many people are cool enough to smoke a joint in the bathroom of a high school where they’re planning to shoot an anti-drug commercial. They just don’t make stars like they used to. You never hear about Bradley Cooper taking key bumps at a high school soccer game.

7) The next morning Zack and the gang all walk out on the commercial shoot. At first this shocks Mr. Belding, but he later applauds them for protecting Bayside’s integrity and doing the right thing. The three-day dream of an anti-drug commercial at Bayside is over…or is it? Mr. Belding breaks out his Rolodex and calls his old friend and NBC president Brandon Tartikoff. Tartikoff shows up and they shoot the commercial you now know is as “There’s No Hope With Dope.” Everyone wins, except for Slater who was inexplicably shat on the entire episode. Also,  it’s important to note that Dean, who at first seemed to be a Johnny sycophant who could only say “Yo”,  still directed the commercial. Dean was more attached to an anti-drug advertisement for NBC than an up and coming movie star. Dean’s one of the good guys.

The late B Tartikoff

But what does this have to do with game 2 of the Mavericks/Lakers series? Boom! Quotes from the episode.

“Actually Bayside was the first school we saw when we got off the freeway.” Johnny Dakota. On why they stopped at Bayside first to scout locations for the anti-drug commercial.

This is similar to the Mavericks starting DeShawn Stevenson, a player CCTT had never heard of until last night and who Dirk Novitzki probably just calls ‘Dude.’  Just like the NBC commercial, it actually worked out. Stevenson hit three from behind the arc including one that was banked in. After the bank shot, he strutted back on defense, Johnny Dakota style, almost suggesting that he’d planned the bank shot and that people should think he’s really cool.

“I’m still full from the Salisbury steak.” – Johnny “Oh that wasn’t steak. It was tapioca pudding.” - Mr. Belding.

Why would a movie star agree to eat Salisbury steak from a high school cafeteria? And frankly, the fact that it turned out to be tapioca pudding and not steak calls into question J Dakota’s character and judgement that much more. (This reminds CCTT of another great early 90s Salisbury steak reference. In the film Rookie of the Year, Gary Busey’s character Chet “Rocket” Steadman told Henry Rowengartner that an airline meal was the “best Salisbury steak I ever had.” That’s just depressing. Rocket must have had a terrible life if the best Salisbury steak he’d eaten was on an airplane. Also, I think it may now be appropriate  to change the name Generation X to Generation Salisbury Steak.) Dakota showed bad judgement just like Phil Jackson, who left Steve Blake in the game for almost twenty minutes. This included a ten minute stretch in the 3rd and 4th quarters where Steve Blake did nothing except brick threes (one that hit the bottom left of the backboard), turn the ball over (though he only did it twice), and look pale and scared (this isn’t really his fault because he is really pale and definitely looks like a turtle).  I would assume this conversation happened between two fans:

Fan 1: (pointing out Steve Blake) Is that Phil Jackson’s son or something?

Fan 2: Oh that’s not Phil’s son. That’s Steve Blake.

“What’s going on here guys?” Johnny Dakota after seeing Zack and Slater holding a joint in the bathroom.

Nobody showed up for the Lakers. Not even Kobe, who missed a wide open lay-up at the beginning of the 3rd quarter and threw an errant pass that bounced wildly off the backboard. Andrew Bynum did have a solid first half, but that was about it. After the game, Phil Jackson looked around and said, “What’s going on here guys?”  This was immediately followed the dramatic saxophone riff that indicated ‘serious’ act breaks in SBTB. You know what I’m talking about. “Doo-doo-dehhh!”

“You want to know about dumb? My brother used drugs to get high and drive to the beach. Now I have to drive him. He’s in a wheelchair.” The Girl With the Leather Jacket. A random character  who only appeared in this episode. It was during the Johnny Dakota drug story circle.

JJ Barea was the breakout star of the 2nd half. Much like DeShawn Stevenson, CCTT had never seen or heard of him prior to the game. He had 12 points and 4 assists in 17 minutes, which is fun to contrast with Steve Blake’s zero points and one assist in 20 minutes. It’s unlikely that Barea will be a one-off super-sub like The Girl With The Leather Jacket, but if that was the case we’d still have some fond memories. Though, to be fair to TGWTLJ, none of Barea’s highlights can compare to the genuineness that came across when she said, “Now I have to drive him. He’s in a wheelchair.” Also,  TGWTLJ’s brother seems like a really odd fellow. He didn’t drive to the beach and then do drugs. He got high to drive to the beach, which just seems crazy. “Hey man, don’t you think you should save those drugs for the beach?” “Fuck that. Getting there is half the fun!”

