Scene It Before: Ulysses S. Grant High School from Saved by the Bell

A Van Nuys high school stood in for Zack and the gang’s junior high in the series

Lifetime’s highly anticipated The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story airs this upcoming Monday, September 1st, and to quote Jessie Spano, “I’m so excited!” The made-for-television movie is said to be based at least in part on the book Behind the Bell, which was written byseries star Dustin Diamond (he also served as executive producer of the special). I recently read the 2009 tell-all and it was nothing short of scintillating. ‘Friends Forever” certainly does not describe the relationship between Diamond and any of his co-stars.

The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story was shot in its entirety in Vancouver, British Columbia, but the original Saturday morning series was lensed right here in Los Angeles.

The production of SBTB was unique in that, excluding the Malibu Sands Beach Club episodes, filming rarely took place outside of a studio and exterior shots of locations were almost never shown. The exception to this was in the series’ inaugural season, during which Ulysses S. Grant High School, located at 13000 Oxnard St. in Van Nuys, was used in establishing shots of Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and the gang’s junior high school.

A screen capture from a Season 1 episode of "Saved by the Bell"
A screen capture from a Season 1 episode of “Saved by the Bell”

The first season of SBTB originally aired from 1988 to 1989 on the Disney Channel and, at the time, was titled Good Morning, Miss Bliss. It was centered on the life of a popular teacher played by Hayley Mills and set in Indianapolis, Indiana. Grant stood in for the city’s fictional John F. Kennedy Junior High School on the show.Disney cancelled the series after a scant 13 episodes and NBC subsequently acquired the rights to it and transformed it into a more teen-focused comedy dubbed Saved by the Bell. As part of the revamp, the setting was shifted to Bayside High School in Palisades, California, though an establishing shot of the new school was never shown.

Grant High School
Grant High School in July, 2014

Photograph courtesy Lindsay Blake

Grant High School is no stranger to the screen. Cher and Dionne roam its halls in the 1995 hit Clueless, the Dunder Mifflin staff attends a Hindu festival in Grant’s gym in the Season 3 episode of The Office titled “Diwali,” and the school is where Iggy Azalea shimmies in her recent “Fancy” video.

Though Dustin Diamond later backpedaled on Behind the Bell’s more outrageous anecdotes, claiming the book was penned by a ghostwriter and many of his stories misconstrued, I expect the movie to spill its fair share of juicy set details (especially considering its upcoming premiere triggered this outburst from Gosselaar’s current co-star Breckin Meyer.) Even if it does not prove salacious, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story will be worth a watch, if only to catch another glimpse of that infamously large cell phone Zack used to carry. If Zack Attack makes a cameo, well, that would be totally rad.


Lindsay Blake is an actress, writer, celebrity admirer and Los Angeles enthusiast who contributes to CityThink each Thursday. Her true love is filming locations, and she founded the Web site IAMNOTASTALKER in 2007 to document her vast findings on the subject. For more “stalking” fun, you can follow Lindsay on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.