Monday, September 1, 2014

The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story - Recap & Review

Tonight, Labor Day 2014, is the day we've all been waiting for. We're so excited...we're so scared...because tonight is The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story!!! Thank you, Lifetime Network, for indulging us with this special event.

The two hour Saved By the Bell event opened with the cast heading to an event and wondering if they were going to be popular enough. And to their surprise, they were greeted by a crowd of screaming fans.

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The actor playing Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack Morris) started to talk to us about the show, and then the guy playing Dustin Diamond (Samuel "Screech" Powers) stepped in. He became the narrator. He told us the show was originally supposed to be about the teachers, not the kids. (This is why the show was originally Good Morning Miss Bliss.)

Dustin appeared with his dad, who gave him trouble about following his dream.

Next was Lark Voorhees' audition. While Lisa Turtle was supposed to be a Jewish princess type, Lark changed their minds.

Dustin read lines with Mark-Paul, which led to their casting.

We next found out that NBC passed on Good Morning Miss Bliss, but the fledgling Disney Channel decided to give it a chance.

Next up was a run-through, and Dustin Diamond distracted people with his antics, which people found funny. Dustin said he finally felt like he'd found a home. Fast forward 5 months, and the show was cancelled. A bunch of studio execs talked about it and said they could put the show in the Saturday morning lineup on NBC, even though that time slot was typically for cartoons. They also decided to make the show primarily about the kids (not typical for the time), move the show to California and tap into a new audience share.

An exec said he would call the show When The Bell Rings.

Dustin, talking about disliking his life with his dad, got a call saying that the show would come back and focus on the him and Zack (although we'd later find out that Screech's part would be less significant).

Tiffani-Amber Thiessen and Elizabeth Berkley met before their audition and became friends. They said they both wanted to be taken seriously and hated that they were going up against each other. (At this point, both were going up for Kelly Kapowski.) Jennie Garth was knocked out of the running (who even knew she was considered?) The team decided they liked both Tiffani-Amber and Elizabeth, so they wrote a new character for Elizabeth, who would become Jessie Spano.

Dustin arrived on set full of hope, and immediately got blown off by Mark-Paul, who was talking to Mario Lopez (AC Slater).

Everyone was told to keep your personal relationships professional. Meanwhile, Mark-Paul and Lark were holding hands under the table. Uh-oh.

We watched the actors struggle in their new rehearsals, and Dustin popped out of the locker he was hiding in asking when he could come out. He was shot down, saying he'd have to wait until his part came up.

The actors also struggled in school. When the teacher stepped out of the classroom, the kids talked about if the producers asked what their talents are. Mario Lopez revealed that he was a dancer and asked Elizabeth Berkley to dance with him. Mario revealed that he's a wrestler, and Dustin piped in saying he will get his karate black belt. Nobody seemed to care. Mark was called out for not being blonde, and he revealed that he's the first member of his family to be born in America. After that, Mark-Paul pointed out that the group needs to work together and we flipped to the next scene.

The group did a live taping and it went well. The group began to trust each other, per Dustin's commentary. The group bowed after the taping was done, and everyone got a positive reaction, specifically Dustin and Mark-Paul, although Mark-Paul by far got the most applause.

Unfortunately, reviews were brutal. They said the show wasn't great and the cast was chosen for their looks, not talent. Dustin asked why everyone was so upset because the show is for kids. In response, Mark-Paul read a scathing review of Dustin's acting. Dustin said, "So?" but he was clearly hurt and walked away.

Dustin walked into an exec's office while the exec said that he wasn't sure about Seinfeld because he's too Jewish. Dustin asked why Screech has to be so dorky. All the other characters were cool, and he didn't like that. Dustin felt like the others couldn't separate Dustin from his character Screech.

The group was told that the series wasn't doing as well as the network hoped. The show got cancelled again. Then, in 1990, people talked about the show and it got popular. The show got another chance. Peter Engel was told that the ratings went through the roof. Then we were back at the initial scene where the kids were mobbed at an appearance. Dustin Diamond even got the attention he was craving - people loved him for being funny. It was completely crazy at the event - people even took Zack's jacket right off of him.

Executives talked about the show's success and how they need to protect the funny, innocent image of the stars. Pictures of the cast that could undermine the image got out, and the execs were not happy.

Mark-Paul fought with his mom because he wanted a car and she was only giving him a small allowance. He had a hissy fit when his mom asked if he wanted to be grounded for his attitude.

Fans approached the female cast as they shopped, even though Elizabeth Berkley was complaining about having graduated high school and still feeling like she's stuck in high school on the show. The fans said they felt like they knew the characters. One girl said that it's like watching her life on TV. This led the girls to say that the show should tackle real issues that teenagers can relate to.

