Square Pegs: A Cafeteria Line vs. Saved by the Bell: Snow White and the Seven Dorks

Welcome to our first matchup of the Show Within A Show Showdown! Today, Square Peg‘s original musical “A Cafeteria Line” faces off with Saved by the Bell‘s rap-operetta, fractured-fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dorks.”

Before we get into the nitty gritty of each production, I’m so fascinated by the fact that both of these shows put a lot of work into the show within a show aspect of this. There’s a ton of original lyrics (and, in the case of Square Pegs, music) and I’m like damn who wrote all of this?? I’m just dying to read an oral history of these two episodes, but I couldn’t find one on either.

Based on what I could dig up on IMDB, Paul Shaffer (yes, that Paul Shaffer) is credited for “special musical material” on “A Cafeteria Line” along with composer Jon Wolff (who based on an interview I was able to find with him was the credited composer for the show’s entire run).

“Well, Paul was in New York, and my job in L.A. was to wait for him to send the compositions, the songs for the dance number and one that Sarah [Jessica Parker] is singing, and there were a couple of other numbers in Janis Hirsch’s script. So my job was to receive the compositions, arrange them, orchestrate them if they needed to be, hire the musicians, book the studio, produce the music, deliver it to stage, music supervise the production of it, teach it to the actors, work with the choreographer… Everything but compose the music. And I was okay with that, because that fit squarely into my description as the utility guy, the chores guy. It was just another job for me.” — Jonathan Wolff interviewed by Will Harris

As for “Snow White and the Seven Dorks,” the only credited musicians on this episode are Richard Eames and Scott Gale, who are credits on most (if not all) of the show’s episodes. I’m assuming they also wrote for “Snow White and the Seven Dorks,” but I wasn’t able to find anything super specific so that’s just my best guess.

And now for the point breakdown: Let’s start with “A Cafeteria Line.” If this was truly a contest of musical numbers only — Square Pegs would win by a landslide. I knew Sarah Jessica Parker was a Broadway kid, but I so rarely get to hear her sing. It’s pretty much this episode and that one song in Hocus Pocus, but her voice is so lovely! I want to hear more of it! She totally nails it as the sweet nerd, Patty, who finally gets to be seen.

There’s also the splashy big group number, reminiscent of Fame‘s “Hot Lunch Jam,” about cafeteria food with such lines as “creamed corn, ketchup is a vegetable” or the more romantic, “You don’t know how I felt, when I shared your tuna melt.”

It’s cute, it moves, this show should win by a landslide, right? Well, I hadn’t seen this in so long that I forgot the actual plot of the musical. The show has a very creepy director who like clearly wrote this experimental piece and wants to be controversial — you know one of those self important drama types who doesn’t seem to recognize he’s working with children — and the plot of “A Cafeteria Line,” as it turns out, is Patty’s high school teenager character in a romantic relationship with her drama teacher (who is played by another high school student). There’s a scripted kiss and everything. It’s so creepy and unnecessary.

Both lead characters are played by students, so why make one a teenager and one an adult? Like wtf. I love Anne Beatts work on this show for the most part, but this totally shocked me. Unless this is like a super dark joke that I’m not getting? Anyway, points awarded for music and choreography, but by default I was going to award the plot points to Saved by the Bell…except…it turns out they didn’t win by default…the plot of “Snow White and the Seven Dorks” is…dare I say…good?

Saved by the Bell" Snow White and the Seven Dorks (TV Episode 1992) - IMDb

This starts off as a drama club production at Bayside High School. Their teacher encourages them to present a fresh take on an old classic, so bubbly Kelly Kapowski suggests they do a rap version which is oh so cringe. And it’s not just cringe because they’re a bunch of mostly white teens who seem to have known knowledge or no appreciation of rap’s cultural significance and a sociopolitical art form — it’s cringe on a physical level as well. My ears hurt. The Beastie Boys they are not. Also, all of the rapping is done over one repetitive beat that I think is just that pre-programmed setting that every keyboard had in the 90s.

