Category Archives: Books

I Was Saved by the Bell

51jTW2JGqEL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

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.

I won’t go in too deep on the parts that don’t directly deal with Saved by the Bell, and it is a long book, so I’ll do my best to let you know if it’s worth reading or not.

Prologue: Thirteen or Call Security

This is a cute story about how Engel convinced Brandon Tartikoff to give the first season of Saved by the Bell a full order: he laid down in the middle of Tartikoff’s office, demanding thirteen more episodes or Tartikoff would have to call security to have him removed. Very telling how much he believed in the show, even so early on.

Part I: In the Beginning

Like a memoir should, this one starts off in Peter Engel’s childhood, telling the story of how he began his love affair with television soon after his father purchased their first set, how he fell in love with producing, briefly studied textile engineering in North Carolina where he experienced the wrath of segregation, changed course to film at NYU (maybe Nicky choosing NYU for film was a homage to Engel?), and became a page at NBC, learning the ropes on The Tonight Show and The Perry Como Show. The amazing thing is you can tell he has such a deep respect for the people he worked with that hardly an ill word is ever spoken.

We have such an amazingly class picture here of a young man coming up in television, and Engel soon started producing New York area sports for television in between being a reservist. This section ends with a shocking incident in 1963 and a lead in to a part of Engel’s life that was very painful and disheartening for him. I can’t help but admire him, for, though he always felt like the outsider in his family and, later, career, he pushed on, determined to make a name for himself.

Part II: JFK

This is a relatively short part designed to show how important Engel’s work as a campaigner for John F. Kennedy in 1960 was. Through the campaign, he became optimistic and full of hope for the future, but his hope was soon shattered by news that an assassin’s bullet killed President Kennedy only three years later.

Part III: California Here I Come

This section details Engel’s move from New York to Los Angeles with his first wife, Chris, to work for Metromedia. Though he was enamored with the allure of California, he continued to have trouble finding a production gig, and he details encounters with Bette Davis and Orson Welles he hoped would lead to a show but didn’t.

Metromedia put Engel to work making pilots while he searched for a show. His first production was for a mini-series about the ice capades. There, he met a fiesty Olympic figure skater named Linda Carbonetto, and realized he was in love.

Part IV: Searching for that Hit

Engel’s relationship with his first wife deteriorated as he started seeing Linda behind her back. Eventually, Engel and Chris divorced and Linda became his second wife by 1974. There’s some funny antecedents here about Engel finding out his new father-in-law is a drag queen, acting as a handler for Jacques Cousteau, and pissing off legendary producer Joseph Levine. He tried to get John Lennon for a talk show but was prevented because Lennon wanted Yoko Ono to be his co-host. Engel also saw the birth of his first child, Lauren, during this period.

The bulk of the section, though, is about Engel finally producing his own series, Sirota’s Court, which sought to use humor in examining hard issues of the day, including racism and homophobia. The series received critical acclaim and was picked up for a thirteen episode mid-season run on NBC in 1976. Sadly, the show wasn’t a favorite of big-wigs at NBC and it was quietly dropped after its initial run.

Part V: God is Nice

This is where a lot of the dark stuff comes in. Engel had poured his heart and soul into Sirota’s Court. It was cancelled shortly after Linda asked for a divorce in 1978. To top it off, Linda decided to move Lauren to New York, and this broke Engel’s heart. He found himself suddenly drawn to drugs, and lots of them. His contacts in Hollywood soon dried up and he found himself sinking lower and lower, to the point that he was gaining a reputation in Hollywood.

This is what I love about Engel. Unlike Dustin Diamond, Engel is not talking about his sordid past to say, “Hey, look how cool I was!” but to point out how low he’d fallen. This goes for his drug dealing and his cheating on his first wife in section four. Peter Engel was crashing, and he needed help.

He found it one night, in the midst of what he thought was a heart attack, when he had a mystical experience during which he says Jesus appeared to him. A few months later, he found himself at a party with Blazing Saddles actor Cleavon Little, where he met a Christian couple who lead him in a conversion experience. Engel turned his life around and soon met his third wife, Connie. They were married in 1981 and had two sons, Joshua and Samuel.

Part VI: Saved by the Bell

Now we get to why most people are probably reading this book: Saved by the Bell. Much of this story will already be familiar to people who have much familiarity with the background of the show, so I’m going to go through and list some of the new details I gleaned from this section:

