Here's Everything We Learned from Lifetime's Ridiculous Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story

By RobynRoss

Sep 02, 2014

With The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story, Lifetime went behind the scenes of Saved By the Bell and unveiled what (allegedly) happened behind the cameras of one of our favorite childhood sitcoms. But instead of Zack Morris running the show, this time it was all about Screech—and the story from outcast Dustin Diamond's perspective.

Based on Diamond's tell-all memoir, The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story began with the gang—Dylan Everett as Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Sam Kindseth as Diamond, Tiera Skovbye as Elizabeth Berkley, Julian Works as Mario Lopez, Alyssa Lynch as Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, and Taylor Russell McKenzie as Lark Voorhies—pulling up to their first mall tour, totally unaware that their lives were about to change. Cut to four months prior when Gosselaar, Voorhies, and Diamond were cast for Good Morning Miss Bliss, a Disney Channel sitcom that was quickly axed. The two-hour movie would take viewers through the revamping of the show all the way until the final day of filming in 1993.

But while I had hoped for more juicy and gossipy tidbits about one of television's most iconic shows, instead we got a sad story of a kid who just wanted to fit in and a cheesy made-for-TV movie that seemed more parody than biopic. And because Diamond has admitted the memoir was mostly made up, who knows how much of The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story was true tales versus wishful thinking.

Still, the movie got some details right, even when others were obviously wrong. (Um, why was Gosselaar, not in character, doing a Zack "Morris time out"?) Here are the eight most interesting things we learned from The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story.

1. The characters changed after casting 
When casting began for more kids following the cancellation of Miss Bliss, both Berkley and Thiessen were up for Kelly. NBC liked them both and created Jessie for Berkley. (Jennie Garth, meanwhile, was passed on for the role.) Voorhies was also supposed to be a "Jewish American Princess" and Lopez Italian. No word on why Miss Bliss students Mikey (Max Battimo) and Nikki (Heather Hopper) didn't make the cut over to Bell. Zack was always supposed to be the all-American blonde boy, so a half-Indonesian Gosselaar had to get his hair from a bottle!

2. The series nearly got canned for a second time
First, Disney cancelled Good Morning Miss Bliss. Then, NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff restructured the series to focus on the kids rather than the teacher and move it to a cool California location. The revamped version didn't fare much better and after a terrible review, the NBC sitcom continued to get poor ratings. But overnight word caught on, ratings spiked, and the series was a bonafide hit.

3. Hormones were in the air
It seemed that Voorhies and Gosselaar locked eyes from that first casting call and were an item almost immediately. But the actress' strict religious background kept them from doing much off the set and when Gosselaar's and Thiessen's characters had to kiss (which, of course, required practice), it became more of a love triangle. Diamond, for his part, had his first kiss when his character had to smooch Violet (Tori Spelling) but when Diamond made moves off-camera she just wanted to meet Mark.

4. Diamond was the outcast
It's no secret Diamond wasn't well-liked, but it seemed that it was more of an age issue than anything else. Thiessen didn't appreciate his pranks, he couldn't do as many push-ups as Lopez, kids on the street bullied him. In one of the final scenes he summed it up best by saying to Gosselaar, "We've played best friends for five years and this is maybe the longest conversation we've ever had."

5. The kids wanted more dramatic storylines 
After an encounter with a girl who dumped her boyfriend because Kelly did, Thiessen and Berkley asked for more plots with real issues. Berkley got her wish when she scored the famous "I'm so scared" caffeine pill addiction episode and even asked to talk to real life addicts!

6. Diamond began drinking 
After meeting an extra who gave him his first swig, Diamond began to drink. It got so out of hand that he got too wasted at an appearance in South Carolina, and was threatened to be cut from the show by creator Peter Engel. His partying — and new best friend — would ultimately come back to bite him when the friend filmed him smoking weed and later blackmailed Diamond for not getting him a bigger part.

