If you watched Saved By The Bell Saturday mornings, chances are you remember the episode, “Jessie’s Song,” where Elizabeth Berkley’s character, Jessie Spano, gets addicted to caffeine pills. The intensity of the episode was a bit ridiculous, given the level of meltdown she experienced over an over-the-counter stimulant containing as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.
Many viewers inferred that the episode wasn’t truly about the dangers of caffeine (not with that much hyperbole), rather “Jessie’s Song” was a reference to drugs and how drug-use can happen to bright, beautiful teens under the intense pressure to succeed. In a new memoir, titled I Was Saved By The Bell: Stories of Life, Love and Dreams That Come True, producer Peter Engel recalls the episode and reveals that Jessie was originally intended to have a speed addiction. However, NBC’s Standards and Practices department refused to green-light the episode, claiming that speed was a topic too serious for Saturday mornings.
Engel felt the topic was too important to abandon and wanted to delve into serious topics, so he compromised. Jessie’s addiction to speed was demoted to caffeine. “I wasn’t pleased about it,” Engel writes, “we might as well have had Jessie get addicted to Earl Gray, or breaking into The Max to snort coffee grounds. But hey, we had to start somewhere.”
Clearly, “Jessie’s Song” was a starting point. By 1995, Engel’s other show, California Dreams featured an episode called “Tiffani’s Gold,” where Kelly Packard’s character tries steroids to boost her performance for the national volleyball championships.