  • NBC had already decided not to pick up Good Morning, Miss Bliss when they aired the original pilot in 1987.
  • Engel’s sons drew the heart that became the logo for Engel Productions.
  • Engel’s daughter, Lauren, had Zack fever.
  • Unlike other accounts, Engel says they always intended to have Jessie as a character; they just weren’t considering Elizabeth Burkley for her role until after she auditioned for Kelly.
  • Dustin Diamond’s claims to the contrary, Linda Mancuso appears to have been smitten with Mario Lopez.
  • Mark-Paul Goselaar was intimidated by the crowds of girls who wanted to meet him even before the show aired.
  • Mark-Paul also would frequently visit Engel to make sure he had the “talk to the camera” segments where Zack Morris broke the fourth wall down.
  • Lark Voorhies was almost fired by Brandon Tartikoff because she had an exceptionally bad performance during one of the early episodes. She was saved because she avoided Engel and Engel put off telling her she was fired. Lucky for her, “The Lisa Card” was the next week’s episode, and Tartikoff was impressed and endorsed her staying with the show.
  • There’s no mention of the show having bad ratings in the first season. By Engel’s account, it was a hit nearly instantly.
  • The mall tours led to an incident where Mark-Paul and Tiffani had to be whisked away by the police. In the process, they accidentally left their set teacher, Sydney Sharron, behind in a swarm of obsessed teenagers.
  • One mall tour stop was moved from Manhattan to Long Island because it was feared a full scale riot would break out.
  • Engel’s son, Stephen, then six years old, often helped him warm up the audience, and Engel himself loved the atmosphere of excitement the audience produced.
  • In “Jessie’s Song”, Jessie was originally supposed to be on speed, not caffeine pills, which made a hell of a lot more sense. The censorial department at NBC vetoed this, though, and caffeine pills became the compromise. I’m actually inclined to forgive Peter Engel for this knowing this tidbit of information.
  • Engel had never met Aaron Spelling prior to casting Tori as Violet. She was just so good in auditions she had the entire room in an uproar.
  • Engel says Aaron Spelling told him he liked Saved by the Bell better than 90210.
  • During Engel’s last visit with Aaron Spelling, after he’d already been diagnosed with cancer, they joked about different shows involving Screech they could make, like Screech as a brain surgeon, Malibu lifeguard, or pastor, like on 7th Heaven.
  • Engel knew Zack Morris and Kelly would have to break up as Zack Morris was a much less exciting character while dating. The audience booed Kelly cheating on Zack Morris, and Mark-Paul and Tiffani begged Engel to change the script, but they went on.
  • Engel admits there was on-set drama and cliques. He saw it as his job to break up the cliques and keep the actors on good terms. Dennis Haskins was often his on-set mole, alerting him to potential problems. One story he tells is that Mario and Tiffani started dating just before the Palm Desert episodes, and she would later find him kissing another girl in his dressing room, ending their relationship.
  • Many of the Malibu Sands episodes were filmed during the “June haze,” when a thin layer in the air brought freezing temperatures to the L.A. beach. So, the actors had to work hard to make working in bathing suits look fun as they froze their asses off.
  • During taping of “My Boyfriend’s Back,” Mark-Paul challenged Engel to an ATV race. Mark-Paul won because Engel couldn’t figure out how to shift the thing.
  • Hawaiian Style had a small budget, even for a television movie, and it reflected in a break-neck shooting schedule and the fact that many scenes had to be filmed in California.
  • The scene in Hawaiian Style of Screech being drawn out to sea on his inflatable dragon was real. Wind almost drug Dustin Diamond out to sea, and he grabbed the ankle of a random lifeguard hired to be a surfer extra at the last minute to keep from being pulled out. How unfortunate for us. In any case, Engel liked the footage so much he kept it in.

Part VII: NBC and Me

Engel’s first show after Saved by the Bell was California Dreams, and he got an instant deal on a number of episodes based on his success with the former. There was tension about a new kid on the block, though, and it really heated up when Engel decided to organize a softball game between the two casts. Fights ensued. Perhaps this is why there was never a crossover episode with California Dreams except for brief mentions of Pacific Coast High on The New Class.

Engel says that Tiffani and Elizabeth left after the graduation episode because they were just ready to say goodbye, and he didn’t want to stand in their way. This contradicts Behind the Bell, of course, but I’ve always thought Dustin Diamond was full of shit, so what’s new. Engel says he was quite happy with the Tori episodes and that Leanna Creel did as well as anyone could expect her to given the circumstances.

“School Song” was the last episode of Saved by the Bell to be filmed, and the cast kept messing up the final scene on purpose so they’d have to reshoot. They didn’t want it to end. The College Years had not yet been announced so, as far as anyone knew, this was it for the show.

NBC ordered The New Class as the first spin-off of Saved by the Bell. During a focus group for The New Class, a fifteen-year old girl exploded at the conveners as they tried to make her hate Kelly, saying this is stupid! She asked why they didn’t just send the original cast to college, and The College Years was born. Warren Littlefield, who succeeded Tartikoff at NBC, loved the pilot, but he became overconfident and put the show up against Full House and Rescue 911, which enraged Engel. He ended up being right, and The College Years wasn’t renewed for season two.

They did get an order for Wedding in Las Vegas, though, and, on the last night of shooting, Engel, Mark-Paul, and Mario all sat around reminiscing about their memories of the show. It’s kind of surreal as they knew this time it was it, and it kind of does bring a tear to the eye. I wonder if, even back then, they knew there would never be a true reunion with Engel at the helm.

The first season of The New Class, on the other hand, turned out to be a disaster. Rushed to find a cast because of a deal to have them on Kellogg’s cereal boxes, Engel went with a group of actors he wasn’t completely confident in. Engel asked Dustin Diamond to join the cast after The College Years ended so he could have someone funny on the show.