The plot is the more interesting part, thankfully. Due to some 90’s stereotyping the dorks of Bayside are the techies, but this year they refuse to be board ops and insist on being on stage. This leads to the 7 dorks characters (but Slater plays a dork too so it isn’t full-on type casting). Zack is cast as the prince, but Kelly is cast against-type as the Evil Queen, whereas Jessie plays Snow White (which is cool because she makes her a more feminist, character with a surprising amount of agency for this fairy tale).

Zack tries to drop out of the show immediately because the only reason he auditioned was that he didn’t want anyone else to kiss Kelly (who he assumed would be cast as Snow White). At Kelly and Jessie’s urging, he decides to stay in the show. Throughout the rehearsal process, there appears too be maybe TOO much chemistry between Zack and Jessie. Slater and Kelly get super jealous and behave like jerks, so Jessie and Zack rewrite the whole ending of the musical (which works seamlessly because the music is just that one basic drum kit backing track on loop).

Zack and Jessie surprise everyone with the new ending of “Snow White” in which Snow White wakes herself up and decides that kissing the dork she wants to kiss (Slater) is what will fully revive her from the witch’s spell. And the Prince decides he really prefers the Evil Queen. The heart wants what it wants! (But I sure do hope these teens learn about healthy relationships because you shouldn’t have to rewrite a whole play because your partner doesn’t trust you.)

Also the costumes are CUTE and the scenery is flashy but not distracting. Both “A Cafeteria Line” and “Snow White and the Seven Dorks” use a graffiti unit set, but “Snow White” uses more color and it is coordinated nicely with the color scheme of the costumes.

Sorry, “A Cafeteria Line,” I almost loved you but you were too creepy. Plus, Jessie and Zack did a really nice riff on the misogynistic plot of “Snow White.”

Very Special Winner: Saved by the Bell

Second by Second Breakdown of “A Recipe For Seduction”

As the holidays draw near, a young heiress contends with the affections of a suitor handpicked by her mother. When the handsome chef, Harland Sanders, arrives with his secret fried chicken recipe and a dream, he sets in motion a series of events that unravels the mother’s devious plans. Will our plucky heiress escape to her wintry happily ever after with Harland at her side, or will she cave to the demands of family and duty? Mario Lopez, Justene Alpert, Tessa Munro, Chad Doreck, Martin Mandela star.

Official Description for “A Recipe for Seduction” from Lifetime. You can stream the full mini-movie on their website.

