When I was a kid, I wanted nothing more than to move across the country and go to high school in California. The only question was: "Which fictional California high school is truly the best?"
I watched a LOT of television when I was younger. I grew up in a New England factory town where the factories hadn't been in business for years, so my adolescent experiences were filled with blizzards, crumbling brick buildings, and linoleum filled schools that were built in the 1950s and seemed to pride themselves on their mint-green industrial paint jobs. Glamorous, it was not.
Television high schools, however, are always glamorous, and in the early 90's, there were perhaps no fictional high schools as beloved as Saved By The Bell's Bayside High and 90210's West Beverly. The students at these schools were markedly different: at Bayside, it was pretty much the end of the world when a joint was found in the boys bathroom; at West Beverly, it was pretty much the end of the world if you didn't have a substance abuse problem of some sort. Both schools had their pluses and their minuses. But which one was better? I decided to find out by having both schools compete in the following categories: School Spirit, Social Life, Fashion, and Words of Wisdom. Let the faceoff begin!
- School Spirit: Bayside High
- Pros: The Bayside crew really loved being at Bayside. During their time at the school, the gang participated in nearly every school-sponsored event imaginable: acting in school plays, competing in school pageants, cheerleading, running track, wrestling, beating rival school Valley in an epic Prank War, playing volleyball, being homecoming queen, being prom queen, holding pep rallies, running the school radio station, winning the Academic Bowl, and saving the school from becoming an oil field. They even installed a car stereo in their principal's car and helped his wife deliver a baby in an elevator during an earthquake. And who could forget the infamous Bayside cheer? Bonus: Zack, Lisa, Screech, AND Mr. Belding all ended up at Bayside, in California, after being together at JFK Middle School in Indiana. Now that's dedication! Beat-b-beat-b-b-beat, go Bayside!
- Cons: Saved by the Bell: The College Years was a big ol' mess. One wonders if the Bayside crew was a little too attached to their old stomping grounds. It was almost as if they had no identity without those familiar red lockers in the background.
School Spirit: West Beverly
- Pros: Though the West Beverly crew wasn't as into their actual school as much as they were into the Beverly Hills scene, they did participate in many school activities, most notably David Silver's dedication to the school's radio station, Brandon Walsh's stint as student body president, and Andrea Zuckerman's work at the school paper. However, one of the most epic moments in 90210 history comes from an episode wherein Brandon Walsh leads his classmates in a protest against the school board in order to ensure that his "Oops, I was drunk at prom" classmate, Donna Martin, is allowed to graduate. "Donna Martin Graduates!" is just as (if not more so) memorable as the Bayside cheer.
- Cons: Most of the action with the West Beverly crew came from outside the school; their hallway conversations weren't nearly as memorable as their conversations at the Peach Pit.
Advantage: Bayside The West Beverly crew were active in their school, but most of their adventures and drama came from the various parties, sexy pools, and hotel rooms that they found themselves in. Also? They never wrote a school song as awesome as "Bayside is a school that's cool and you know that it's true! Know that it's true! Know that it's true! The girls are the cutest and the guys are the hippest too!" Probably because Dylan McKay would vaporize instantly if he was forced to sing something like that, but still.
Social Life: West Beverly
- Pros:West Beverly kids moved fast, and half the fun of the show was laughing at how desperate they seemed at times to keep up. 90210 didn't mess around when it came to "big issues," and the West Beverly kids faced everything from laced drinks to stalkers to diet pill addiction to cheating parents to virginity loss to racism to sexism to classism, all while looking totally fabulous and rocking out to a Cathy Dennis soundtrack. West Beverly was the home of the rich, gorgeous, and glamorous: sex, drugs, and, uh, Color Me Badd. Bonus: The Peach Pit, a retro diner that was home to cheeseburgers, jukeboxes, and the sage advice of surly but lovable diner owner/father figure Nat.
- Cons: You couldn't trust any of your friends at West Beverly. Brandon often let Andrea down, Dylan dumped Brenda in favor of her best friend, Kelly, Brandon's girlfriend, Emily Valentine, was a textbook psycho, and Steve Sanders' car would eat your Ferrari if you left it unattended.
