Some Early Thoughts on Lifetime’s ‘The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story’

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Full disclosure: I have not seen a screener of The Unauthorzed Saved by the Bell Story, which premieres tonight on Lifetime (9 ET/PT). I have, however, seen many clips and promos, most — if not all — of which are on the movie’s website. This includes the first five minutes and a clip where the gang is taking promo pictures and bickering in a very juvenile way. This is all to say that I know probably just about as much as anyone else about this movie (which I do plan to watch tonight), but I thought I’d pass on some early reactions nonetheless.

I was a Saved by the Bell fan. I never really cared all that much about what happened behind the scenes. Sure, you could guess that there were drugs, alcohol, parties, and sex, and while I’d love to convince myself that child actors are different, well, that’d just be naive. (It’s actually, rather sad, but we won’t go into that. I’m sure Bieber and Lohan fans all over the world have written enough about that.) But anyway, if you’re going to hand me the story in a neat little Lifetime package, I’m going to take advantage of it. That being said, I think it’s going to be a horrible train wreck… in the best possible way.

Let’s start with the casting. If you watched the first five minutes, you’ve already discovered that our SBTB narrator, Zack Morriss, is not the narrator of this particular tale. While this movie swings the spotlight in another direction, I must admit that I find the actor who plays Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Dylan Everett, a terrible pick. I can’t speak to his acting chops (like I said, I’ve only seen a few clips), but for such an iconic character, he just doesn’t look like him and the voice doesn’t match. He’s too short. His face is too wide. Beyond the blonde hair, brown eyebrows (which SBTB costar Dustin Diamond relentlessly mocks in his book, of all things), and comically large cellphone, you wouldn’t really know it was supposed to be Gosselaar at all. That’s not to say Everett isn’t going to do a good job, but he’s certainly going to have to convince us more than the others. It’ll be a tough hurtle.

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On the other side of the spectrum is Taylor Russell McKenzie, who plays Lark Voorhies. Because I read Diamond’s book, I know that Voorhies was a rather quiet one on the set (he called her boring, but given the tone of the entire disaster of a book, I’m a wee bit skeptical). So between her look and her demeanor, she might just be a good choice. All that being said, it will be interesting to see what she does with the role — and what Lifetime does with the part. We don’t want any boring characters, even inadvertently. I wonder what she’ll get herself into. Continue reading

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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.

Continue reading

Christmas Challenge: Saved by the Bell

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Home for Christmas, Parts 1 and 2

I wanted to start his year’s Christmas Challenge with a bang. So I went for an  old classic: Saved by the Bell. Not only was there the usual — Jessie calling Slater a pig, Screech making dumb jokes, and of course, Zack’s humongous cell phone — but we had Christmas tidings and even a nice little message.

It’s Christmastime and the gang is out of school for the holidays. While most have jobs at the mall, Zack is entertaining himself running errands, visiting friends, and chasing girls. Well, one girl in particular: Laura, Kelly’s new coworker at Moody’s Store for Men. One little thing about Laura: She’s homeless, along with her father.

While the Morris family and gang have open hearts to Laura’s situation, others aren’t so sweet. Laura’s boss Moody doesn’t think it’s so grand; in fact, he thinks that homeless equals untrustworthy — even to the point where he accuses her of stealing! But in good ’90s fashion (pardon the pun), all ends ok with a strange rendition of “A Christmas Carol” and a “Silent Night” sing-along in the Morris living room.

It’s a sweet episode and one that reminds us of all the things we do have this Christmas. Considering all those struggling with unemployment or homelessness (especially in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in NY and NJ), it’s got a nice holiday message, and it’s a good episode to start the challenge with.

Recommendation: Watch it this year, definitely. And try to remember the message for years to come.

PS – As an added bonus, if you look closely at the credits, you’ll see a cute little cameo in there: “Santa…as Himself.”

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Back-to-School Recap Review: Zack Morris Meets College

SAVED BY THE BELL: THE COLLEGE YEARS: 1.00 “Pilot”

In an attempt to keep the back-to-school juices flowing, I’m hopping on Raked to provide another distraction for your college co-eds. If you missed it yesterday, I posted on Rory’s first day at Yale on Gilmore Girls, and now I’m moving on to Zack and the gang that we knew and loved on Saved by the Bell.