7. Diamond and Screech were basically the same person
Art imitated life when Screech was devastated that his best friend Zack was kissing the girl of his dreams. Diamond, it seemed, couldn't get any lovin' like his fellow castmates. And just like Screech, the Dustin of the movie also had bizarre daydreams where he was a hunk.

8. The mystery of their second senior year (and Tori) explained 
The reason Jessie and Kelly were replaced by bad girl Tori, only to later return, was due to contract issues. Initially, the series was supposed to go just four seasons, but when NBC wanted a fifth, Thiessen and Berkley exited. They later reunited for the graduation episode (which, by the way, they actually filmed before leaving the series not after like the movie depicted.) And just as an exec would tell Engel on the final day of filming, "This is far from the end of Saved By the Bell." Everyone knows Thiessen did ultimately return for The College Years and Zack and Kelly's Wedding.

What did you think of The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story?

  • Comments (13)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • fangtasiaforev Sep 03, 2014

    I haven't seen anything on Lifetime in many years, I didn't expect much. But this was BAD! This should have been called "Dustin Diamond as told by Dustin Diamond"! It was unbelievable and not in a good way.

  • mad-pac Sep 03, 2014

    What I really want to see is the movie about the behind-the-scenes unauthorized account about the movie about the unauthorized behind-the-scenes account about Save By The Bell. Who will play Dylan Everett??? Was Sam Kindseth an outcast like Dustin Diamond? Meta is so yesterday. Now the thing is being meta meta.

  • mrjimmyjames Sep 03, 2014

    Bland. Expected more on Gossalaar's alleged steriod use and more love triangles/hanky panky.

  • thatmonkey Sep 02, 2014

    That was the worst turd since I decided to try Chipotle! Dustin Diamond is obviously mentally and socially challenged and whoever greenlit this should be fired. Also, I doubt he coldcocked anyone without having his ass handed back to him.

  • Lindsey_Kay Sep 02, 2014

    Since everything works in numbers for me, I'd give it a 6/10.
    To explain: I was expecting high school theater, but got local community theater (?does that make sense.)

    It wasn't awful, but it was loose. You can tell Lifetime really tried to do the show and cast justice(or avoid a lawsuit), but the perspective made that impossible.

    Dustin was an outsider--meaning he didn't know the rest of the gang very well. He couldn't tell people much more than they'd find on a wiki page. That being said, did people really want to know anymore? Did early 90s kids want their icons' images tarnished further by poor look-a-likes? Who actually wanted an Unauthorized Saved by the Bell movie?

  • DresserBoys Sep 02, 2014

    the funny thing about this save by the bell movie, the kid playing zack is so small wearing these big jackets.

    Honestly the movie was just meh. I mean really there is nothing scandalous about the movie other then Dustin's drinking.

  • torque_smacky Sep 02, 2014

    Sort of related: FX was recently pitched a revival of Full House, but it was turned down because 1) they couldn't get the entire original cast to agree to return and 2) they expected one of those 10-90 deals.

    Is there really a demand for more Saved By the Bell, or more Full House? Just because something was popular 20 years ago doesn't mean the people who are now grown up want to see it again.

  • Raccoon1459 Sep 02, 2014

    Wait a minute. They said a revival of the series was possible because of the good ratings the reruns are getting.

  • Raccoon1459 Sep 02, 2014

    This comment has been removed.

  • Raccoon1459 Sep 02, 2014

    This comment has been removed.

  • dh4645 Sep 02, 2014

    it's on the DVR. the wife & i will get around to it eventually...if our 4 month old lets us. ha

  • txgirl75 Sep 02, 2014

    It was better then what I thought. Nothing I would want to watch it again but it was ok.

  • Raccoon1459 Sep 02, 2014

    Yeah, it's probably something I wouldn't want to watch again either.

  • Raccoon1459 Sep 02, 2014

    Even if it wasn't 100% true, (I don't remember there being a President's Day episode.) it was still better than I thought it was going to be. It would've been better if they showed this on NBC, which was Saved by the Bell's home.