0:23 Title Card: A Recipe for Seduction
0:24 Camera zooms in on holiday family dinner.
0:30 Credits roll over tight shots of crispy fried chicken.
0:40 Dinner attendee compliments hostess, Bunny, on the excellent chicken.
0:42 Bunny claims she cannot cook; credits new chef with delectable chicken.
0:58 Dinner guest’s girlfriend rolls her eyes at another guest across the table.
1:20 Annoying dinner guest proposes to girlfriend, Jessica, who clearly does not love him.
1:38 Jessica stage whispers her resentment at the public proposal.
1:40 Bunny admonishes Jessica, who is clearly her daughter.
1:42 Jessica excuses herself from the table.
1:57 Bunny blames the rejection on Jessica drinking too much at dinner.
2:00 Camera dollies in. Bunny, reads the paper at breakfast table.
2:05 Jessica enters.
2:08 Bunny reams Jessica out for not using her body to improve the family’s status.
2:25 Bunny mentions that the bank is going to repossess their stately mansion.
2:40 Bunny tells Jessica she has to marry Billy so that Bunny doesn’t lose her nice house.
2:42 Harland Sanders enters.
2:43 Jessica is smitten by Harlan’s dimples and goatee.
2:58 Bunny tells Jessica that Harland is a head chef at a fancy restaurant, but she insisted that he leave the city, live in the mansion’s guest house, and cook exclusively for their family. (No mention of the families mounting debt is made in reference to this.)
3:29 Jessica ignores a call from Billy, the proposer.
3:47 Jessica offers Harland a tour of the grounds.
3:42 Bunny watches from the main door like she’s Jessica Lange in Hush.
4:08 Jessica tells Harland how much Billy sucks.
4:20 Harland tells Jessica about how he’s trying to change the world with his “secret recipe” (which does not appear to be sexual in nature).
4:40 Billy appears and confronts Jessica for embarrassing him.
4:48 Harland tells Billy to back-off.
4:54 “Beat it crouton, get back to the kitchen, and let me and my fiancee talk.”
5:03 Billy threatens Jessica.
5:08 Jessica runs away.
5:13 “Don’t call me crouton.”
5:17 Establishing shot of Whittendale Country Club.
5:23 The other guest from dinner answers a call from Jessica. He tells her he is meeting a guy from the farmer’s market for a date at the country club.
5:42 Jessica tells her friend that she hasn’t decided whether or not to accept Billy’s proposal but that she’s into Harland the chef.
6:00 “He told me he has this secret recipe that’s gonna change the world. And you know something? I believe in him.”
6:06 Jessica’s friend comments that this is the happiest she has ever been. [Presumably viewers around the world cheer for Jessica as she experiences a cis straight man being polite to her for the very first time ever.]
6:11 Jessica tells her friend, Lee, that her mother needs her to marry the man who threatened her in order to pay their debts off.
6:25 Lee ends their call because it is time for his date.
6:34 Jessica texts “We need to talk” to an unknown recipient. [Billy, perhaps?]
6:39 Jessica leaves the room.
6:41 Bunny creeps around the corner.
6:42 Shower water running offscreen.
6:50 Billy responds: “At country club, what’s up” [no punctuation.]
6:53 Bunny texts back pretending to be Jessica and asks him to wait for her there.
7:07 Billy drinks dark colored liquor while holding the ring box and feeling sorry for himself.
7:25 Bunny arrives and informs Billy that Jessica has feelings for Harland.
7:34 Billy laughs at the thought of Jessica dating a cook.
7:42 Lee and his date enter the room undetected by Billy and Bunny.
7:43 Bunny tries to convey the gravity of the situation to Billy, stating that Harland has a “secret recipe” that might make him famous.
8:00 Lee notices Billy and Bunny getting cozy at the bar.
8:02 Billy still isn’t taking it seriously so, in an even more twisted riff on The Graduate, Bunny offers to sleep with Billy whenever he wants if he marries her daughter.
8:24 Billy enters the empty kitchen.
8:38 Billy tests the blade of a large knife.
8:40 Billy puts the knife down.
8:46 Billy discovers a knapsack containing a color coordinated leather-bound journal.
8:55 Billy finds Harland’s secret recipe in the journal.
8:59 Billy hears someone approaching and hides the recipe.
9:00 Harland enters and tells billy that Jessica isn’t home.
9:14 Billy offers to buy Harland off.
9:20 Harland tells Billy he isn’t interested.
9:25 Billy tells Harland he knows about the recipe.
9:28 Harland looks shocked.
9:33 Billy lies to Harland and tells him that Jessica accepted his proposal.
9:55 Billy puts a check for 500,000 dollars in Harland’s pocket.
10:11 Lee arrives at the house and demands to see Jessica.
10:17 Bunny tells Lee that Jessica is out purchasing a new phone. [Wait why has Jessica been missing for so long. Is she okay???]
10:36 Lee tells Bunny he saw her seducing Lee. He’s going to tell Jessica everything.
10:43 Bunny hits Lee with a croquet mallet.
10:51 Jessica tries unsuccessfully to contact Lee with her new phone.
11:04 Harland confronts Jessica about the fact that Billy knows about his secret recipe.
11:34 Jessica stops Harland from leaving the property and confesses that she love him, not Billy.
11:49 Bunny calls Billy and tells him about this new development because she’s spying again, of course.
12:04 Jessica tells Bunny that she is happy with Harland and will not marry Billy.
12:16 Bunny tells Jessica that Harland has left the property.
12:28 Jessica searches for Harland in the kitchen.
12:45 A distraught Jessica hears muffled screams on the grounds.
13:00 Jessica rushes into a storage shed to find Billy attempting to murder Harland
13:12 Bunny rushes in to tell Billy that Lee has gotten free and she urges him to kill Harland quickly.
13:23 Lee catches Jessica’s eye from behind the shadows of the storage shed. He motions for her to keep quiet.
13:25 Harland head-butts Lee.
13:33 Billy comes at Harland with a knife.
13:34 Lee hits Billy with a croquet mallet.
13:39 Jessica pushes Bunny into a shelving unit.
13:50 Jessica and Harland kiss.
14:04 Title card: One Year Later
14:07 Lee officiates Harland and Jessica’s wedding.
14:26 Serenity Falls Health & Wellness Center establishing shot.
14:30 Camera dollies in on Bunny sitting alone on a bench.
14:40 Billy joins Bunny on the bench. They both have gray hair now.
14:45 Billy announces that he found Jessica and Harland before taking a big juicy bite of chicken leg.
14:56 Credits

Wait…why didn’t Bunny just marry Billy for the money instead of Jessica?

