Was the Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story everything we could have hoped for from a Lifetime movie? Yes, but…
Monday night featured the premiere of Lifetime’s adaptation of Dustin Diamond’s Behind the Bell entitled The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. If fans were expecting a scathing tell-all or sex scandal after sex scandal…sorry. Instead, what we got was a two-hour dream sequence that had several glaring errors and horrendous wigs. It. Was. GLORIOUS.
The movie was a re-telling of the SBTB story from the point-of-view of Diamond, who saw himself as the redheaded stepchild of the Bayside family. After being relegated to second (and sometimes third) banana to Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Mario Lopez, Diamond struggled to find his opportunities to shine. The women of the cast didn’t help either, as they did not play much of a role in the main narrative. Yes, Lark Voorhies struggled with her Jehovah’s Witness upbringing and her relationship with Gosselaar, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen could not shake her beauty queen past, and Elizabeth Berkley wanted to be a legitimate actress, but all of those storylines felt like afterthoughts. As did the entire movie.
First, the casting was bonkers. Dylan Everett looked more liked Ricky Schroder (or, if we’re being honest, Bill Pullman from Ruthless People). The woman playing Hayley Mills seemed to be cast because she has a British accent—which is where the similarities ended. The man playing Brandon Tartikoff (I would name-check the actor, except he isn’t listed on the cast page(!) ) looked nothing like the NBC Executive, despite being Diamond’s only supporter (allegedly).
Then there were the sets. The hallways looked nothing like Bayside. The lockers were the wrong color, the stairs were in the wrong spot, Belding didn’t have an office. But the most egregious error1 was the design for the Max. The color scheme was wrong, the restaurant had no windows, the doors were office doors with knobs. It was maddening.
Then there were just basic errors in the story timeline. The cold open of the movie had the cast driving up to some mall in Cincinnati for a promo appearance. Elizabeth (Tiera Skovbye) fretted about people not being there and going through the agony of being cancelled again. I’m not sure what she means by “again” since she was not around for the first cancellation. Also, her character Jessie Spano appeared on the call sheet following casting, despite the fact that her character did not exist as we learned in a conversation that took place five minutes later. Fast-forward to the finale where graduation was filmed. According to the episode production codes, “Graduation” wasn’t even the last episode Berkley and Theissen filmed, so the idea of them coming back for one last hurrah did not happen.
But we don’t watch movies like The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story for accuracy. We watch to see how ridiculous and sensationalized an otherwise banal story can become. From what I can tell, the cast got along just fine, it was a good run while it lasted, and Dustin Diamond is bitter because he wasn’t able to move on to bigger and better projects after the show. That last point is kind of sad, but at least in renewed the appreciation we had for an okay-but-not great sitcom.
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- Or Jackie Jornp-Jomp edits, as there were probably legal/copyright reasons for the changes ↵