Dustin said the cast spent a lot of time waiting around and being bored. As an example, Dustin hid a fake spider and scared a crew member, who said she hates working with kids. On the flip side, Mario brought girls to the set, and you can use your imagination to figure out what happened next. Dustin imagined himself as a tough guy surrounded by girls, but that wasn't real, and his daydream was interrupted by getting a script which would again show him as a funny guy.

Mark-Paul got Lark a birthday gift. Lark said she doesn't like to make a big deal out of her birthday. Lark admitted that as a Jehovah's Witness, she's not supposed to celebrate holidays or her birthday. Still, she appreciated the gesture. She said on the show she's learning about things she's not supposed to do, but she wants to. The pair almost kissed before Elizabeth accidentally interrupted them. After Lark ran off, Elizabeth asked if Lark and Mark-Paul were dating and he said he thought so. Mark-Paul said he felt stifled by the network, and he was upset that he couldn't go out with the girl he liked.

Tiffani-Amber showed Mark-Paul an upcoming script, and in this episode, they'd kiss. Mark-Paul pointed out their first kiss together would be in front of the cast, crew and audience. Tiffani said they should practice, and Mark gave her a small kiss. Tiffani said they need to make it look real, and Mark said Tiffani has to kiss him back. They practiced again, and this time it looked real.

The cast took a group photo, and then Tiffani and Mark took photos together. Lark didn't like how flirty Tiffani was being with Mark. Lark nudged Tiffani and said it was an accident, but it was not. Then the two tried to outdo each other and get closer to the camera.

Mario did push ups, and Dustin tried to do the same. He couldn't keep up, and Mark pulled him up. Dustin called Mario a prick, which started a confrontation. Next time you know, everyone's arguing.

Life began to imitate art, and if you wanted to know who was dating in real life, you looked at who was dating on the show.

We found out Dustin's first kiss was Screech's first kiss - with Violet, played by Tori Spelling. (He spoke very highly of Tori, by the way - not sure if that's real or a suck up.) Anyway, his real love life wasn't as successful as Screech's - instead of liking him, girls were into Mark-Paul.

The execs argued about whether the show should be strictly funny or have real life situations that teenagers can relate to. It turns out the network loved it.

Dustin showed an exec's daughter something at the studio, and the daughter called him Screech. When her dad corrected her, Dustin said it was fine. The exec said Dustin looked like he was doing well.

Next up was the script for the episode where Jessie was addicted to pills. The actress playing Elizabeth reenacted the scene. Dustin laughed and said Elizabeth is just playing a girl with a caffeine pill addiction, not heroin. The others congratulated Elizabeth for her great performance. Dustin went outside and kicked a garbage can, where he met up with a guy working on a show as an extra. He offered Dustin a swig of vodka, which he accepted and subsequently spit out. He offered him another sip and this time he didn't spit it out.

Fast forward to 1991 and the third season. The show is highest rated for Saturday morning, is in syndication and was given new scenarios. New love interests were brought in. Per Dustin Diamond, the actors had a lot of free time on their hands because they could play their characters with no effort at all. The actors realized that as the show became more popular, they were trapped in their roles. When Elizabeth Berkley went for an audition, she was laughed at because she was just an actress on a kids' show.

Lark got upset because of the pictures of Tiffani-Amber and Mark-Paul in magazines. Mark insisted that they were just friends. Lark asked what she and Mark are, and he said he didn't know because they never got to hang out. Lark said she and Mark are just as fake as Zack and Kelly and that they're nothing. Then she walked away.

Someone made fun of Dustin, saying he's the only one who's not getting any. Dustin got mad and punched the guy.

Dustin was reading a script and got bad news from Peter Engel. Peter said he'd gotten bad news. Brandon Tartikoff and his daughter Calla were in a car accident. Brandon was being transferred out of the ICU, but Calla had severe injuries. Dustin was clearly upset by this. He took out his energy with drinking and punching bags.

Execs discussed that the show should go longer than four years, which would represent four years of high school. They weren't under contract for as long as it would take, but they said they'd convince the kids.

To do this, the kids were told they'd be going on trips to different places:
Mark-Paul and Tiffani-Amber would go to Paris. (Awesome.)
Lark and Elizabeth were given New York. (Awesome.)
Mario got Miami. (Awesome.)
Dustin got Spartanburg, South Carolina. (Ouch.)

Dustin and his friend Eric the extra, who had introduced him to alcohol, hung out in North Carolina. They drank and the friend convinced him they'd get girls. Unfortunately, Dustin acted like a fool and the local affiliate threatened to drop the show because of it. Dustin asked why nobody else gets in as much trouble as he does. He said everyone's treated as if they're better than him. Dustin was advised that the biggest mistake he can make is thinking he has something to prove. Dustin's dad yelled at him, and Dustin said that for once he was normal - he got wasted and laid. He pointed out that his dad wanted a normal son, and that's what he finally go.

