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


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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Wine and Dine, Mad Men Style (Just in Time for the Premiere)

Mad Men returns this Sunday, and many of you are probably chomping at the bit to find out what happens next to Don and his crew. And for some of you, maybe you’re thinking you should celebrate ’60s-style with your very own theme party.

If that’s you (or you just like a stiff drink), consider looking at The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, which not only introduces you to food and drink of the series, but also the entire era that the characters of Mad Men live in. Between the pages of recipes (taken from Manhattan haunts and popular publications of the decade), you have an introduction to culture of the 1960s, including where some of these recipes got their start, why “California Dip” was so popular back in the day, and even special ways you can be a 1960s “hostess with the mostest.” This is all, of course, interwoven with some of our favorite Mad Men moments (I still enjoy thinking back to Pete’s explanation of a chip and dip — and yes, that reference is certainly there).

The book has been out for a while now, but I just received my review copy either during the last season or shortly thereafter, I didn’t have the opportunity to party it up Mad Men style. But between then an now, I’ve been able to try some of the recipes, and I’ve been pleased. Sure, you have to remember that recipes from 50 years ago aren’t going to be the healthy plate we have today. Not only do many of the dishes include hefty amounts of things like butter, cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream, but they also include one other thing precious to us in dear 2013: time. To make some of these meals, you’re definitely going to have to have Trudy Campbell’s dedication.

But the cocktails are definitely not to be missed — and they just may be the reason to pick up the book. The ’21’ Traditional Bloody Mary is probably the best Bloody Mary I’ve had, and I won’t lie when I say that last summer that might have been a go-to drink for my husband and me. The book has many more (and in some cases, multiple versions for you to try out), perfect for any themed cocktail party.

Yes, since the book was published in 2011, the recent episodes of Mad Men aren’t accounted for in its pages, and yes, some of the black-and-white pictures are lacking in grabbing your attention (or appetite). But some of the 1960s-esque full-color images make you stop and really think that the Avocado and Crabmeat Mimosa must be on my table, and sure, I can make that Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (so far, for desserts, I’ve only tried the Pears Baked in Red Wine alla Piemontese). And the neat images of old advertisements are certainly in Mad Men style.

Overall, it’s a fun little book, and if you’re a Mad Men fan, it’s a good one to pick up. You don’t even have to cook to appreciate it since it’s chock full of historical (and episodic) anecdotes. But if you do, more power to you. Betty would be proud.

The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men
Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin
Publisher: Smart Pop
Available Now

A Look at “Fringe Science”

We’re more than halfway through the final season of Fringe, and with all the recent references to cases from the first few seasons and a few weeks off, I thought I’d spend a little time with a book I recently received for review: Fringe Science: Parallel Universes, White Tulips, and Mad Scientists, edited by Kevin R. Grazier.

The book came out about a year ago, and it is a collection of essays and papers that discuss, well, the science behind Fringe. As someone who has happily devoured Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy and even has dipped her toes into The Physics of the Buffyverse and Inside Joss’ Dollhouse, I thought it would be fun to see what these various contributors have to say about Fringe and its various uses (and disuses) of science.

For a Fringe fan, it’s a fun flashback. The book only goes through the first three seasons, so the answer to the question, “Where is Peter Bishop?” and anything discovered in seasons four and five of the show aren’t known, but despite that, it was fun to read and follow. As with any collection of essays, some are better than others. While I did read it cover to cover, feel free to skip around to the subjects that interest you most. As a TV fan, I love to feel like I’m part of a special club — the insiders of the series — so the essays that really delved into the specifics of characters and episodes grabbed me the most. There were a couple that did delve a little too much into the science or even literature that I wasn’t familiar with, and those I’d probably skip in another reading, but for those that had a solid foot in the Fringe door, it was a lot of fun.

The book drew me in with its first essay by David Dylan Thomas, “Paranormal Is the New Normal,” so much so that I stayed up way past my bedtime to read it. I also particularly liked Stephen Cass’ discussion of space-time and time travel in “Of White Tulips and Wormholes”; of course, I’ve always been one to dwell on the intracacies of time travel (which makes my current theory about Peter a rough one to prove). Also worth reading are Brendan Allison’s “The Fringes of Neurotechnology” (a bit technical in the science, but fascinating with a great link between the show and science) and Amy Berner’s “Moo” (who wouldn’t love an essay devoted to one of the show’s must underappreciated characters, Gene the cow; it was a fun break from some of the high-level science).

Of course, if you’re not interested in science, this one may not be for you, as it really is the focus of the book. But if you like thinking through what’s real and not real in today’s reality — and what could be true or false in Fringe science — it’s a good read. In the time before the show returns (or when you’re desperately needing more after the series ends), it’s a good one to pick up.

Fringe Science: Parallel Universes, White Tulips, and Mad Scientists
Editor: Kevin R. Grazier
Publisher: Smart Pop
Available now.

