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Author of Jesus and The Bachelorette and unapologetic devotee of teen soap operas and police procedurals. knoxmccoy.com

Is Jeff Winger The Evolutionary Zack Morris?

Currently, there is a show on TV that is basically perfect in every way. It’s so perfect that imperfect people like NBC executives think it’s really awesome to take it off the air so drivel like Whitney and Up All Night can be viewed by self-loathing masochists with developmentally stunted senses of humor. (Oh Maya Rudolph making crazy faces?? TELL ME MORE!)

Community, take it or leave it, is more significant in terms of what it means to the larger landscape of television than it is as a weekly television show. Maybe the ratings aren’t anything special, but the innovative way that it manufactures a narrative is infinitely more impactful going forward within the medium than how it fared against Big Bang Theory or CSI-NCIS: Special Hoarders Unit

Much of this is because of structure and execution (Wild West as paintball, zombies, and the My Dinner with Andre spoof leap to mind) but much of it is through character. Simple, yet relentlessly effective and enjoyable characters who motor the engine of the show. Among these characters, Jeff Winger is clearly the Alpha Male whose loins are the wonderful and motherly womb from which the best plots are birthed.

When you consider Jeff Winger and what he represents, his magnetic appeal is eerily similar to another character on a transcendent and generationally important show, Saved By The Bell: Zack Morris. But how are they related?

1. An Utter and Absolute Authority Over All Situations
Because both characters are so rich and vibrant, they repeatedly play pivotal parts in most episodes. Jeff has an ability to orate any episode into submission and tie up all loose ends, while Zack could call timeout and freeze time even if he was about to get punched in the face and no one EVER questioned the implications of this on the space time continuum OR the ethical dilemma of a power like that being placed in the hands of someone who is PRETTY void of ethics.

2. Free Love
While Zack is forever and perfectly linked to the female archetype that is Kelly Kapowski, he also did his fair share of dating and spent some measure of romantic time with his castmates Kelly, Lisa, Jessie, Stacy Carosi, some lady in Hawaii and a legion of other minor characters.

Jeff has also managed to make his way through the lady population at Greendale CC. Brita, Annie, and Professor Slater are all love interests Jeff spent a varying amount of time with and while Shirley hasn’t and probably won’t ever be an interest of Jeff’s in terms of traditional romance, I would argue that Jeff’s connection with Shirley in the foosball episode was truer and more profound than any other love connection and thus relevant when discussing Jeff’s relationship to women, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is, both Zack AND Jeff frequently interact with the various female members of their universe and do so quite successfully.

3. Stylistically Advanced
For Zack it was the Converse shoes and “preppy” clothing. For Jeff, it’s self-tanner, manicures, leather jackets and skinny jeans. The fundamentals of their specific styles may differ, but what is undeniable is how both are clearly portrayed with a superior / distinct sense of style in relation to their schlubbier peers.

4. Quirky Sidekicks
While Abed is more or less Troy’s sidekick, in terms of Alpha to Beta relationship, Abed is solely and completely Screech to Jeff’s Zack in how he is socially troubled but superior when it comes to intelligence on fringe topics.

5. Evasive Advancement
Jeff’s entire law career is built on the supposition that he authentically obtained an undergraduate degree, which we find out is false.

Similarly, Zack showed an innate talent to skew everything to his advantage to varying degrees of truthiness. Whether it’s trying to connive his way into authoring the school song, cutting his friends out of friendship bracelets, or trying to stick Slater with the nerds in the Marine Corp challenge, Zack has shown a propensity for using people and situations to his advantage basically always.

6. Creepy Authority Figures
While Jeff’s Dean Pelton is superficially creepy, it’s more ok because he’s placed his creepy cards on the table and we more or less know where he stands in his obsession with Jeff and the rest of the study group.

Zack’s Mr. Belding, though, is infinitely more creepy because he concedes nothing in his unceasing interactions with the Bayside Six. Should we automatically assume the worst about Mr. Belding? Certainly not, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that we should always look slightly askance at teachers and school administrators who spend way too much time with students.

Are there any other similarities I missed?