In advance of Lifetime’s movie, I read Dustin Diamond’s ‘Behind the Bell’

SBTBstoryLifetimes

We’re less than a week away from Lifetime’s new movie, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. The movie delves into the lives behind the stars of the well-known series, “exposing the challenges of growing up under public scrutiny while trying to maintain the squeaky clean image of their popular characters both on and off-screen.”

Lifetime isn’t the first to reveal the story. Years ago, SBTB‘s own Dustin Diamond (aka “Screech”) reveals the “truth” behind the series in his book. From what I understand, the movie will not be based completely on Diamond’s book, but if you watch the first five minutes of the movie, you’ll soon discover that it is Diamond’s young doppelganger who is the narrator, so I’m sure a good bit will be pulled from it. In advance of the movie, I thought I’d dive into the book for a taste of what’s to come.

behind the bellA long while ago, I bought Diamond’s book for my Kindle for 99 cents. I’m not much of a memoir reader or one to delve into “true Hollywood stories.” But I was a fan of SBTB and I saw Diamond’s stand-up over a decade ago while he was on the college tour (he references his quick time on college campuses briefly near the end of his story), so I figured, What the hell? It’s only a dollar.

Let’s just say, I’m glad I didn’t spend any more than that. A hardcover for $23+ on Amazon? Are you kidding me? Not worth it. That being said, I read the entire thing on my iPhone in two days, so it’s an easy, quick read. So it’s got that going for it. (Update: I see the book is now no longer available new on Amazon. It’s also no longer available on Kindle, but you can get it on your Nook.)

The book promises to share the behind-the-scenes stories of SBTB, and from the bits and pieces that I read over the internet over the years, it hinted at sharing all the dirty details of his costars. While, yes, I suppose Diamond does “out” some ugly behavior — Mark Paul Gosselaar’s public urination and Tiffani Thiessan’s affairs with cast members — what was offered as a salacious tell-all was really a has-been actor’s bitter, self-centered, disgusting tale of…geez, I don’t even know what.

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Minkus meets ‘Girl Meets World’

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I’ve been watching Girl Meets World. This is probably not a surprise to most of you who have been reading this site for a while. I covered Wizards of Waverly Place and Hannah Montana, both on the Disney Channel, so you’ve probably assumed that I’ve continued to watch the network. That’s actually not true. Too many teen “pop stars” and annoying characters to make me continue. Also, I’m in my 30s. It’s a little unacceptable.

But when Girl Meets World was announced, I was curious, since I am a Boy Meets World fan. And as we heard in drips and drabs about which original cast members would be appearing, I was curious to see them reappear. So because of this, I’ve been watching the show…solely for the cameos.

And so far, I’ve only gotten one: a brief appearance by William Daniels as a vision of Mr. Feeny — a vision that I’m still fearful might mean that Mr. Feeny has passed on. I don’t think anything has been specifically said along these lines, so it’s clearly just a theory of mine. But I guess we’ll see as the show progresses. Or perhaps we won’t. This show is for kids, not 30-somethings reliving TGIF nostalgia.

Or is it? The latest episode finally did give me a cameo I’ve been waiting for. While he’s no Shawn or Eric, he is our very own Minkus. “Minkus. Could it be Minkus?” I still hear young Corey’s name when I hear his name.

Whether most people would recognize Lee Norris now as the young Minkus he was, I’m not sure. Well, unless you happen to be a One Tree Hill fan and have been watching Mouth for the last number of years, like me. But there he was, in all his nerdy glory, once again competing with Topanga for top honors, including those honors of their children, Riley and Farkle (that’s right, we officially know now that Farkle is Farkle Minkus).

Of course, as a Boy Meets World fan, I could always ask for more. Overall, the episode was lacking (any episode that centers on Mya seems to be weak, though when she is in the supporting role to Riley’s plot lines, she’s a star). Though I will say that “Career Day” was a smart way to reveal Minkus’ relationship with Farkle and get an update on his career (head of Minkus Industries…whatever that is. Fortunately, it just happens to be located in New York, like the rest of them).

This does mean I’ll be continuing to suffer through the ups and downs of Girl Meets World until I see more of those familiar faces. It’s not a terrible show; Corey, Topanga, and Mya make it tolerable. And I’d wonder if it finds its legs before it runs out of cameos, but given the network it’s on, those who regularly watch (and obsess over) Disney Channel, and its early renewal, Girl Meets World will continue on for quite some time, even after the viewers get reacquainted with the Boy Meets World universe.

