First of all, if you’re just finding this blog, don’t start here. Read anything but this blog post. In fact, why don’t you go have a look at this complete list of my posts and pick one to start your journey. Then come back and read this post about three-hundred reviews from now. This is the end of a journey. There once was a beginning.
Two-hundred sixty-two episodes, four series, two films, and a scattered assortment of books, biopics, fan films, Saturday morning preview specials, comics, reunion skits, and even a parody musical…Saved by the Bell is reviewed!
I’ve given Peter Engel a lot of crap, both on this blog and on California Dreams Reviewed, for producing some of the cheesiest and corniest story lines in existence. I may have implied a time or two that he doesn’t understand the basics of how high school works and that his writers couldn’t come up with a compelling story or character in The New Class to save their lives. I may have been pretty harsh on the guy over the last three years.
Yet there’s something about Engel that exudes just being the nicest guy in the world and genuinely wanting to make good television for teens and, though I’m sure he and I would disagree about religion, I can’t fault him for that. He’s like the polar opposite of Dustin Diamond: a man I would probably agree with more on such controversial topics but would be tempted to scream at if I saw in person. So, when I discovered his memoir, I Was Saved by the Bell: Stories of Life, Love, and Dreams That Do Come True, was coming out in November 2016, I thought that reviewing it would be a great way to end this blog, plus I still really want to wash the taste of Behind the Bell out of my mouth.
So this has been one of my most demanded reviews, and I’m not quite sure why. The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story was Lifetime’s 2014 attempt to cash in on Dustin Diamond’s book and tabloid television. It was pretty generally panned by both critics and audiences, though it had good enough ratings that a biopic for Full House was later ordered.
I must confess: I was going to review this when it first came out, but it was so painful to get through that I soon gave up. I figured I’d get around to it eventually when I had nothing else better to do, so here we are, and boy is it bad. Let’s see just how bad!
The Saved by the Bell episode of E! True Hollywood Story aired in 2002, and was the first attempt to do a sort of behind-the-scenes account of the show. Being that this was years before Dustin Diamond’s douche-baggery, it has much more cast cooperation than any subsequent behind-the-scenes book or movie.
So we start with Peter Engel and the narrator giving us the origin of the series in Good Morning, Miss Bliss, even going all the way back to the original pilot in 1987, one of the few times I’ve seen it openly referenced. The story is familiar by now: Brandon Tartikoff wanted to create a show about his sixth grade teacher, and he only had one lady in mind who could pull it off.
Jimmy Fallon had been hinting for years that he wanted to be the talk show host to bring the cast of Saved by the Bell back together for a reunion. He eventually got five of the seven cast members to agree, but, because two were holding out, it looked like he was giving up. When he aired a California Dreams reunion instead, it really looked like he was settling for another Peter Engel show over his dream of bringing our gang back together.
I have no doubt that part of this was due to the continued fallout following Behind the Bell as Dustin Diamond managed to piss off his former cast mates royally, to the point he was even excluded from a reunion photo shoot with People magazine. It definitely looked like Diamond was going to be the weakest link in preventing any sort of Saved by the Bell reunion.
Breaking Belding is something I normally wouldn’t touch on this blog: basically an eight minute tribute to both Saved by the Bell and Breaking Bad, a mash up of the two series in an attempt to make you laugh. I didn’t laugh once during it, and I normally wouldn’t hold that against it being that it’s a well-intentioned fan film. After all, I’m not a huge fan of Breaking Bad, so maybe there’s something here that I’m not seeing.
In 2010, two brothers, Matt and Scott Hamilton, directed a short fan film about a group of four friends who not only think Rod Belding, Mr. Belding’s irresponsible brother, is real, but that he didn’t actually stand up the Bayside students on their rafting trip for a girl, and actually had the flu as Mr. Belding told them. When I first about this short film, I thought it sounded intriguing and, at twenty-two minutes, wouldn’t take a long time to watch.
In 2009, Dustin Diamond published a tell-all book about Saved by the Bell. Behind the Bell was touted as the book that would give you all the juicy gossip behind the scenes and drop bombshells about what the cast was really like. In the end, the book actually damaged Dustin Diamond’s reputation and left most of his former cast mates refusing to speak to him or even appear publicly with him.
Diamond’s since went into full damage control, claiming that an unnamed and unspecified ghost writer wrote the entire thing and filled it with lies. He’s attempted to reconcile with the cast, and some, such as Dennis Haskins and Mario Lopez, seem to have accepted his apology. Others have not been so eager. He was even snubbed from the Jimmy Fallon skit.
I feel like kids these days are deprived in a way. With 24/7 access to cartoons and other children’s programming via cable, they have no idea how big of a deal Saturday mornings once were for the big three (later four and then five) networks and their cartoons. They were damned competitive. What many forget is that, for many years, the networks aired half-hour preview specials showing all the new and returning shows in an effort to convince kids to give their loyalty to their network for the season. Yeah, there was rarely any switching between networks. If you failed to keep a young viewer for a full program, you were screwed. I remember watching these specials, deciding all serious like what cartoons I would watch that year.
In philosophy, there is a theory that says all possible worlds exist in the same way ours does. So, there is a possible world out there somewhere in which The New Class was not cancelled after season seven. Instead, it continued with Screech as principal and a consistently rotating class, and is still airing to this day. In this possible world, critics look at The New Class as an icon of television in the same way they do The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park, Law & Order, Gunsmoke, and other long running shows. Also, Dustin Diamond is a sex icon and all the ladies yearn to be fucked by him.