First, let me say that I own this series. Yes, yes, mock me as you may, but I do. But I’ll also admit that this premiere episode of the series is not a great one. Kelly has yet to arrive, so we’re leaning on Zack, Screech, and Slater to lead the charge, all headed in the direction that is Leslie Burke.

Now, I’m not that big of a fan of Leslie. I never have been. They seemed to put her in this weird area of kinda schoolmarm-like, cautious with feminist theories that’s supposed to be hot — but she’s not passionate enough to actually make any of it into a compelling character. Not like crazy Jessie, who focused on so much school that it lead to her ever-famous downfall. She was just kinda blah…so I didn’t understand Zack’s interest.

The real point of this episode was to mainly introduce new main characters (Alex is certainly my favorite, and why even discuss Danielle when she leaves after this episode?). And the new school. Well, not really the school itself. More the dining hall and the completely unbelievable suite these people live in. You thought Rory’s was ridiculous. How about having three girls and three guys all share a kitchen and living space? Now that’s just a step too far.

But it’s entertaining enough. Mike swiftly shows Zack that he’s not in high school anymore, and we never do find out if Zack makes enough to pay off that trip to Hawaii. No one really shines in the episode as a whole, but it’s nice to see that the gang does finally get a start at a college degree, even if supposedly, it never works out in the long run. Ultimately, it’s all a little contrived (Slater, whatever happened to Iowa? Zack, weren’t you supposed to go to Yale? Rory and Zack at the same place…now that would be something).

Anyway, rough start but it is a mildly entertaining series. I mean, it’s Saved by the Bell: The College Years for goodness’ sake. Did you expect Emmy-worthy? But hey, without it, would you ever have seen Six from Blossom on TV again?

Earthquake? Learn from Saved by the Bell

Earthquakes are a scary thing. I think in the past few years, we’ve found this out. But today’s earthquake proved no injuries major injuries or extensive damage, at least according to CNN, so I feel I can have a little fun with it.

I don’t have much room to talk about the earthquake; I should make that known right off the bat. The quake did shake all the way up to Boston, and JC can tell you that it wasn’t so fun. I spoke with a friend a mere two hours away from DC, and she was just as shaken (pardon the pun). She got much more of the tremors, and she just didn’t know what to do. So I naturally asked:

Did you get in a doorway? Don’t you watch Saved by the Bell?

That’s right. In times of crisis, I turn to pop culture. My friend did, in fact, know of the famous Saved by the Bell episode that I was talking about, where Tori experienced her first earthquake at Bayside. It all started when they had an earthquake drill in the classroom, where everyone had to dive under their desks. Apparently, Tori forgot California was on a fault line and was mighty freaked out.

And, of course, as with all TV, we jumped to an actual earthquake pretty damn quick. I forget what everyone was doing at the time, but I do recall Lisa and her bangs running to a doorway. Slater, who (of all things) was only in a towel, also ran for a doorway. And Belding and Screech hid under Belding’s desk. And of course, Tori, Zack, and Mrs. Belding were in the elevator.

Ok, so I’d be pretty freaked if I was in an elevator during an earthquake, too, let alone if one of my party was about to have a baby.

But anyway, in this one episode, I learned a lot, mainly because of Tori’s freakout:

  • Head for a doorway or hide under a desk. I imagine the doorway is a better idea. Lockers (and other things, I’d would guess) fall. You should be out of the way. This is the case, even if you have no underthings on. Fortunately, Bayside had big towels.
  • Elevators have emergency stop modes. This could be a good or bad thing.
  • Have an emergency earthquake kit on hand. I think Tori’s had some nasty sausages (maybe that was another sitcom), as well as a first aid kit and some canned goods.
  • Helmets indoors don’t hurt.

Overall, one of the weaker episodes (pretty much any episode with Tori in it was a bad one), but on days like today, it also serves as a PSA. Plus, you got to learn Lamaze breathing, too!

As an interesting side story, when I met Dustin Diamond in the early 2000s, I remember overhearing a fan trying to quiz him on which floors Mrs. Belding and the crew were stuck between in the elevator. They got in an argument about it because she wouldn’t believe she was wrong (or he wouldn’t). Either way, it was mildly entertaining.

