Synopsis: Bayside High is hosting a dance contest deejayed by Casey Kasem. What do you mean your school didn't do anything like that?
Review: It was with trepidation that I embarked on rewatching a series that had been a childhood favorite for the purpose of reviewing it. Will a series I was obsessed with as a child stand up to critical scrutiny or will I be disappointed, my memories dashed? I breathed a sigh of relief after watching "Dancing to the Max." There is a reason I have fond memories of this series: it is a solid comedy with a meaningful message (and lots of early nineties fun!)
The pilot contains many of the elements that become characteristic of the series: Zach breaking the fourth wall, a dream sequence, and a teacher who is more caricature than realistic representation. Casey Kasem, the voice of Shaggy, even makes a guest appearance.
The premise of the episode doesn't offer much in the form of novelty: Zach and Slater battle to win Kelly as their partner in a dance contest--except Zach doesn't know how to dance. Plot is not where this episode shines; the strength of this episode lies in the relationships explored, and more importantly, how those relationships grow. (Characters should always grow over the course of a series, or the series fails at character development.)
Zach and Jesse are childhood friends. Zach turns to Jesse for help learning how to dance in order to impress Kelly. When Zach learns Jesse's self-image problem concerning her height is the reason she is not participating in the contest, the usually mischievous schemer shows his sweet side by allowing Kelly to go with Slater and asking Jesse to be his partner. It's not a romantic storyline. It is a story about true friendship, about the type of friend who has entered your house via the upstairs window for the past eleven years. If you've ever had a best friend, you understand this kind of bond. If not, there's no way you can.
The other two relationships explored pivot on Screech. Slater encourages Screech in the wake of Lisa's rejection to be his dance partner. When Lisa sprains her ankle and her "cool date" rejects her but Screech is still willing to be her partner, she learns her true friends will stick by her no matter what. Kelly is the only character left looking selfish and petty. She had no problem pitting Zach and Slater against each other. This episode misses a perfect 10 with its unfortunate characterization of Kelly, but the overall solid episode earns a 9.that as a legitimate private eye. There must be something more. He enjoys the thrill of pretending to be something he's not. I'm giving this above average episode an 8 out of 10.
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)