Mark-Paul and Tiffani-Amber were offered wine in Paris, which they tried, but Mark did not like. Tiffani broke the news to Mark that she and Elizabeth decided not to extend their contracts and were leaving the show. Mark understood Elizabeth wanted to do that because she's wanted to do movies, but he didn't understand Tiffani. She said she wanted to grow and do more. Mark asked what Saved By the Bell is without Zack and Kelly. Tiffani said Mark should go show the world who he really is. He asked what if he doesn't know who he really is. Tiffani pointed out that Saved By the Bell won't last forever so he better figure it out.

Elizabeth and Tiffany said goodbye to the cast. As the left, they saw Leanna Creel, the girl that was cast as Tori to replace them. They questioned whether they did the right thing because it felt so bad.

Mark-Paul rolled up to Mario on a motorcycle he bought. He said his mom didn't know about it. Mario pointed out that this went against the no dangerous activities clause in their contract.

Dustin next discussed the craziness of the last season - episodes with Kelly and Jessie versus episodes with Tori, all mixed together. The show, and the cast's lives, were chaotic. We saw a scene of Dustin and his friend smoking weed. His friend filmed it. His friend asked what Peter Engel said about him getting a role as Tori's ex-boyfriend. The friend said he'd need to stay on top of Peter about that.

Following that was a party scene. Mario asked Mark to go to another party in the hills. Mark resisted, saying he'd miss curfew, but they decided to go. Elizabeth was at the party where Mark was initially, and Mark said Elizabeth looked great. Elizabeth said Mark looked relaxed. She also said she was up for a movie role.

Dustin's friend showed Dustin the recording he took of him smoking weed. He said Dustin should have tried to get him better parts. If he didn't start doing that, he'd release the video to the press. Dustin was shocked that the guy was just using him and wasn't really his friend. The guy said he wanted a piece of the dream. (I think we all saw this coming.)

In 1993, the execs talked about the kids acting like hooligans. They discussed that the kids need to grow up and the show would come with them. The kids filmed a graduation scene. Elizabeth and Tiffani showed up. Tiffani admitted she missed being on set with everyone. Someone asked where Dustin was, and Mark-Paul went to find him. When Mark found him, Dustin looked depressed. Mark asked what's going on, and admitted that he knew things weren't always easy for Dustin there. Mark apologized for ever being a jerk and said it was stupid kid stuff. Dustin admitted to Mark that Mark was right about his friend Eric the extra.

The reading was supposed to begin and Dustin and Mark were still talking. Mark told Dustin to tell the network and they'd bury Eric in lawsuits. Mark said that the conversation they were having may have been the longest they've ever had. They then went to do the reading.

We watched the filming of the graduation scene, along with flashbacks of earlier scenes. The execs talked about how the show is over, until one said she had a feeling this was far from over. This was correct - the team came back for The College Years, which lasted one season.

Dustin talked us through what the cast members did after the show ended:
- Lark kept acting (although she had a crazy plastic surgery scandal a few years back).
- Mario did TV, movies and was the host of Extra.
- Elizabeth got her spot in the movie Showgirls, which wasn't great, but she bounced back and appeared on Broadway.
- Tiffani dropped the Amber and got a spot on 90210.
- Mark landed on NYPD Blue.
- Dustin said some part of him will always be Screech, and he's okay with that. (If I recall, he did some comedy and was on a VH1 show, but none of that went great.)

And that is the end of the Saved By the Bell least as this story told it.

My Review of the Movie:

While this may have been an unauthorized Saved By The Bell story, it certainly seemed to be authorized by Dustin Diamond, as it read pretty clearly as a Screech sob story. Actually, I hear that it's based off Dustin's book, so that makes sense. Oddly enough, it still doesn't even remotely come off as endearing for Dustin Diamond. Yeah, you feel somewhat bad for him, but you'd think this would make him look much better if this is based off of his writing!

The actors captured the mannerisms of the characters pretty well. The guy who played Mario Lopez was spot on, assuming Mario Lopez acts just like Slater in real life. Additionally, when the actors reenacted scenes from Saved By the Bell, it looked pretty accurate. It was great that we saw a copy of the "I'm so excited...I'm so scared" pill scene, because that really is one of the great ones.

Was this movie a great work of cinematic genius? Of course not. But it's a Lifetime movie, so we expected it to be a bad movie - that's why we're watching it. This is absolutely a must watch for all Saved by the Bell fans. You'll enjoy what you learn about the characters you loved.

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