Mark-Paul Gosselaar Admits That 1 ‘Saved by the Bell’ Episode Still Gives Him Anxiety

Mark-Paul Gosselaar spent just five years playing Zack Morris, first on Good Morning, Miss Bliss, then on the retooled version of the show, Saved by the Bell. Gosselaar might have only spent a few years of his career playing ZacK, but it’s still a role that defines him for fans. While Gosselaar is mostly OK with everything that went on during the show, he recently admitted one episode is giving him anxiety.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar is reviewing the series on his podcast, ‘Zack to the Future’

Gosselaar spent several years, day in and day out, playing Zack. The series officially ended nearly 30 years ago. Still, he just recently got around to watching it. In July 2020, Gosselaar announced that he would finally rewatch the show that made him famous and discuss it with fans on his new podcast, Zack to the Future.

Zack to the Future entails Gosselaar watching an episode of the show, then discussing it with either his co-host or a special guest. Gosselaar is officially more than halfway through Saved by the Bell. While some moments have made him squirm, thus far, there is only one episode that he says gave him “anxiety.” He watched that episode in April 2021.

There is one episode of ‘Saved by the Bell’ that Gosselaar insists would never get made today

In April, Gosselaar discussed the one episode of the entire series that he says gives him “anxiety.” The episode, “Running Zack,” aired during the show’s second season. In the episode, Zack and his pals are tasked with completing a history project on their ancestors. Zack finds out that he has Native American heritage. During his presentation, he proves he knows absolutely nothing about Native American history or culture. Instead of learning, Zack bases his presentation on stereotypes. Even after being scolded by his teacher and schooled by a Native American, he shows up and presents his heritage with stereotypes for a second time.

Jessie Spano, Screech Powers and Zack Morris sit in Zack's romo during 2 episodes after "Jessie's Song"
Jessie Spano, Screech Powers and Zack Morris in ‘Saved by the Bell’ | Joseph Del Valle/NBCU Photo Bank

Looking back, 1990 was a much different time, and the way we handled sensitive topics was markedly different. Gosselaar said the Saved by the Bell episode caused him anxiety when he rewatched it. Through a 2021 lens, fans feel the same. In fact, it’s considered the most cringe-worthy episode of the entire series. It’s even more cringe-worthy than Jessie’s addiction to caffeine pills, according to some fans. Gosselaar insists the episode would not get made if they were filming today. He’s probably right. 

Zack’s portrayal of Native American culture wasn’t the only offensive thing in the episode.

Gosselaar appears to have a pretty good recollection of his time on the famed teen series. Still, he revealed that he had no memory of filming the “Running Zack” episode. During his chat with Dashiell Driscoll, a writer for the reboot of Saved by the Bell, he said he didn’t remember wearing a headdress or putting on face paint. His castmates probably wanted to block out some of that episode, too.


‘Saved by the Bell’: 3 Pieces of Evidence That Prove The Entire Series Is Zack Morris’ Fantasy World

Fans of Saved by the Bell noted that Jessie Spano’s handling of her ancestry was also problematic. In the episode, Jessie battles with guilt over having ancestors who were slaveholders. She harasses Lisa Turtle repeatedly in an attempt to assuage her guilt. Fans found her behavior wildly inappropriate. Lisa didn’t get away from the episode unscathed either. Lisa, who had ancestors who escaped slavery, referred to the Underground Railroad as the “original Soul Train.’ It is a sentence that viewers can not believe made it into the script.