Chelsea Kane Talks Lifetime’s New Movie, #PopFan

One of the benefits of summertime is that it gives me the opportunity to catch up on some guilty pleasures. While you all may know my guilty pleasure for bride shows, I do have another that takes up a good portion of my time, particularly on Saturday nights. And that’s TV movies.

Lifetime has a new one premiering on Sunday at 8/7c, a psychological thriller called #PopFan, where a young pop star is rescued by a kind fellow in rural Maine, only to discover that her hero might not be as valiant as he claims.

I was lucky to be part of a conference call with one of the stars of the movie, Chelsea Kane. Chelsea plays Ava, our troubled pop star, who escapes to Maine to clear her mind and reassess some life choices. You might recognize Chelsea from recent roles on One Tree Hill and Jonas L.A., and she currently plays Riley Perrin on the ABC Family series Baby Daddy.

In the call, Chelsea discussed what it was like to be part of a creepy thriller, her time with costar Nolan Funk, and even singing and dancing.

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On working on a psycho thriller. Chelsea had a blast working on the movie, but she admits that it was taxing: “Some of the scenes toward the end of the film…there is a lot of crying. At least for me, I really had to dig deep for some of that stuff. So at the end of certain workdays, I was just emotionally drained after sobbing for hours on end.” But Chelsea admits that it was good challenge for her, and commends the people around her. “Our director Vanessa [Parise] had so many great tricks and so many great methods for pulling a good performance out of me. And Nolan was amazing. He was so good in the movie and so good to me on set,” she said. “I usually am the happy-go-lucky comedy girl, so it was good to take on this role.”

On her character: Chelsea really wanted to make sure that her character was likable (despite some early scenes where Chelsea admits that she was a brat!). “I still wanted her to be a likable girl,” she said. “You want to find some way to root for her at some point. It was finding those moments where this girl has a heart, she’s just a little lost right now, as opposed to being a complete turnoff through the whole film.”

On preparing for the role. Chelsea had a great relationship with the director of the movie, which included, of all things, letter writing! “I wrote her several letters that had my deepest, darkest secrets in them or hard times that I’d had in my life so that she could see where to draw from when she needed me to be scared or hurt or sad…who I would kill for just to get out these different emotions,” she explained. “That was a part of preparation that I had never done before… To dig into the harder times in life and relive those and open up to Vanessa about them, that was definitely a challenge. It was a different way of getting the results. I’m glad I did it, but there were a couple days on set where she’d ask me a question about something personal and I’d fall apart.” Continue reading

Falling Skies: The Development of Matt Mason

Matt Mason

Matt Mason, played by the great Maxim Knight, has always been one of my favorite characters in Falling Skies. He’s always had a unique role to play. Not just a survivor, but the youngest survivor. He wasn’t a warrior. He wasn’t the strongest. He didn’t have the experience to make him a leader. He was just a kid, thrust into an apocalyptic war zone.

And over the last four years, he’s grown from that little kid we saw as a ray of light, scooting along on a skateboard in the series premiere. Matt’s learned the darkness of the world. There have been times that we’ve seen him angry, bitter, and ready to take out vengeance on the world that has only handed him ugliness.

We saw such a side last night, as he tracked the captors of his father. He already lost his mother he said, and maybe his brothers, too. He wasn’t going to let them take his father. They deserved to die. In the end, though, his Mason qualities came out. He couldn’t pull the trigger, and eventually naively asked his father, “Why did that man kill his brother?”

Matt is, at the most, 12 years old. It’s an ugly situation. And watching how the world has transformed this bright-eyed child has just been so enthralling to me. But I must admit: I want them to do more.

I’ve already lamented that this season isn’t really doing it for me. I liked the idea that the group was separated, but I wasn’t completely sold on all the storylines. And now that they’re all converging into Ben and Lexi’s camp, even the different dynamics of putting random people together isn’t going to last much longer. When it was happening, I was most intrigued to see what Matt, cut off from the group by the electric fence, would do on his own. Fast forward a few months, and we find him in a lone rebel in an education camp.

24051_006_0104_R_6178_That could have worked. If we had actually seen Matt embrace the re-education, instead of defy it. When Tom came to rescue him, it would have been entirely enthralled. Would Tom take him? Or would he leave him, whistling that his father was there, like the other children in the camp.

But I would have preferred to see something else. I would have like to have seen a darker, more ominous, more Pope-like side of Matt Mason.

