Unauthorized Saved by the Bell: I’m So Excited! I’m So Scarred!

The idea of a behind-the-scenes look at Saved by the Bell was more thrilling than skipping your last class before a long weekend.  I was a huge fan of the Saturday morning high school comedy-drama, so I sort of ignored the fact that Lifetime was the network in charge of resurrecting the likes of Zack Morris and his brick cell phone. Who doesn’t love a throwback to scrunchies, fluorescent tank tops, and early 1990’s music? It’s too bad that The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story was about as eventful as an M&M’s commercial, and here’s why it didn’t work.

No one likes Screech
The idea for this television event came from Dustin Diamond’s tell-all book, Behind the Bell which was published in 2009. At the very beginning of the movie, Mark-Paul Gosselaar (an unfortunately wigged Dylan Everett) is on the red carpet and he pauses the movie and talks directly to the camera a la his character, Zack Morris.  Immediately, Diamond steps in and insists that this is his story.  You can almost hear America rolling their collective eyes.  Screech is going to tell the story?  Don’t get me wrong—unlikable characters can add a lot of weight to a story, but Dustin Diamond’s public persona is rather douchey.  He has the gravitas of a Taco Bell cashier.  Did they give him the reigns just because he wrote the book (trust me, more on that later)?

Explosion at the Wig Factory
I admit that I complain about this too much, but what is with all the wretched hairstyling in this movie? This could have been the American Hustle of Lifetime made-for-TV movies, but Mark-Paul’s hair would’ve frustrated Vidal Sassoon.  Girls would prison shank each other just to run their fingers through the blonde locks of Zack Morris, but I reckon they’d only go near him to hand him a box of L’Oreal.  And Elizabeth Berkley’s hair should have been bigger.  The bigger the hair, the closer to God, and God couldn’t see a damn thing.

Get Off My Lawn
Remember when television shows set in high school always got criticized for how old the actors looked? Not the case for these youngsters. They might be the right ages to play the cast of Saved by the Bell, but all of their baby faces were too distracting. They looked more Muppet Babies than Lifetime stars.  Ironically, I wanted to see more about Mr. Belding mainly because the guy playing Dennis Haskins totally nailed Belding’s intonation and speech patterns.

Where’s the Show?
For an expose about a cheesy television show, we don’t get much of the television show itself.  Where’s The Max?  Where are the recreations of the awesome pastel sets?  Surely, the fans of the show would have enjoyed seeing Screech’s mother’s beloved Elvis statue getting broken or Zack tricking all the girls to love him using subliminal messages.

The one moment that they couldn’t deny was Elizabeth Berkley’s amazing (infamous?) caffeine pill “I’m SO excited!  I’M!  SO!  SCARED!” addiction frenzy.  The three female leads of the show wanted to prove themselves as dramatic actresses, and they convinced the writers to tackle more relatable, heavier plotlines.  Well, they dove right in, didn’t they?

Saved by the Bell2

Welcome to Dullsville
The most troubling thing about The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story was that it was painfully dull.  Diamond’s book was packed wall-to-wall accusations about his fellow actors that made it the squeaky clean set sound like the Caligula soundstage.  Diamond’s book claims that Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Mario Lopez had flings with each of the female leads of the show, and the most damning claim is that the producers paid off a girl that Lopez forced himself upon.  Behind the Bell tells many tall tales involving sex and drugs, but Diamond claims a ghostwriter fabricated most of the stories and misquoted him.

The book’s content seems so over the top that I have a hard time believe a lot of it, but Unauthorized’s most salacious tidbit is when Mark-Paul and Lark Voorhees make doe-eyes at each other at a callback.  It’s pretty boring when your most scandalous elements are a kid actor throwing a temper tantrum about his paychecks and a female executive smoking cigarettes during the casting process (oh, the 90’s!).

If anything The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story was a missed opportunity.  It would have been more entertaining to maybe even see a parody of the show rather than a behind-the-scenes look.  If I wanted to see all these kids cheering each other on and singing “Kumbayah” while holding hands…I would just watch Saved by the Bell.  It’s not a story worth telling.  

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