Culture, Nostalgia, Reviews

Review: The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story

Review: The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story

The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story (which I’d been eagerly anticipating for about a month) premiered last night on the Lifetime Network. I think pretty much any kid who grew up in the 90s knows about this show and has seen at least some of the episodes. The idea of an unauthorized, behind-the-scenes tell-all of one of the shows that defines the latter part of Gen X and the Older Millennials was just too tantalizing to pass up.

I want to say that this movie was awesome, or at least that it was awesomely bad, but I can’t. It was awful.

The casting was awful. When I first saw the cast for the movie, I was shocked at how little they resembled the actual cast of SBTB. It would be unreasonable to expect them to be clones, but these kids look like the stunt doubles offa Spaceballs.


I wouldn’t have known that this was supposed to be the cast of SBTB if Lifetime hadn’t told me this was supposed the cast of SBTB. I’m guessing the casting director must have been Mr. Magoo, because if you squint really hard you can see a faint resemblance to the real-life cast.

The acting was about what one would expect from a Lifetime movie. The only two characters who weren’t terribly miscast were Fake Mario/Slater and Fake Dustin/Screech. Everyone else was terrible. These actors were overacting, underacting, side-ways acting…basically doing everything but acting.

The sets that were supposed to be sets from the show didn’t look right. Whoever was responsible for recreating the sets didn’t do their homework at all.

The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell story was based on Dustin Diamond’s  (Screech Powers) tell-all book Behind the Bell, and Diamond served as Executive producer for the movie, also. The story is told from a teen-aged Dustin’s perspective.

It should have been called Perpetually the Victim: The Dustin Diamond Story , because we get relatively little of the other cast members and it’s obvious that what we do see is filtered through Dustin’s myopic vision.

The tell-all aspect of the story is about what one would expect. There was lots of high-school like drama. Hormones, dating, breakups, rivalries, cliques. There really wasn’t a whole lot to see and the movie gave us nothing particularly revealing. What little was put out there was shallow. We learn that Lark Voorhies (Lisa Turtle) and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack Morris) were an item, sort of, though we’re not given much insight into the relationship. Apparently, Mario Lopez was as much of a player off screen as his character A.C. Slater. Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (Kelly Kapowski) and Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie Spano)  struggled to be taken seriously in their careers.

There were also several aspects of the story that feel way contrived. Jennie Garth (of 90210 fame) was allegedly considered to play Kelly. Dustin allegedly had a close-ish friendship with Brandon Tartikoff (a top NBC executive who was responsible for getting SBTB and many other notable shows on the air) and walked in to the office when he was discussing whether or not they wanted to shoot Seinfeld. Dustin’s on-screen kiss with Tori Spelling was allegedly his first kiss, and she shot him down cold when he tried to put the moves on her off screen. Dustin got in a fist-fight and punched a dude out for making fun of him in public. All of these scenarios seem way too good to be true in my opinion.

The most unbelievable part of the story, which incidentally was a major plot point, came in the form of the mysterious Eric the Extra who was allegedly responsible for leading Dustin down a path of substance abuse that almost got him fired. Then, if that weren’t enough, it was all a ploy by Eric to get a bigger part on the show. Ok…

The Eric the Extra story line gets mad side eye from me

The Eric the Extra story line is just like everything else in this movie that involves Dustin…he’s the perpetual victim. Nothing is his fault. He takes zero responsibility for his actions. Everyone else was to blame. Everyone was mean to him. It was peer pressure. The Devil made him do it.

I’m not sure if the goal of the movie was supposed to make Dustin more likable, but it failed miserably. What I see is someone who feels like a perpetual victim but is incapable of seeing how they are, at least in part, the author of their own misfortune.

The two winners in this movie that was a big bucket of #FAIL were the Zack Phone and the soundtrack.

The Zack Phone

The Zack phone had a cameo appearance. It was EVERYTHANG. It was basically the only solid done for long-time fans.

The soundtrack had me jammin’, and it made up for a few places where the plot was lacking. I wish that they had been able to secure the rights to more songs from that era. My favorite was ‘Poison’ by Bel Biv Devoe.

I give The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story 1.5 out of 5 stars. The overall message of this movie is that someone needs to go give Dustin Diamond a big hug.

Have you seen it? What did you think?


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