An Appreciation: T.K. Carter

Mylo (T.K. Carter) and Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) hold a whispered conversation as Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) stands nearby.
Good Morning, Miss Bliss (Photo: Disney)

I know what you’re thinking, Internet – yet another appreciation piece about that most lauded thespian Thomas Kent “T.K.” Carter? How about some originality for once? Doesn’t his star already shine too brightly?

Well, someone needs to appreciate the man, because the producers of Good Morning, Miss Bliss sure didn’t.

Despite having recently rewatched a few of the 13 episodes that the Saved by the Bell precursor aired, I had to turn to IMDb to check his character’s name (Milo). All you’ll learn from watching the show is that his character favors nipple-grazing waistbands on his snug khakis, his job has something to do with keys and hopefully he wasn’t paid per minute of screen time. Presumably Carter had plenty of free time around that same time in which to film the TV movie Polly, based on Pollyanna, because apparently Carter gravitates to two types of projects: those in the Hayley Mills oeuvre and/or featuring plucky orphans.

Which brings us to Carter’s biggest role, at least in the eyes of ’80s kids. His character, Mike, is introduced to the Punky Brewster universe via a two-parter backdoor pilot as a case worker at a children’s home for abandoned kids (the pluckier, the better). He dances down hallways, does impressions and doles out wisdom to scruffy but lovable scamps. But the show went nowhere, so he was back as a teacher in Punky’s school the next season. Don’t ask me how. I was too busy hyperventilating over the show’s most seminal episode, aka The Refrigerator of Doom.

Every kid of the era remembers being terrified of getting trapped in a fridge like Cherie, but what’s less memorable is that it’s Carter’s character who teaches the kids the CPR technique that Punky uses to resuscitate her best pal. So while foster dad Henry’s carelessness traumatized a generation (stop chatting about taking off the fridge door now and hop to, damnit!), it was Mike who taught us how to save a life (which we promptly forgot, TBH) and the importance of listening to our teachers. So on behalf of every ’80s kid who went on to shoulder crushing student loans and a useless degree, we salute T.K. Carter.

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