Six Degrees of Pittsburgh
I wrote the "Saved By the Bell" episode in which Jim Harbaugh appears as Screech's cousin.
We all have things in our past that my come back to haunt us. And I had not thought about this for a long time. But a few days ago, I received a call from a journalist from the Wall Street Journal asking me for a comment about an episode of "Saved by the Bell: The New Class" which featured a guy named Jim Harbaugh. I had all but forgotten about this, but suddenly it all came rushing back-- the 1990s, when the writing staff was informed by executive producer Peter Engel that we were going to have a very special guest on the show-- a quarterback from the Indianapolis Colts named Jim Harbaugh. Television is generally written collectively and so there is plenty of blame to go around, but this was an episode called “Little Hero” in which I was the one who received writing credit.
Click here to see the clip:
In the episode, which apparently has now gone viral, a young Jim Harbaugh, fresh from leading the Indianapolis Colts to the AFC championship, makes a surprise appearance as Screech's cousin. I had long forgotten the moral of the story (this was when “Saved By the Bell” in the 90s was considered educational programming so all the stories had an overt moral message.) But I did vaguely remember that Jim had some speech he delivered in the classroom that was about the importance of not letting fame go to his head and how what matters is not what you do on the field, but who you are as a person. I leave it to students of Jim’s coaching style to determine if there were early shades of an inspiration coach in that monologue.
In thinking back on that episode, I must confess of not knowing much about Jim Harbaugh before he showed up at the table read. And that, having been more a Screech type growing up in my old high school, I had pre-conceptions about what an All-American type quarterback would be like on the set. From what I remember, Jim had a good sense of humor about the whole thing—including some “jokes” about how Screech was the more popular of the two in school because Jim was always practicing and how Screech was a buffer than him in the muscle-department. And it may be my imagination, but it does look like Jim was enjoying himself giving Screech a firm pat on the back at the end of the episode than sent Screech to the floor. All in all, from what I can remember, Jim seemed like a pretty good guy who was humble and decent enough that he seemed to be the true All-American guy who he played on the show. What I definitely recall, and what is apparent in the clips on you tube, was that Jim had that great 1990s hair.
I have read a piece in which Jim still seems to have a fond attitude towards his acting cameo. And I wish him great success in the game today. But if things do look grim at half time, he may want to pop an old VHS tape in the VCR and play back his SBTB clip for inspiration… Either that, or call in Mr. Belding.