In the first round of the VSE: Hawaiian Style competition we have Growing Pains vs. Saved by the Bell. Let’s start with a brief summary of both episodes shall we? In Growing Pains, the Seavers head to Malibu for a vacation that nobody but Jason, the father, and youngest son Ben are interested in. Maggie and the two oldest children are way too busy with their lives in Long Island to be interested in Hawaii. The entire episode is basically about how they can’t deal with interacting as a family, and also Mike ends up dating a woman with a two year old child even though he’s like seventeen. They make a point of saying that she “got married early” and Jason counsels Mike on taking more responsibility in his life, which he does by babysitting her kid while she works as a hula dancer.
There’s a lot going on in Saved by the Bell. I’ll try to make this as succinct as possible. The gang has to save Kelly’s grandfather’s hotel from a corrupt competitor, Zack also falls head over heels for a Hawaiian with a child (this one is 6 though and he’s only 10 years older than the kid so woah like wtf Saved by the Bell), and Screech is kidnapped by a local tribe and appointed their chief. If you did not find “Running Zack” to be offensive enough to indigenous people then perhaps this is the episode for you. Also, the corrupt competitor’s lawyer flirts with Kelly and tricks her into getting her grandfather to almost sell the land, so that’s also sketch on multiple levels. Lisa, Slater, and Jessie have a boring bet about whether or not Jessie and Slater can keep from fighting for the duration of the trip, which of course they cannot.
Each episode features a special song. Growing Pains uses Christopher Cross’s “Swept Away” for at least three montages and it begins to outlive its usefulness as a plot tool. Here’s the end montage from the episode:
Saved by the Bell definitely wins on the featured song front because it uses “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince in place of the usual opening credits.
While Saved by the Bell wins on the music front, I’m a sucker for the Seavers and I have to say that the Growing Pains episode warms my heart way more. Plus, Saved by the Bell is really not performing up to par here. Yes, I have high standards for a Saturday morning TV show, and yes, I will hold that show to those high standards in my role as Judge Supreme in the competition for this entirely fabricated yet very important award. Plus, I like the family togetherness. And even though Maggie stupidly quits her job in order to return to the vacation, I do like the idea that she’s making an effort to get her priorities straight. Luckily, Jason is a psychiatrist who makes tons of money on writing prescriptions for twenty minute visits with clients, so I think they can handle her being unemployed for a little bit.
Even though I love the Growing Pains plot, I am not digging their matching Hawaiian shirts and thus, unsurprisingly, Saved by the Bell gets the point for fashion. However, Saved by the Bell has once again succeeded in achieving a culturally insensitive plot line with the whole Screech-is-chief thing. Almost by default, I have to give Growing Pains the point for successful integration of the Hawaiian setting. After all, that luau looked pretty nice and actual Hawaiians were performing instead of Jessie, Kelly, and Lisa.
Point Break Down:
Saved by the Bell: Music (1 pt) + Vacation Attire (1 pt) = 2 pts
Growing Pains: Overall Plot (2 pts) + Integration of Hawaiian Setting (1 pt) = 3 pts
Very Special Winner: Growing Pains
Sorry, Saved by the Bell, you were uncharacteristically creepy and I think we can all tell form this set of episodes that Tiffani Theissen and Elizabeth Berkley were about to ditch you.