Just What 2020 Needed: More KFC Erotica!

A few years ago, KFC released a special for Mother’s Day romance novella featuring none other than Colonel Sanders. Well, it looks like Lifetime is running with that idea and airing a mini-movie with Mario Lopez this Sunday!

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for the novella that started the whole “Col. Sanders is a hottie” craze, they’re no longer available. But it doesn’t look like you missed out on much anyway. Here’s hoping the mini-movie is better or at least better at being bad.

Saved by the Bell: The Mamas and the Papas

Hello! Happy Saved by the Bell Day! I did a cursory Google search and I’m honestly not sure if this holiday is anything more than an attempt to sell sandwiches but hell, we need something to celebrate in 2020!

On that note, let’s talk about gender roles. This episode is from very early in the series, airing way way back in 1989. Zack’s voice hasn’t even changed! Like I think I just heard it crack.

Anyway, they’re all adorable babies. Who for some reason need to spend a class learning about what it’s like to be married? WHAT???

Anyway, curious to know if this was like a “real thing” that people did in school back in the days of home economics. Also curious to know if taking care of an egg in order to be a “good parent” was a real thing.

Okay, so the kids are paired off into “marriages” — this is as heteronormative as you would expect. The couples are (I’m sure you can guess) as follows:
-Zack/Kelly
-Slater/Jessie
-Screech/Lisa

True to form, Jessie and Slater’s relationship is immediately contentious. Jessie won’t take Slater’s last name and he says that one of the important parts of a relationship is “great legs.”

As per usual, Screech is creepy stalking Lisa throughout most of this episode. This causes her to have night terror in which she cannot escape him. Freddy Krueger take note. Incidentally, I have to imagine this is Lark Voorhies felt for much of her time on the show acting opposite Dustin Diamond.

Alright, so the true plot of this episode comes from the weird stuff they’re required to do during class for their “marriages.” This involves running through scenarios…while Principal Belding grades them on how they behave in their “marriages”…I’m sorry…what? This doesn’t feel like it should be legal.

Of course, this turns into Jessie and Slater fighting again. She’s trying to get him to help with the household chores. He’s trying to get her to call him “Tiger Man.” Jessie tells the principal that Slater, “doesn’t want a wife. He wants a maid.” So it seems like this is the point in time where Principal Belding should be “helping” them solve this issue, right? Nah, he just says, “that’s a problem you two will have to work out.”

Up next are Kelly and Zack. Kelly asks Principal Belding to refer to her as Mrs. Morris. Barf. The scenario is that she must tell Zach she has wrecked his car. HIS car? Are they married or not? Is this car a joint asset or NOT? Anyway, Zack pretty much just tries to seduce her the whole time. He’s trying to get her to make out in class. It’s A LOT.

Screech and Lisa are up next. Their scenario is that Screech has been fired and Lisa must comfort him. She responds by doing an offensive impression of a Spanish speaking maid and Screech mistakes this for German. The stress of all this causes Lisa to develop a literal allergy to Screech. Fearing the risk of anaphylaxis, Principal Belding annuls their “marriage.”

If you thought that everything up until this point was extremely strange and disturbing, I would have to agree with you. I’m also not sure how to warn you or prepare you for what comes next, so I’m just going to jump right into it.

Evidently, there are other kids in the class who are not assigned to “marriages.” These kids sit in desk and watch this whole mess unfold. Then Belding tells the “couples” tha tthey will now select children, played by their classmates,  Let’s Make a Deal-style. I’ll pause here until your head stops spinning.

