Oh, of course I watched Lifetime's Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story last night. 80s and 90s nostalgia are my not-so-secret obsession; the kids of Bayside burnt a pineapple upside down cake in my heart long ago. Like so many in my generation, I grew up with Saved by the Bell, blindly devouring it week after week.
The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story follows the arc of the show over 5 years from the casting of the original Miss Bliss series through the awkward fourth season, notorious for its unexplained, intermittent absence of Bayside's signature hotties, Kelly and Jessie. The story is told from the perspective of Screech, aka Dustin Diamond, and is supposed to be based on Diamond's tell-all book "Behind the Bell." Given the safeness of the show, it seems a tell-all would have had nowhere to go but juicy.
The beloved series Saved by the Bell was a cheese-fest with schlocky dialogue and shallow characters. At the same time, it was comforting, much like a slice of soggy milk toast. The "easy listening" of TV shows, you could let an episode of Saved by the Bell wash over you without having to think much or navigate an emotional reaction. Enjoy the bright colors and the pretty faces. They won't disappoint you because they aren't doing much of anything rooted in reality. We loved it so.
The story in Unauthorized gives us an uninspired, cursory look at what it was like behind the scenes while achieving the sentiment of the show it was supposed to be exposing. The plot was one-dimensional and stopped miles short from anything that could be considered juicy. The most dominant ongoing theme, Dustin Diamond's ostracism from the rest of the cast, was both unsurprising and unconvincing. I never bought his awkward weirdness or felt sympathy for his situation. This was sealed nicely in the end when Mark-Paul has a heart-to-heart with Dustin, washing over any kind of drama that could have hypothetically been brewing there.
And what of romance? This is where the juicy is, right? Unfortunately, Lifetime washes over this part as well. We see that Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Lark Voorhies had some kind of thing going on, as he probably did with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, and that Mario Lopez could indeed have been some kind of man whore, but none of these plot points get explored as much as they should have. Unauthorized felt like a summary.
|A really sexy summary though, right ladies?|
My biggest criticisms revolve around the cast:
- Kelly's mole missed it's mark by at least an inch. The way it changes size and intensity throughout the movie was distracting.
- Jessie's hair should have been much larger to accommodate all her brains.
- Zack's 12 inches of missing height must have removed an equal amount of charm.
- If I squinted, Screech looked like Screech, but no amount of squinting added the goob.
- The whole cast was dressed like the mannequins at H&M, so our fashion queen Lisa was left without a personality.
- It looks like they got AC Slater from the discount AC Slater bin.
|If you squint, it still looks like a really crappy CGI.|
There were a few delightful moments, however. In one scene, we get to oggle Dustin Diamond's wonky CGI'ed chest during a dream hot-tub sequence. In another, we get to watch a guy on a motorcycle drive in, tear around the lot, and do a bunch of wheelies/expert stunt-stuff. The rider pulls up to Mario Lopez, removes his helmet, and reveals himself to be Mark-Paul Gosselaar. He then tells Mario that his mom is not the boss of him. I wish I had made this up myself because it was gold.
Had the filmmakers allowed themselves to fully commit to this kind of cheesy goofiness, i.e. the same kind of cheesy goofiness that gave Saved By the Bell a heart, this movie could have had become a cult classic in its own right. We'd have gifs for days.
I'll file this one under opportunity missed.