Zzzzzzzz. Oh! Sorry, I must have fallen asleep thinking about last night’s new Lifetime movie The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. Where was all that drama they promised? I thought it was supposed to tell us the real behind-the-scenes story, one so scandalous that it would rip out our nostalgia and stomp on it. Instead the movie basically told us, “They were teenagers who acted like teenagers, sometimes they didn’t get along, and one time one of them got drunk. The End.” I actually finished the movie thinking, “What nice, mature young people.” Ew! That’s not what I’m watching for, Lifetime!
I’ll be honest here and admit that I missed the boat on the Saved by the Bell obsession. I was too young to watch it while it was on the air, and I somehow never ended up watching it in syndication either. I’ve seen scenes here and there, and I know most of the basics, including the famous “I’m so excited, I’m so scared” scene. And I also know what happened to the actors after the show. Mario Lopez’s dimples won’t let me forget him. Even though I’m not well-versed in the source material, I still expected to enjoy some over-the-top ’90s drama on my Labor Day. And I got none! None, I tell you!
Lifetime apparently loosely based the movie on Dustin Diamond’s tell-all book about his experience, which contains some unflattering behind-the-scenes stories about sex and drugs. Dustin later said his ghostwriter exaggerated things, and people from the show have denied his claims. I wonder if the fact that Dustin was an executive producer on this movie contributed to its watered-down nature. He said this in an interview about the movie:
“The Lifetime movie is going to be based on my book in the way that it’s a behind-the-scenes look, but my book was written by a ghost writer, and they tried to milk the negativity,” he told the AP. “It wasn’t supposed to be a dirty tell-all.”
Okay, but… why should I watch the movie, then? Come on, Lifetime, you’re good at stretching the truth. If you tell me something is “unauthorized,” I’m expecting you to embellish the hell out of it and give me something crazy. And if you can’t give me crazy, why are we even friends in the first place?
You know that clip Lifetime released ahead of this movie showing the cast not getting along during a photo shoot? That scene happens halfway through the movie, and up until then I’d been thinking, “Wow, these kids are getting along pretty well. I thought they were going to fight a lot.” And you know what? That scene is pretty much as far as the fighting goes. Otherwise they’re very friendly and civil towards each other.
The biggest scandals involve Dustin Diamond. By “scandals,” I mean he felt alienated from the rest of the group and treated as less important by the studio for being a nerd. Dustin deals with all his problems by hanging out with an extra he met on the lot who gives him vodka and blackmails him with a pot-smoking video in exchange for a role on the show. Dustin even gets drunk at a press event. Too bad they cut it so he takes a swig and then in the next shot is suddenly being scolded for his behavior. SHOW ME THE BEHAVIOR! Don’t just tell me he got drunk and leave it at at that. Don’t you know how to make a movie? Oh yeah, and Dustin also punches a guy who mocks him outside a movie theater. Meh, baby food.
Then at the end Dustin talks to the audience (as he does the entire movie, which becomes quite annoying) and sums up what happened to all the actors, and he says a bunch of complimentary things about them. Gross, get this kindness fifteen thousand miles away from me immediately. Dustin also fails to mention his own scandals or the fact that he “wrote” an unflattering book about the people he’s saying nice things about. Guess we’re just going to ignore that.
I’ll admit there were still some fun moments, like when the cast was attacked by a group of crazed fans who tore Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s shirt. And the ’90s clothes were fun to look at. Remember when jeans covered people’s belly buttons? Oh, and I suppose it might have been entertaining for fans of the show to see the movie use a lot of the same stylistic techniques they remember, like breaking the fourth wall, freeze frame and cheesy fantasy sequences. If you were watching for those things, you were in luck. If you were watching for drama, you were very disappointed. I was rooting for you, Lifetime! We were all rooting for you!