Imagine this: Matt Mason grew up from the age of 8 in a dark, ugly world, where the main thing you paid attention to was how to survive. And Matt has survived. Not only has he survived, but he’s seen his mother die and his brother as an alien-harnessed captive. He’s had families taken hostage. He’s been shot at. He’s seen kids die, let alone adults. Along the way, he’s learned to shoot a gun and become part of a rebellion.

What if after he had been cut off, he learned to truly survive. He lost his Mason self and looked only to what you need to do as a human to live. I would have been so intrigued if we still ran into those brothers that took Tom captive, but without Matt along for the ride. Instead, Matt saved Tom, discovering them on his own. Perhaps Matt has his own group of survivors following him now, and he’s the leader. But a dark leader. And as Tom breathes a sigh of relief to see his young son again, Matt gives the order — or pulls the trigger himself — to kill both brothers, no questions asked. Now, all Tom’s left with is a cold-hearted killer in his young son, not sure what to do to bring the boy he loved so much back.

It’d be a hard pill to swallow. But it’s something that I could see Maxim Knight doing with the character, and I think the writers behind Falling Skies need to stretch the limits here, especially now that they only have a mere ten episodes after this season to create a powerful ending to the series. Changing Matt in such a dramatic way would turn the show in such a different direction. Sure, it’d be up in the air as to whether we’d see that sweet little Matt ever again. But consider the world they’re living in. It’s not that much of a surprise that someone would turn this way.

In fact, it’s almost more surprising that someone wouldn’t.

*images courtesy of TNT

Early Thoughts on ‘The Lottery’

Lifetime’s new series The Lottery premieres tonight at 10/9c. For some reason, weird futuristic scenarios have always been interesting to me. Here we’re a mere eleven years into the future, only to discover that no one has had children in the past six years. It’s a full-on fertility crisis, and only one person so far has found answer: One scientist has fertilized 100 embryos. And now the government needs to decide what to do with them.

It’s an interesting premise. And in watching the screener, I enjoyed it. They’ve done a commendable job making interesting characters within the first episode. Pilots can easily be weak episodes for series, in balancing introducing the plot, back story, and characters all at once. The Lottery seems to have done a good job at it.

That being said, I don’t know how a series like this could be sustainable. There is a fight for the eggs, certainly. And a bit of a mystery as to whether certain people have good intentions when they want them. So I am interested in hearing more.

And while I like the characters (in particular, and adorable little six-year-old boy), I just don’t see how this show can remain a series. A mini-series, sure. But a multi-seasoned television show? I just don’t know.

I mean, think about it. Once the embryos are divvied up, what’s next? We watch them until they’re born? We make more embryos? Or will we play the game of taking a very very long time divvying them up, or maybe they get stolen? Or maybe there’s a risk that they may not survive before they’re divvied?

Should I say divvied once more?

Basically, that’s the key here. How do you make a series like this last? I suppose the fertility situation could get progressively better or worse, but if we’re looking at 100 embryos — once you’ve got those settled, what more can you do? It’s a finite number that can’t last too long.

So I suppose I have to watch a little more to see where it’s headed. I am curious. It’s not the kind of show I’d expect to see on Lifetime. But I’m not sure what hope I have for the series. If I had to pick, this is one of those shows I would have put a defined number of episodes for, instead of an open-ended series.

I haven’t given up on ‘Falling Skies’…yet.

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At the end of last season of Falling Skies, I had no idea where it was headed. We had an odd season with two different groups of aliens, only to end with a war between aliens and the humans walking away to their inevitable deaths. Given that this is a TV series, “inevitable” could really mean anything, but ultimately, it was ominous.

Fast forward, and we have this season. At first, I was absolutely thrilled with the direction. Seeing the group torn apart by the electric fences was startling and dramatic. It really set a great tone for a new series. Then, we see that months in the future, everyone’s in separate groups. Ben, Lexi, and Mags are in one (peaceful) camp. Hal, Weaver, Tom, and Pope are in a ghetto camp. Anne and soldiers are on the road. And Matt’s by himself at what we discover to be an education camp for children.

Interesting, right? Until…things become nonsensical and you discover that everyone’s basically back to their old tricks. Ok, perhaps that’s too black and white. Let me get more specific.

I’m really frustrated. Separating everyone and having them work with people they don’t generally share scenes with really shakes up the cast for a new seasons. I liked the idea.  But the individual situations are falling flat for me.

We’ll start with Anne. Her story is the one most like what came before, out on the road fighting monsters while on their way somewhere. This story is fine (though who knows where it goes from here, now that they found Lexi’s camp). In fact, what I like about it is that Anthony (Mpho Koaho) is getting his moment to shine. But Anne is too one-dimensional in her pursuit to find Lexi. I find shows that lean on the “I must find my baby” — and do nothing else — as lacking dimension and power. Yes, she’s pushing her troops really hard. And that’s about it. It just needs something more.