Social Life: Bayside High
- Pros: The Bayside crew rarely fought, and when they did, it was resolved within 20 minutes. They were an unlikely group of friends, if you think about it, and each of them brought something different to the conversation. They did everything together, and spent their time out of school hanging at the gloriously 80's diner, The Max, where they plotted various schemes, held dance contests with Casey Kasem, and put up with stupid magic tricks from the owner. They helped each other through various dramas: caffeine addiction, money problems, and heartache. And they really liked to sing and dance, for some reason.
- Cons: A little too close to their principal, Richard Belding, seemed to isolate other students in a majorly cliquey way, rarely dealt with life outside of the school/Max walls, rarely dated outside of their clique, the girls put up with Slater's sexism and Zack's various attempts to exploit them for profit, the addition of Tori in later seasons as a replacement for Jessie and Kelly.
Advantage: West Beverly The Bayside crew may have been super tight and good to one another, but they also seemed a bit sheltered and unable to develop social lives outside of the school walls. It might have been super dramatic to attend West Beverly, but it also looked like a lot of fun at times.
Fashion: West Beverly
- Pros:West Beverly students in the early 90's were really into rockabilly hair-dos and loud, flashy prints. Dylan McKay and Brandon Walsh both rocked pompadours and sideburns, while Kelly Taylor, Donna Martin, and Brenda Walsh walked around in jean jackets, bright red lipstick, and slinky dresses. The West Beverly kids dressed as if they were 25, and were quite fond of shoulder-pad laden blazers, bodysuits, and leggings. Scarily enough, their outfits would look appropriate on your standard hipster these days.
- Cons: Everything David Silver or Steve Sanders wore, EVER.
Fashion: Bayside High
- Pros:Say what you will about Zack Morris' dad jeans or Cosby sweaters: the boy looked gorgeous anyway. Rocking preppy-chic like nobody's business, Zack Morris personified the late 80's/early 90's ideal of hotness. And has there ever been a television character with the fashion sense of Lisa Turtle? I think not. Lisa's dresses and coordinated outfits were so over the top that you couldn't help but envy them. Like Regina George, she always looked fierce. Bonus: the Bayside crew knew how to accessorize: Zack had his giant cell phone, Jessie had her collection of vests, and Screech had his very own robot. Geek Chic!
- Cons: Slater's pleated acid-wash jeans and pink tank tops, Kelly's boring and fairly school-inappropriate dresses, Screech's heavy reliance on multi-colored and obnoxiously patterned Hammer pants, Jessie's reliance on denim shirts.
Advantage: Bayside Lisa Turtle was so stylish that she held her own fashion show and was accepted into F.I.T. as a result. She even sprained her ankle once by kicking the television once she learned her favorite nail polish was being discontinued. That's pretty hardcore.
Words of Wisdom:West Beverly
- On Attitudes: "To be a bitch or not to be a bitch, that is the question."-Brenda Walsh
- On Love: "Love just gets in the way, confuses people, makes them scattered." -Dylan McKay
- Scarily accurate: "I just keep worrying that we're gonna get all this education and there's still not going to be any jobs left for us."- Brenda Walsh
Words of Wisdom: Bayside High
- On Attitude: "I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I'm so, I'm so... scared!"- Jessica Myrtle Spano
- On Love: "Zack is so hot, he makes my teeth sweat!"- Penny Belding
- Scarily accurate: "You make light of algebra now, but when you're all grown up and your friends are making logarithm jokes at cocktail parties, you won't have a clue as to what everybody's laughing at."- Mr. Dewey
Advantage: West Beverly: The Bayside crew always had something quippy to say, but the West Beverly crew took it to the next level and put out the most hilariously pseudo-deep quotes of our time. Plus, you can't really deny the awesomeness of Brenda Walsh yelling, "I hate you both, never speak to me again!" to Dylan and Kelly.
Winner: It's A Tie! While Bayside pulls in points for style and spirit, the West Beverly gang takes it when it comes to social lives and deep thoughts. The two schools are markedly different in personality, though they share some similarities when it comes to showcasing the glamorous lives of Californian television students—both groups spent their summers at the beach club, both dealt with love and loss and had wacky adventures, and both spent time with Tori Spelling. The real winner here is us, as we'd most likely have a blast at either school, and walk away with insane and kooky memories that would last a lifetime...or at least until we graduated and ended up killing our fictional Californian dreams with boring college seasons. Still, good times!
Feel free to pick a side in the comments!