Warning: SPOILERS for Saved By The Bell season 2.

Peacock’s revival of Saved By The Bell has officially returned for its second season — and brilliantly retconned the movie Showgirls into Jessie’s backstory. Played by Elizabeth Berkley, Jessica “Jessie” Spano was a staple member of the original 90’s Saved By The Bell gang. Equal parts academic and activist, Jessie was largely the straight-laced one (caffeine pill addiction aside). As a result, audiences were surprised when Berkley shook off that image to play the more risqué role of Nomi Malone in Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls.

The movie followed Berkeley’s street-smart drifter as she moved to Las Vegas and worked her way up through the city’s seedy underbelly to make it as a titular showgirl. The movie was widely panned and ridiculed, ultimately bombing at the box office. Regardless, Showgirls went on to experience something of a cultural re-evaluation over the subsequent years and amassed a cult following. As a result, Berkley’s career has largely bounced back and Showgirls became a more positively notorious part of her resume. That fact was made never more clear than in Saved By The Bell season 2 — which included perfect references to the movie and hilariously made Showgirls canon within the Bayside universe.


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With her divorce all but finalized, Jessie was encouraged by Kelly (Tiffani Thiessen) and Lisa (Lark Voorhies) to get back into the dating scene. That urging only intensified when it became clear that a fireman at the Bayside career fair was interested in her. As they insisted that she flirt with him, Jessie expressed that she hasn’t flirted or been wild since her time in Las Vegas. Jessie later elaborated that it had been a chaotic time shortly after college and had included injuring a woman by pushing her down some stairs. Though it wasn’t outright stated by the cast of Saved By The Bell season 2, anyone familiar with Showgirls would recognize Jessie’s allusions as coming straight from that movie’s plot.

Elizabeth Berkley Lauren as Jessie Spano in Saved by the Bell Season 2

Saved By The Bell season 2 leaned even further into the idea when Lisa and Kelly gave her a makeover that made the comparisons between Jessie Spano and Nomi Malone even more pronounced. As well as sporting a cowboy hat and low-cut top, Berkley recreated some iconic Showgirls moves and even reverted to using some of Nomi’s randomly intense speech patterns. Making Nomi’s exploits canon to the backstory of Elizabeth Berkley’s Jessie Spano played on how little is actually known of some Saved By The Bell reboot characters’ lives and hilariously concluded with a face-kicking reenactment of a pole-dance.

When lamenting to Slater (Mario Lopez), the meta-comedy went to new levels. “I was trying to be sexy but just came across as insane,” Jessie dejectedly said. Slater then helpfully countered that she had just been “following the directions she’d been given.” While this was clearly aimed at Kelly and Lisa’s influence, it was a perfect knock on Paul Verhoeven, who emerged largely unscathed while Berkley’s career took some severe hits at the time, including being dropped by her agent. The absent Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) would likely frown upon what briefly became of his top student. For most, however, it was a soon-to-be iconic moment that elevated Saved By The Bell season 2 comedically and further fleshed out Jessie as more than the role she was often given in the original series.

Equally, Berkley’s commitment to the whole bit will no doubt earn her some well-deserved acclaim and revise some opinions. Though it was crafted by Saved By The Bell’s writers to not be mocking, the fact Berkley gamely brought the scenario to life and reclaimed both the role and narrative really emphasized the largely untapped humor and comedic ability Berkley possesses. It wasn’t the first time that Saved By The Bell made an actor’s other roles canon, with Zack’s time as a lawyer drawing from Franklin and Bash. It was, however, the best example yet. It will also likely leave audiences eager to see what other hilarious skeletons may lurk in Jessie’s past for Saved By The Bell season 3 and beyond.

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