Last night, Lifetime aired what was supposed to be The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story filled with drugs, threesomes and terrible-but-real portrayals of America’s sweethearts. What I watched was a bunch of teenaged spats, implied sex and Screech, the friend-starved child alcoholic. Lifetime, do better.
Instead of a fun-but-bad film, aligning with Lifetime’s hearty reputation — hello Liz & Dick — the Saved By the Bell Story was barely fun. And by barely, I mean all of the wild sex, drugs and mayhem Dustin Diamond, who played Screech, described in his book Behind the Bell, the basis for the TV movie, was absent. The seediest part was Screech’s beginning his drinking habit at the encouragement of a random TV extra named Eric. Eric The Extra said Diamond’s a better time when he’s hammered so Diamond, hungry for friends, starts knocking back vodka during meet-and-greets and between kick boxing routines at a gym, as one does.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who played Zack Morris, was basically a good kid until he yelled at his mother when she wouldn’t give him more than a $20 per week allowance though he was earning that good SBTB money. Later, despite dating Lark Voorhies, who played Lisa Turtle, Gosselaar starts canoodling with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, who played Kelly Kapowski, after they have to "practice" kissing on-screen. Much scandal. Very hormones. Wow.
I think the biggest reveal with Gosselaar's character was supposed to be that he is bi-racial, his mother is Indonesian and his father is Dutch and he’s a first generation immigrant. Much wow.
Elizabeth Berkley, who played Jessie Spano, was friends with everyone and just wanted to be a good actress. According to the film, Berkley pushed for more serious story lines which led to the infamous ‘I’m so excited because I’m addicted to caffeine pills’ episode.
This scene played out in a rehearsal setting with the Unauthorized cast until Screech laughed at Berkley’s earnest acting job. Slater called him a jerk, which led to Screech stomping out of the room for the one-thousandth time. Unfortunately, all those serious acting hopes led to Showgirls, which they mention in the film. Womp.
Mario Lopez, who played Slater, wasn’t more than a meathead who did push-ups during photo shoots and made out with extras, whom we can only assume he humped in set closets because no sex was shown on screen. Lark’s character existed only to not put out to Gosselaar and be adversarial with Thiessen once she realized Zack and Kelly were a thing in real life too.
The movie ended with Screech being blackmailed by Eric The Extra and Gosselaar acting friendly by advising him to “tell the adults.”
Look Lifetime, if you're going to get us all excited with behind the scenes tell-alls filled with smarmy madness, then the least you can do is deliver. Voorhies (a Jehovah's Witness) receiving a birthday gift from her boyfriend shouldn't be one of the most controversial moments in a film drawn from a book that boasted these sentences, via The AV Club:
"The road trips were subsidized trips to Assylvania. All you can bang buffets."
"Another weird thing about Mark-Paul was that he was always extremely reserved when it came to sharing his exploits chasing ass."
"Our early friendship got off with a bang—that is, the two of us banging three chicks at the same time, to be precise."
Where were the drugs? Where was the sex because Diamond swears he had some in his book and even his character mentions it? Where was the drama? Where was the entertainment? Also, I rebuke your overuse of BBD's "Poison." It's a great song, but once is enough, OK?
The original cast already did not support the TV movie, so what do you have to lose Lifetime? Might as well go all in.
Hopefully the forthcoming Brittany Murphy movie, which I won't be watching if I can help it, will be better but ... I doubt it. That emo remix of Haddaway's "What Is Love?" tells me it won't be.
Image via Lifetime.