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.
A 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.
Diamond’s discussions of his coauthors came across as someone still upset that he was teased in middle school. He often referred to Gosselaar as the “Golden Child,” upset that everyone wanted to befriend him; he admits that he felt it would be an ensemble show and was upset to discover that the show had a “star” (clearly one that wasn’t him). He repeatedly mentions that while he got the most fan mail, Gosselaar got special treatment — and so did Thiessen, who he just blatantly calls names. His main complaint with Elizabeth Berkley, aka Jesse, was that she was mean to him when he tried to correct her on the lyrics for “Can’t Touch This.” And what was wrong with Mario Lopez? Well, he liked the attention and had muscles (you’ll be able to see this version of Lopez pretty easily in the teasers for the movie, given that he starts doing a series of push-ups, and “Berkley” tells him he’s sweaty).
It’s hard to feel all to bad for Diamond, though, even if the cast did supposedly tease him. Between these tales and for many many pages afterward, we hear story after story about his own transgressions, including things like peeing in an extra’s purse because she gave him attitude.
But that’s not even the start of it. That was basically one chapter. What followed was chapter after chapter discussing Diamond’s own sexcapades everywhere from Disneyland to the prop room to the beds on the set itself. He claims to have had sex with 2000 women, some of which were in their 30s while he was a mere teenager, and even admitted to having multiple partners at once. And even when not discussing his specific sex acts, he’s making references to his…package…at least a handful of times per chapter. In the end, you hardly feel that Thiessen is at fault for possibly sleeping with her costars when he is sleeping with every extra and audience member (not including Disneyland visitor) he comes across.
In the end, I’m not sure what this book was supposed to accomplish. I ended up feeling disgusted by Diamond in the end, thinking him a big jerk (among other names). For someone so self-centered and self-justified, he certainly paints an ugly picture of himself.
There were some interesting parts of the book. Sure, I enjoyed reading some of the ins and outs of how the show was shot and how decisions were made. It was poorly written, though, and I did find the organization problematic. I would have preferred something a little more chronological, instead of based on however Diamond (or his ghostwriter, I presume) wanted to write it. When you’re reading about his having sex in [fill in the blank] and don’t know how old he is, it’s rather scary, particularly when you realize his entire ten years on SBTB (all iterations) was when he was 21. Ew.
Would I recommend it? No, I really wouldn’t. Unless you really want to be disgusted about Hollywood culture. But then again, I don’t tend to read these kinds of stories, so perhaps I went in with high expectations.
What will Lifetime do with these tales? Well, that I’m not sure. I do intend to watch, only because I do have such a sense of nostalgia for SBTB, and I have to see what the writers come up with. I can only hope they really do make it much more about the entire cast, not just Diamond, after this book. After all, this isn’t The Unofficial Dustin Diamond Story — and I’d rather not have to take a shower after watching the movie.
The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story premieres on Monday, September 1, at 9 pm ET/PT on Lifetime.
*movie images by Sergei Backlakov, courtesy of Lifetime