A Look at Game of Thrones, ‘Beyond the Wall’

We don’t do book reviews too often here at Raked. TV’s mostly our game; sometimes, though, the written word and the small screen intersect: See, for example, Beyond The Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. This book is a collection of essays by various folks (like, for example the great and insightful culture blogger Alyssa Rosenberg and Ice and Fire fansite runners Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson), all focused on the world presented in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. As a great fan of both the book series and the excellent HBO adaptation, I was very excited to receive a review copy of this in the mail. I felt that I had to take a look at this book because I’m always looking for new ways to think about and interpret one of my favorite fictional series, especially now that we have about a year until season three of the show back on TV (and who knows how long until the sixth book is ready).

Perhaps my favorite essay was Gary Westfahl’s “Back to the Egg: The Prequels to A Song of Ice and Fire.” After recently reading two of the graphic novel adaptations of Martin’s Dunk & Egg prequel stories, I couldn’t help but think about how these characters fit into the overall mythology of Westeros, and how their stories felt tonally different yet thematically similar to the main series. Westfahl connects the prequel stories to literary critic Northrup Frye’s “theory of myths,” an idea which proposes that literature falls into four typical plots or “mythoi” corresponding to the four seasons. Each “season” flows into the other: The comedy (in a classical sense) of Spring flows into the romance of Summer, which then can flow into the tragedy of Autumn, which finally leads to the experience and satire of Winter, which at last flows back into the Spring of comedy. Westfahl argues that the events from the Song of Ice and Fire novels resemble the “mythos” of Summer, in which stories trend from innocence on the one end towards tragedy on the other end. This seems to fit with the structure of the novels, as things start out well enough but progress quickly to dark places and point (at least, we can assume) toward an overall bittersweet ending of an age at the end of the series. He suggests that the Dunk & Egg stories, which seem a bit lighter than the original novels, are rooted in the Spring season that characterizes the mythos of comedy and innocence. It’s an interesting theory, and one I’m not certain I’m doing justice to because it’s a little complicated in the retelling (although Westfahl explains it well in his essay). Regardless, approaching the world of Ice and Fire from this seasonal myth angle can provide a reader, or a dedicated show watcher, with some interesting thoughts and ideas on where the series might be headed.

On a similar note, I also really enjoyed Garcia and Antonsson’s “The Palace of Love, the Palace of Sorrow: Romanticism in A Song of Ice and Fire.”  By romanticism, Garcia and Antonsson mean “an emphasis on emotionality and the individual, a gaze aimed firmly at the past, and a belief in the indomitable human spirit.” I’m glad the essay addresses the idea of romanticism, with its focus on the past, because it touches on something that I think the books and the HBO series do very well. Both present a strong sense of a romanticized, almost mythic recent past, told through the different experiences of people who lived it. Neither the books nor the series rely on flashbacks to show us what happened; flashbacks are too modern, too specific and clinical to allow a sense of romanticism to grow. Instead, stories of the past are simply told by the people who lived them, almost certainly colored by their own biases, and embellished or downplayed by the fog of time as the years have rolled on, and then further mythologized by the reader or viewer’s own mind as he or she interprets the words being read or spoken. In this way, the saga of Rhaegar and Lyanna, or the wrath of King Aerys, come to life in a more dynamic way than if the events were simply shown, and continue to influence the present because of the oversized mythology they’ve acquired from so many retellings.

I also really enjoyed Myke Cole’s essay, “Art Imitates War,” which looks at a number of characters from the series and how they deal with very realistic symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Alyssa Rosenberg’s thoughts on the consequences of rape and how sexual violence echoes across time and space in the world of Westeros in her essay, “Men and Monsters: Rape, Myth-Making, and the Rise and Fall of Nations in A Song of Ice and Fire.”

Overall, Beyond the Wall is a very interesting collection of thoughtful essays that can provide both new and old fans of the book series and TV show with several different ways of looking at and thinking about the world of Westeros. It’s a great way to pass the time until the next season premieres, though since that’s not until next April, you might need to read it twice.

Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, From A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons
Editor: James Lowder
Publisher: Smart Pop
Publication: June 26, 2012

Moment of the Week: The Buffy Musical Gets Remixed (well, kinda)

Remember a few months ago when Amber Benson tweet-chatted me about Cat’s Claw? Well, she continues to be awesome, and she shared on her blog that if 200 people read and reviewed her book on Amazon, she’d offer up a spoof of her famous solo from the Buffy musical, “Under Your Spell.”

Well, guess what? 200 of you were asked and answered, and now, Amber has to pay up.

And so she did. This week’s moment is devoted to Amber’s remix (and slightly terrifying but also catchy) new version of “Under Your Spell.” Check out her post with her new version on her blog or just click her lovely picture below.

Don’t know the song. Well, first, check out the Buffy musical. Don’t have a full hour? Well, here’s the song (with much lower quality) on YouTube.