A Back-to-School Open Thread

I can tell by all the new Facebook photos of kiddies in backpacks and statuses groaning about grad school that it’s back-to-school time. Of course, the numerous commercials promoting markers, crayons, and glitter — lots of glitter — gave it away, too. So in the spirit of scholarly wisdom, let’s talk TV.

What’s your favorite campus-based series?

There are so many options here. My first thought, of course, was Saved by the Bell. After all, by the time I get my books and I give myself a look, I’m at the corner just in time to watch the bus fly by. When your theme song chats buses, school bells, and general tardiness, it’s all about the high school. Plus, you’ve got cheerleaders, lockers, and one Zack Morris speaking to the camera.

But you know, there is another favorite — one of my all-time TV shows. Hello, can we get a Buf-fay? That’s right. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was, in fact, a story about high school (then college). Definitely a keeper.

Finally, let’s give a hand for Gilmore Girls. The whole series is built on the premise of Rory going to Chilton. Definitely quality.

So I’ve run the gamut. From directly high school to premises to the background for demon slaying. So what’s your favorite? Can I get a rah rah rah for your favorite campus-based TV show?

Oh, Saved by the Bell. If only I could find the Tiger cheer. But hey, if you want more cheerleading, check this out from Buffy (the movie).

Your April Fools Watchlist: Recommended Pranking Episodes

It’s April Fools Day. As a joke, I’m refusing to use the apostrophe in the holiday’s name. That’s right. I’m a riot. What can I say? I’d rather watch than participate. Always the spectator. That’s why I blog.

Anyway, in honor of this holiday of holidays, I’m recommending some of my favorite pranking episodes for you to watch this April 1. Check them out, and recommend more in the comments.

NEWSRADIO
Season 2: The Song Remains the Same

Why not watch an episode that takes place on April Fools Day? Well, almost. In order to get the real element of surprise, Mr. Jimmy plans April Fools in February. This episode is chockfull of pranks, mainly because good ol’ Bill McNeal is being interviewed by a reporter and he refuses to react to any sort of hi jinks. Joe’s really a fun one to watch in this episode, since he’s setting up a lot of these pranks, but it really is a funny episode. Plus, Hulu even has it up for free! Check it out. You don’t need the DVD set (but you might want to have it anyway).

GOOD MORNING, MISS BLISS
Season 1: Practical Jokes

The name of the episode says it all. It’s the annual competition to see who can prank Miss Bliss, and Zach wants all the glory. But Miss Bliss? She just wants to teach her class about the justice system. Of course, Miss Bliss becomes a victim, but Zach wasn’t the prankster. Could Screech be the culprit? Miss Bliss sets up a trial to find out.

SEINFELD
Season 4: The Outing

This one’s really JC’s pick. While hanging out at the diner, Elaine notices a woman eavesdropping on Jerry and George’s conversation. As a prank, Elaine talks to both Jerry and George as if they were a gay couple hiding their relationship from the public eye. The eavesdropping woman turns out to be a reporter who later interviews Jerry for a newspaper story. She writes an article about Jerry and George’s “relationship,” which is soon picked up by the Associated Press and spread all across the country. Hilarity ensues, and George and Jerry spend much of the episode denying that they are gay but insisting “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” A simple little prank by Elaine gives us one of the most memorable Seinfeld quotes ever.

SAVED BY THE BELL
Season 1: Save That Tiger

A prank war develops between Bayside and a rival school, the infamous Valley, and while Mr. Belding isn’t pleased, Valley’s principal loves it and is a jokester himself. Year after year, the prank war escalates. So as Kelly and the girls get ready for a cheerleading competition, Zach and Slater are sneaking around pranking Valley — until they get caught red handed. Or should we say red pawed? After stealing their bulldog mascot, Valley steals Bayside’s, who just happens to be one curly-headed Screech Powers. The show ends with some great generic cheerleading routines that you don’t want to miss.

THE OFFICE
Season 3: The Return

Much like Seinfeld, this episode of The Office only deals with one prank. In this case, it’s Pam and Jim hiding Andy’s cell phone because he’s just being too obnoxious. The phone plays an acapella version of “Rockin’ Robin,” and Jim’s had about enough. But when the fun and games turn to anger management, perhaps his prank has gone too far. I guess there’s a reason Dwight’s always been the target.

Enjoy these episode, and remember, on today of all days, trust no one.