The brand new Saved by the Bell millennial reboot made its debut on Peacock just days ago, and the series already has people talking. Yes, we’re still marveling at how AC Slater is still so fine (that Mario Lopez, lawd!), but a certain joke on one episode has stirred up quite the controversy, specifically with Selena Gomez’s dedicated fans.
Saved by the Bell’s new storyline returns to Bayside, but the school is nothing like you remember it. For one thing, it’s a lot more diverse — a consequence of students from different parts of town being transferred into the district — and the student body is marked by Zoomers with particularly hot takes about literally everything. In the episode 8, two of Bayside’s students ponder the circumstances of Gomez’s 2017 kidney transplant, arguing about who donated their organs to the pop star for the lifesaving surgery.
“I know for a fact that Selena Gomez’s kidney donor was Justin Bieber’s mom,” says one student in the episode. “God, I wish that I had my phone so that I could prove it.”
“It was Demi Lovato’s kidney,” retorts the other (incorrectly). “They’re best friends, like you and I were.”
The joke got it wrong — Gomez’s donor was actually her good friend Francia Raísa (Grown-ish). But for Selenators, even more disappointing than the fake news was the fact that their fave’s health was even used as a comedic device to begin with. Many fans blasted the reboot for making light of Gomez’s health issues, demanding that the singer be given an official apology under the Twitter hashtag #RespectSelenaGomez.
NBCUniversal, Peacock, and Saved by the Bell's executive producers have since issued a statement apologizing for using Gomez’s surgery as a joke.
“We apologize,” reads the statement. “It was never our intention to make light of Selena’s health. We have been in touch with her team and will be making a donation to her charity, The Selena Gomez Fund for Lupus Research at USC."
Gomez has yet to respond to the joke or the issued apology. Raísa has seen the statement, but it doesn’t quite go far enough for her; in her opinion, Saved by the Bell also needs to apologize to people who have been donors to patients in need of transplants as well.
“Appreciate the apology but let’s not forget about the donors that potentially felt offended and dismissed from the spray paint written on the wall,” she responded to Variety's tweet and article about the apology.
Reboots can often be a hard sell, especially when the shows that they’re based on were super popular in their time. Aside from the inappropriate Gomez joke, however, Saved the Bell seems to be doing well on Peacock. The spirit of Bayside High lives on — the writer's room just has to tread more carefully.