*image from Yahoo! TV

Thursday Open Thread: Creative License and Book Adaptations

First, it was movies. Now, TV. The trend to make live media entertainment based on something already written — a book, you could call it — is certainly the thing to do. I’ve mentioned this trend before, both is positive and negative ways. And honestly, there are some good stories out there in books. I’m a book fan. I enjoyed reading Vampire Diaries and while it was a movie, not a TV series, I’m a huge fan of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Don’t judge me on the book choices. Don’t worry; I have others that I like that I’m just not mentioning.

The only problem with books that turn into things like TV series is that the series already has a set fan base. Sure, you have a lot of people already ready and willing to watch the show, but what if it’s not exactly like it? One of my best friends refused to watch Vampire Diaries because Elena didn’t have blonde hair. That’s some high standards.

So how much creative license do writers have on shows that are based on books? Should they be exactly the same, or can they make it different?

Obviously, there has to be some differences. After all, with something like The Vampire Diaries, the book series ends. The show may go on longer than that story line provides. But what about that first season and the setup of characters right at the start. Does that have to be the same?

I’m sure JC will jump in about Game of Thrones, as he’s read them all, so I’ll focus on an example that looks incredibly different: The Secret Circle. Of course, when I first heard there would be a series based on the book, I knew there would be some changes. For example, a TV show can’t handle a coven of 12, so I was sure that a bunch of the characters would merge together into one. But I certainly didn’t think it would merge into a mere six.

Are the characters the same? Well, Nick certainly is different based on the six-minute preview. I wonder if he still kisses like an iguana. What bothers me a bit is the fact that this changes his personality; I don’t like that. Now, appearances? Sure, it bothers me that Diana isn’t a blonde (she stands as the polar opposite of dark-haired Faye, so it’s a symbolic thing), and Adam isn’t nearly what I thought he would look like, but I can get past that. It’s the personality differences that will get to me.

What about setup? Well, Cassie’s mother dies (which in itself feels too much like Vampire Diaries setup than the unique setup the book has), and clearly the villain is very different from the book. In fact, the entire setup is different — completely different. Ok, so maybe that’s getting to me a bit. I really wanted to see the series I read on TV; if you’re going to make all these changes, why not just do your own witch series? Where’s the connection to the book.

The writers lean on this and call the show a “companion piece.” I consider this a copout. I guess to answer my question, I don’t need the show to be exactly the same (certainly not in appearances), but I need more than the names to be the same with a somewhat similar theme (witches, vampires, whatever). I’ll still check out Secret Circle, true, but my excitement is a bit muted now.

So that was a long schpeel. What do you think?

Tweet-sclusive! Five Questions with Amber Benson

Twitter is a wonderful, wonderful thing. It puts us up close and personal with our favorite stars without making them uncomfortable by literally being up close and personal. I follow a good handful of my favorite TV people, one of which being the delightful Amber Benson.

Amber, most known for her role as Tara in Buffy, has since had a very active life — on and off the screen. I was lucky enough to meet her a couple years ago when her first book in the Calliope Reaper-Jones series came out. Well, she’s on to her third book in the series, Serpent’s Storm, which was just published last month. I thought I’d reach out and ask her a few things about her new role as an author — including whether we’d see Calliope herself on screen some day — in Raked’s first Tweet-sclusive.

So check it out below. Five questions tweeted her way with her five answers. I was nice and didn’t demand her answers be under 140 characters, but she did a pretty darn good job of keeping them short and sweet nonetheless.


Congrats on Serpent’s Storm! As the third book in the series, what about Calliope’s world makes you keep writing about it?

I just love writing a series where anything is possible — and where all religions and philosophies coexist together.  That’s what fun about writing in Callie’s world, everyone — kind of — gets along.

Out of the 3 in the series which was the hardest (or easiest) to write? Was there added pressure, seeing it as a series?

The third book, Serpent’s Storm, was probably the hardest book to write — there was a lot of tying up of plot ends in this story.  The second book, Cat’s Claw, was easiest.  It just wrote itself — I think it was all the time jumping — I credit that with making the book so fun to write.  Of course there was added pressure doing this story as a series — it still frightens me, especially because I’m doing book 4 now!

Your work crosses all media — movies, TV, bks. Think we’ll see Calliope on screen some day? Who could you see playing her?

I would love to see Death’s Daughter as a TV show — I always think of Zooey Deschanel when I think of Callie.

What else do you have going on? What other projects or appearances should fans keep an eye out for on the horizon?

Well, DRONES, the film I did with Adam Busch, is come out on DVD in the next few months – it’s On DEMAND now — and the paperback edition of AMONG THE GHOSTS, my middle grade book, comes out in September.

Finally, (since this is a Twitter-sclusive, after all), how’s it feel to be so close to your fans on Twitter?

I love being able to find out peeps thoughts in real time — I wish all these social media outlets had been around when we were doing BUFFY!


Don’t forget to check out Amber’s book Serpent’s Storm, out now. And, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to check her out on Twitter: @amber_benson. And many thanks to Amber for being our first Tweet-sclusive!

*images from Yahoo! TV and, well, Amber’s Twitter feed