Mark-Paul Gosselaar is admitting his ’90s TV role as high school bad boy Zack Morris hasn’t aged well.
The “Saved by the Bell” alum appeared on the “Pod Meets World” podcast, hosted by “Boy Meets World” stars Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, and Will Friedle, and the onetime teen idols opened up about watching old episodes of their shows that had problematic storylines. Gosselaar revealed he found it “tough” at times to revisit some of the “Saved by the Bell” episodes in which Zack was on his worst behavior.
The wildly popular series aired on NBC for four seasons and 86 episodes from 1989 to 1992. During most of those episodes, Morris was getting himself into trouble, devising elaborate schemes to reach questionable goals and treating his friends (and especially the females in his life) in ways that Gosselaar cringes at today.
On “Pod Meets World,” Gosselaar brought up a few episodes that haunted him in particular. In the second episode of the series, “The Lisa Card,” Zack charges high school boys $1 to kiss his close friend Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) after she maxes out her dad’s credit card and needs cash quick to pay back the debt.
“There was one where I was basically whoring out Lisa Turtle,” Gosselaar said. “I charged people to kiss her without her consent. That was a tough one.”
In another, when Zack bombs a family heritage project, his teacher finds a tutor for him who is Native American; Zack disrespects him and groans about having to read up on Native American culture. Later, he shows up to class wearing “a full headdress.”
“There’s things that you just would not film nowadays,” Gosselaar said. “There are things every single episode that we could pick out. At that point, you try not to be negative. It’s a watch party. … It’s a tightrope walk. Overall, you try to be positive about the work and say, ‘That was a different time.’”
After Gosselaar portrayed Zack in the NBC sitcom, he reprised his role in 2020 for the sequel series of the same name. That same year, he launched the podcast “Zack to the Future” with writer Dashiell Driscoll, which forced the “NYPD Blue” star to rewatch “Saved by the Bell” episodes for the first time since he’d filmed them decades ago.
Zack’s behavior on the show was deemed so egregious, it inspired a “Funny or Die” series on YouTube called “Zack Morris Is Trash,” that launched in 2017 and has been updated yearly. The 57-episode series breaks down Zack’s story lines over the course of “Saved by the Bell.” Episodes include “The Time Zack Morris Used Slave Labor to Sell Friendship Bracelets” and “The Time Zack Morris Lied About Being Jewish to Go to a Baseball Game.”