Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Watching old 'Saved By the Bell' episodes is 'torturous'

He says the "perfectionist" in him wants to critique his younger self's performance.
/ Source: TODAY

Earlier this summer, Mark-Paul Gosselaar made a pledge: that he would finally, for the first time ever, watch his star turn in the long-running "Saved By the Bell" series.

Once we got over realizing he'd never watched the show, on which he played high schooler Zack Morris for 86 episodes (then returned for some spinoffs), we couldn't wait to find out what he thought of the whole thing.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar in recent days, and as Zack Morris in "Saved By the Bell."Getty Images, NBC

Turns out, Gosselaar has mixed feelings, which he's been sharing on a weekly podcast with "Bell" superfan-turned-"Bell" writer (on the upcoming Peacock reboot) Dashiell Driscoll, called "Zack to the Future."

"I feel like it's a little bit torturous every week for me to go through this process, because I am watching my work — and it doesn't matter that it's 30 years old, it's still something that I feel like I can improve," he told Variety on Wednesday. "There's moments where I'm talking with Dashiell and I say, 'My timing is off there; if I had just done it this way I bet I would have gotten a bigger laugh.' But that's just the perfectionist in me."

"Bell" may have only run from 1989 to 1993, but it's had a long tail in its afterlife. In addition to two spinoffs ("The College Years" and "The New Class") and two films ("Hawaiian Style" and "Wedding in Las Vegas"), there have been spoofs on late night shows (in which Gosselaar has participated) and recent pop-up restaurants themed to the show.

Season 1's "Saved By the Bell" cast (l.-r. from the top): Elizabeth Berkley, Lark Voorhies, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Thiessen, Gosselaar, Dustin DiamondNBC

And Gosselaar knows he picked up a lot about show business and acting by being on the program, even if it makes him cringe now.

"I learned so much from being on that show," he told Variety. "It was a classroom on the set for me of how to conduct myself as an actor.... But I think that was one of the things that attracted so many people to the show: It was just the innocence of these characters, as well as the actors portraying them. A lot of people forget that we were the same age as the characters, so we were going through the same experiences as them."

In addition, he liked the whole backstage vibe. "There was no ego on the set — there was no negative energy — and when you watch the show you see that bleeding through. So not getting another take now, as an actor I would put my foot down and say I need another one. But I don't know that people were looking that carefully at this show, it was a Saturday morning show."

As for the new Peacock series, a premiere date remains up in the air, but Gosselaar is returning to the role of Zack — though now as an all-grown-up version who's the governor of California. Wonder if he'll be watching himself in real-time or not this go-round!

Peacock is part of our parent company, NBCUniversal.