Trope Scope: A Murder (Mystery) Most Foul

The Saved by the Bell gang participate in a mystery weekend. Mind the body.
Saved by the Bell (Screen: NBC / Netflix)

Sometime around the third season, the Saved by the Bell gang started ditching classes at Bayside and exploring the world around them. One of the episodes (and a personal favorite of mine) was “Mystery Weekend.”

Sometime around the third season, the Saved by the Bell gang started ditching classes at Bayside and exploring the world around them. Episodes such as the Malibu Sands summer, “All in the Mall,” “Rockumentary,” and the Palm Springs two-parter, saw Zach and Co. dropped into different but memorable situations that didn’t revolve around school or the Max. One of these (and a personal favorite of mine) was “Mystery Weekend.” In this particular episode, Lisa has won a radio contest and gets to attend a murder mystery weekend for her and her 5 closest friends (which for some reason includes Screech, even though she absolutely hates him…but I digress).  When the fake crime apparently turn into a real crime, the gang has to find the real culprit and escape with their lives!

Dun dun duuuun.

The Trope

A Murder (Mystery) Most Foul

The Symptoms

Murder Mystery episodes usually take their cues from the Agatha Christie novel And then There Were None. You take your beloved sitcom characters and place them in a secluded/or spooky setting where they are forced to solve the crime in order escape. Basically, you reenact the movie Clue. Through the course of the episode, one of the main characters may mysteriously disappear (Lisa, for example), while another one is usually accused of committing the crime (Zach). Red herrings are everywhere and there is also a lot of fake thunder and lightning (to set the mood). In the end, however, everything usually has a reasonable explanation and everyone lives to see another day.

The Epidemic

It seems that every sitcom at one point or another does a variation of this kind of episode, usually airing somewhere around Halloween. These Murder Mystery-type episodes usually appear after a show has been on the air for a few seasons. By that time, you have come to know and love the characters and welcome the change of scenery. From the Golden Girls‘ “The Case of the Libertine Bell,” to Boy Meets World‘s “And then There Was Shawn” and to Family Guy‘s “And Then There Were Fewer,” these TV plots seem to be a common recurrence in the sitcom world.

Are We in Danger?

Are Murder Mystery episodes clichéd? Yes.

But are they just plain fun? Totally!

Since, for the most part, everything goes back to normal in the end, there really is no harm having these “one-off” type episodes. Zach eventually solved the “crime” and won the cash prize, Lisa is alive and well, and Screech is still annoying.1 It’s fun seeing these characters in a new environment and possibly seeing new sides to their personality you didn’t before.

Plus, Saved by the Bell‘s “Mystery Weekend” introduced me to mango tonics with a kiwi twist. I mean, I’ve never actually tried one but I hear it pairs well with colorful, 90s outfits.

  1. Seriously, why are they friends with him?  

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