Zack and Kelly end up selecting Screech while Slater and Jessie pick Lisa. Cut to: Screech writing Lisa’s name in toothpaste on the mirror in the boy’s bathroom. WHY WAS THERE NOT A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR AT THIS SCHOOL?

Slater discovers Screech as he begins his slow evolution on the path to becoming the next Green River Killer and offers to help him out by pressuring Lisa into dating him because she “has to listen to her Daddy” in order to get a good grade. Annnnndd I’m going vomit EVERYWHERE.

This transaction involves some kind of quid pro quo, but we cut away after Screech offers to teach Slater how to (literally) inhale a slurpy. I assume this wasn’t the offer Slater was looking for, so I’m not sure where they landed.

In a shock to absolutely no one, Zack is a terrible father. This upsets Kelly, so she and Zack split up. I assume this was how their actual marriage unraveled, unless their Vegas wedding ended in a quickie divorce before they even had kids.

Honestly, this episode could have been titled “Slater is Trash” because he’s trying to manipulate Kelly now by pretending to be a “good father” to Lisa. This is back in the early days of the show when Slater was trying to date Kelly. They must have seriously rewritten his character after she and Zack got together because Slater is truly awful in this episode. And I am UPSET about it.

Anyway, in his ploy to get an IRL date with Kelly, Slater has agreed to be a stay at home dad with Jessie and take the last name of Spano-Slater.

When Lisa still refuses to go out with Screech — because no grade is worth that — Screech announces to the class that he broke up his “parents” because Slater promised him that Lisa would go out with him.

All of the boys end up in the principal’s office and somehow a thirty second conversation turns into a genuine change of heart. They apologize and ask to continue the project. Belding says he will only allow this with the girl’s permission. They agree and they all go on a creepy family dinner date at The Max.

Slater orders for Jessie at dinner because he thinks that’s what’s men do. Jessie tells him a “real man wouldn’t be threatened by a woman who knows what she wants.” He responds by saying, “You’re really a great girl, but I think we should break up before I send you to the moon” — a callback to a 1950’s joke about spousal abuse.

Meanwhile, Zack and Kelly reconcile. Somehow Screech has ended up under the table with his head stuck “on a platter.” I don’t even want to know. Kelly closes the lid and decides that all marriages need some alone time. Wtf. This was so weird. I can’t. I cannot even comment.

I am truly so sorry for that visual. I simply didn’t know how to use words to describe this. Please know that I truly understand if you hate me forever because of it. 

Very Special Lesson: Uhhh. Maybe virtual learning isn’t so bad. At least you would probably be in the vicinity and could shut this toxic shit down if you kid was unfortunate enough to attend Bayside High.

**Also sorry for posting this so late. Hopefully it’s still Saved by the Day at least on the west coast by the time I post this!

OH and in other very important news, Mark-Paul Gosselaar started a podcast with Dashiell Driscoll of the excellent Funny or Die series Zack Morris is Trash, and my personal favorite, A Very Special Episode. Evidently Mark-Paul has never watched the series and will now be going through every single episode of Saved by the Bell for our listening pleasure.

Big News from Bayside – DREAMS COME TRUE

It felt like a long-shot. But here we are. And dare I say it? The reboot craze has come for Saved by the Bell! (Oh please please please don’t let this be weird like BH90210.)

saved-by-the-bell-tori-kelly-jessie

For those of you who weren’t already planning to follow The Office over to NBC’s new streaming platform, now that you’ll get new episodes of Saved by the Bell, what more reason could you need??? The plot sounds weird as hell and I am HERE FOR IT.

Basically, Zack Morris becomes Governor of California. I can totally buy him as a charming, sociopathic politician so def. good character development there. And then here’s where things get a little weird..we get to see Zack Morris handle school integration!! Yeahhhhh idk what we’re going to get, but I promise to report back to you on that.

We’ve had a lot of good times with Saved by the Bell here at The VSB and I’m excited for new adventures! This reboot has me all nostalgic for some of my favorite posts from years past:

But new episodes have also reminded me that maybeeee, just maybeeee, I haven’t given the original series quite enough attention. Stay tuned for new posts on:

  • The Malibu Sands Episodes
  • Zack and Kelly’s Wedding in Vegas!
  • All of the latent (and not so latent) misogyny

Okay, bye for now!!