“I guess we got confused by your thug-like exterior.” - Slater “It happens.” - Scud. This happened when Slater and Zack accused Scud (the same actor who played Ox) of smoking the joint.

This reminded us that Ron Artest won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.  NBA sportswriters know that you can’t judge a book by its cover and we applaud them for that. It would be easy to let the fact that Artest once punched a fan and was once quoted as creepily saying “Don’t you know you’re messing with Ron Artest?” cloud their judgement. It’s a good thing the SBTB producers didn’t judge the actor who played Scud by his cover, too. Later in the series he appeared several times as the dumb, jock football player Ox. You probably recall Ox saying “And I’ll break your neck!” in the Student Teach Week episode from season 4. Just think what we’d have missed out on if the SBTB producers had cared about continuity.

“I got hooked on caffeine pills so i could stay awake and study.” Jessie. During the drug story circle.

It’s always nice to be reminded of “I’m so excited, I’m so…scared.” It’s also always nice to be reminded that Ron Artest is completely unpredictable. When Artest clothes-lined JJ Barea it was his version of reminding everyone that he’s so excited and so scary. He was ejected from the game and suspended for game 3. Keep up the good work Ron and Jessie.

“I want to invite you to a party at my house tonight. In fact, everyone’s invited.” Johnny Dakota at The Max inviting everyone to a party at his apartment.

Wouldn’t J Dakota’s friends think it’s really weird and stupid that he’s hanging out with a bunch of high schoolers? Wouldn’t they think it’s weird that one of the kids’ is named Screech? Why would the gang’s parents let them go to a party at Johnny Dakota’s place? Why would a twenty-something, hanger-on of J Dakota’s make fun of Kelly when she refused marijuana? Why, when making fun of her, did he choose the hacky phrase ‘Uh oh, Johnny. It looks like she’s just saying no.”? Don’t any of these Hollywood big shots have anything better to do than hang out and tease high schoolers? Those are valid questions and so is this: Who told TNT that Kenny’s Pictures was a good idea? Kenny’s Pictures involves the already tongue-tied Smith pointing out game highlights on a giant big screen TV dome. It’s weird and stupid and detracts from the playful and often insightful banter that makes TNT’s half-time and post-game shows great. It’s just like knowing that you’re going to bang a hot high school chick (Kelly) and then ruining everything by offering her pot. Everything’s going great so why ruin it?

“You know when I wanted to talk to you, I couldn’t. Now that I can, I don’t want to.” Lisa, with the final death blow to a defeated Johnny Dakota as everyone walked out on his commercial.

This was cold, but warranted. Johnny Dakota was over as far as the Bayside gang was concerned and who better put the nail in the coffin than Lisa Turtle, who was afraid to speak to him until she realized he was just like all those other Hollywood phonies.  Dirk’s turn-around jumper with a couple of minutes left in the fourth was his best Lisa Turtle impression. If the Lakers do lose this series and the ‘end of the era’ is confirmed , I think we can look back at Dirk’s jumper as the finishing move. It was an unstoppable move against a lethargic team. Dirk’s Mavs have waited their entire careers to face  the Lakers in the playoffs and now that they have the opportunity the Lakers are barely trying and seem like old, Dakota-esque Hollywood wannabes.

“You know maybe there’s something here. Maybe at NBC we should do a sitcom about a school principal and his kids. Nah, it would never work.” The late Brandon Tartikoff after he came into save the commercial.

Did everyone see the time-out in the 1st quarter where Lamar Odom was trying to tell Phil Jackson what would work in the game and Phil just shook his head and laughed? It was probably my favorite moment of the night because now that we know the result it’s clear that Odom was telling Phil Jackson not to play Steve Blake for twenty minutes and Phil just shook his head saying, “Not play Steve Blake for twenty minutes? Sure, Lamar. That’s a great idea. Nah, that would never work.”

Thanks for reading and we hope if you’re a Lakers fan it’s possible that the purple and gold will be…Saved by the Bell.


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