Then there’s Matt. Matt’s development in the series has always been something that I’ve enjoyed watching. So seeing that he was stuck all alone on one side of the electric fence was really interesting. However, I would have really enjoyed seeing how he survived instead of jumping right into this education camp. And while I am mildly invested in seeing how he brings down the camp from the inside, his supporting characters are really bugging me. For one thing, when an entire room is sitting like statues staring ahead, seeing the girl beside Matt rolling her eyes and turning her head to look at him is obvious. It could just be done better.

That bring us to Lexi and her camp, which, sigh, is another I care little about. I’m not much of a Ben fan; he’s fine. He’s a good enough character. I just don’t tend to want to spend a lot of time with him. And he and Mags just don’t have the chemistry that she and Hal have. And Lourdes in her worshippy state (odd, since she was such a devout Christian before) is annoying as all hell (pardon my language). Lexi isn’t all that much of a mystery to me — at least not one that I care about. Perhaps it’s because we don’t really know her yet, but I don’t care much about her magical powers or Anne’s alien pregnancy. And they haven’t given me much to like about her.

So while all that is bugging me, I’m pushing through it. And it must go somewhere. So I’m watching to see where it goes.

But then there’s the ghetto camp. Or the group that used to be the ghetto camp. What’s the problem here? This is the same thing we’ve been watching season after season after season. We’re seeing the same righteous, know-it-all Tom. We’re seeing the same Pope. We’re barely even seeing Hal. It’s almost like taking all the supporting faces from around these people we’re forced to focus on the same things we’ve been watching episode after episode after episode.

I just want Tom to shut up for a while. I wanted to see people stand up to him instead of blindly following him and another one of his plans. For example, these people, who have been running from aliens and death for years, have finally found somewhere where they can stay in one place, be provided for, and live. Yes, it’s in terrible means. But for people who have been living for survival for so long, wouldn’t they just want to do that finally? Especially the old couple in the last episode. They wouldn’t be the adults that get harnessed; why not live their final years in as close to peace as they can?

I would have loved to see Tom offer the plan and everyone just say no. Go against him. And just go from there. Now that would have been interesting. But instead, we’re outside the fence, back where we started. It’s just frustrating. There’s no development and these characters are just stalled.

In addition, it just makes no sense. Why did I spend a season watching two alien factions fight it out with human alliances if one of the species was going to leave Earth within months of their “win”? Do we really care about adult harnesses? Or education camps? Or Lexi’s powers? There’s a lot going on, and I think the writers are so desperately trying to keep mystery building instead of filling in holes so storylines make sense. It’s frustrating and without having faith in the characters to take me there, there’s not much keeping me going.

That being said, it’s Falling Skies. I’ve stuck with this series for three years so far. I care about this bunch. So I want to know what happens. So I’ll keep watching…for now. But don’t let me down Falling Skies. Or I’m siding with the Espheni.

*image courtesy of TNT

Pop pop! Yahoo renews ‘Community’ for sixth season

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In the news you never thought you’d hear, Community has been renewed for season 6 by not Hulu, not Netflix, but of all places, Yahoo. Yahoo Screen has ordered a 13-episode season, allowing the series to live out half of its #sixseasonsandamovie prophecy. The other half, I suppose, we’ll have to wait and see.

The decision come in at the eleventh hour, as options on the cast were set to expire today. To be honest, I figured the show was long gone a while ago (probably with the cancelation news). The show has had its share of ups and downs, and while I always hope that shows will be picked up by another network or online streaming place, I don’t get too excited about it. Sure, it worked for Southland and Cougar Town, but there are a whole lot of other series that just fade into oblivion.

But clearly not Community. I’m not sure what to expect with the new season (with the exception of more cursing; according to Joel McHale, they can swear now). Sadly, it looks like Donald Glover and Jonathan Banks will not be available for the sixth season. But we still get the rest of our crazy ragtag team, so I’m not complaining. Dan Harmon is back at the helm.

No word yet (that I’ve seen) about when the 13 episodes will be aired (posted?) or whether Yahoo Screen will take the binge or episodic approach (I’m hoping the former). A lot is left to be seen.

But hey, welcome back, Greendale. It’s good to see those Human Beings back again.

(Now, if they would only work on Enlisted next. Suddenly, I have hope…)