By Christopher Rosa
Lifetime aired its highly-anticipated movie The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story last night, and one thing is pretty clear by the credits: It was a hard knock four years for Screech (Dustin Diamond). Narrated by Bayside High School’s resident geek — and loosely based off Diamond’s 2009 tell-all Behind the Bell — Unauthorized puts Screech in one corner and his pretty-preppy co-stars (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mario Lopez, Lark Voorhies, Elizabeth Berkley and Tiffani Thiessen) in the other. For two hours, we watch Diamond yearning to be hotter, edgier, drunker (yup) — and the whole thing is really, really depressing.
Now, it’s not just Screech screeching. Unauthorized delivers the Saved by the Bell behind-the-scenes dish we were hungry for. The highlights: Gosselaar (Zack Morris) had to touch up his own roots before taping the first episode; Berkley (who played Jessie Spano) wanted to research and meet real drug addicts for Jessie’s infamous caffeine pills episode; and Tori Spelling was Diamond’s first kiss.
Mr. Belding himself (Dennis Haskins) reflects on Jessie Spano’s legendary episode
But if we’re being honest, Unauthorized plays out like a laundry list of Diamond’s Screech and non-Screech grievances. If you’re looking for the Cliff’s Notes version, we picked the eight biggest bones Diamond had to pick with his co-stars, bosses, and family. And they all boil down to this Emmy-worthy wail: “I AM NOT SCREECH!”
8. Dad, don’t you want me to be cool?
Early in the film, we get a feel for the dynamic between Diamond and his father — and it isn’t pretty. Daddy wants his son to be like the “real” boys and play sports, but alas, Diamond would rather read “weird” things and stew in teenage angst. So how does he win his old man’s approval? By drinking copious amounts of alcohol, having sex, and almost getting fired from Bell. When his angry father confronts him, Diamond delivers an other-worldly “IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT?!” freak-out, complete with flipping a tiny table and scowling. All the awards.
7. Give me muscles!
Bell took off in its second season, and with it came fangirls touring the set looking to hook up with Lopez (who played A.C. Slater). When Diamond watched Lopez mack hard on a starry-eyed blonde, he had perhaps the weirdest CGI fantasy ever: Teenage Screech was covered in bulging, disproportionate muscles, and surrounded by three ladies (take THAT, Slater!). He was satisfied; we were terrified.
6. Why won’t they love me?!
Riffing off No. 7, Diamond doesn’t grow muscles, but he does get a shot of confidence — enough to take his own fangirl to the set, if you catch our drift. But right before he seals the deal, the fangirl asks to meet Gosselaar and subsequently dances on Diamond’s shattered dreams.