Shortly after, Engel, Dustin Diamond,and Dennis Haskins attended an NBC event at the White House. Dustin was recognized by Secret Service and suddenly swarmed by people who were supposed to be protecting the president begging for autographs. Diamond and Haskins were the hit of the party, and Diamond even got to sit in the president’s chair in the Oval Office, a sobering thought indeed.

One incident on City Guys involved the censors asking for a joke about dwarf tossing to be nixed. By then, Engel’s scripts were so squeaky clean, he rarely got comments on them. Engel didn’t care about the joke, but he and Linda Mancuso played a joke on NBC and pretended Engel was going to quit over the joke being censored. He ended up having to come clean when NBC executives took him completely seriously, with his friend, Don Ohlymeyer, president of the west division of NBC, responding, “I love you, Peter. But fuck you.”

Engel’s anecdote about Hang Time involved bringing Dick Butkus into the cast and finding out what a gentle giant he could be. One episode involved sliming Butkus, and the former football player insisted Engel stay and watch instead of going to a City Guys taping across the hall, with Butkus totally psyched to be slimed..

In 1998, with ten shows under his belt, Engel prepared to shoot his 500th episode with NBC. Variety ran a giant tribute to him include thanks from all six of his show runners and Linda Mancuso, as well as interviews with writers and former cast. A street on the NBC property was even named “Engel Avenue” in his honor.

Engel admits that, by this point, success had gone to his head and his shows were becoming about expansion and quantity, not quality. He gives, as an example, Malibu, CA, which he thought up in less than five minutes in a bathroom. It was sold on the reputation of Engel alone, but lost $52 million for the studio. Engel ends the section by admitting that stellar reputations can go down the drain.

Part VIII: Exile

The section starts with a beautiful tribute to Leslie Eberhard, the former Fraiser writer I’ve praised on this blog for writing the only episode of The New Class I truly enjoyed unironically, “What’s the Problem.” I wondered then how a guy of Eberhard’s caliber ended up on The New Class, and I have my answer here: he really wanted the job because he believed in Engel’s shows, even if Engel himself knew Eberhard could get any job he wanted.

Engel tells of how they sang songs from musicals together and how Eberhard helped him create USA High. The chapter ends with a conversation that moved me to tears. Eberhard was on his death bed, dying from exposure to asbestos as a child. As a gay man, he asked Engel, a right-wing Christian, if Engel thought he’d get into Heaven, even though he’s gay. Engel told him that, if Eberhard didn’t get into Heaven, he wasn’t going in either. And Engel softly sings musical numbers to Eberhard.

This is why I fucking love Peter Engel. The humanity in that encounter just speaks volumes to the kind of person he is. Try finding an account like that in Behind the Bell. You won’t find it.

By 2001, Peter Engel Productions had no shows in the can. TNBC was over. Engel’s sons, both in their late teens, took a cross-country road trip, during which he and his wife, Connie, separated and eventually divorced. Linda Mancuso was being treated for breast cancer and decided to leave for ABC Family. Engel was having another crisis of faith when he was asked to produce a reality show that eventually became Last Comic Standing.

In the midst of this, Pat Robertson asked Engel to become Dean of Communications at Regent University. Engel accepted because he thought maybe God was calling him to it, but almost immediately regretted his decision as he felt out of place politically and even had to endure Robertson defending a Liberian war criminal he was doing business with. Robertson mainly wanted Engel to try and legitimize his fake university, and Engel wasn’t enjoying it. And then Linda Mancuso died, leaving Engel devastated.

Engel’s unhappiness came out in an interview on The 700 Club after Last Comic Standing was nominated for a Primetime Emmy, and Engel told Robertson flat out, while taping, that he was homesick and wanted to go back to California.

Part IX: Totally a Happy Man

Engel didn’t win a Primetime Emmy for Last Comic Standing and he wasn’t expecting to. What’s worse, NBC fucked with the schedule and aired a rushed third season only eighteen days after the end of the second. They cancelled the show unceremoniously and, even though he didn’t have a show, Engel quit Regent and flew back to Los Angeles.

Engel started touring colleges, ending up back at NYU. He also completely broke with the Christian right in a fiery speech to the National Media Prayer Breakfast in which he denounced the Bush administration and Christians’ blind support of Republican policies. At this point of the book, I truly think I misjudged this guy…

Much of the rest of the book is about his family: his pride at walking his daughter, Lauren, down the aisle at her wedding; his son, Stephen, living in Palestine and changing his Zionist views; his son, Joshua, graduating Northwestern and woring in India; and his reconciliation with his second and third wives, Linda and Connie. Last Comic Standing was resurrected and is now in its eighth season, though Engel has little day-to-day involvement in it nowadays, and he’s produced other reality shows since then.

He says, though, that Saved by the Bell is still his crowning achievement. After numerous failures with Kennedy and Sirota’s Court and his marriages, Saved by the Bell gave meaning to his life, and he still considers it his crowning achievement. It even gave him the approval from his mother he’d always sought. And our book ends with Engel saying he has no regrets about the way his life has turned out and he encourages readers to never let seeming failure bring them down.

Analysis

"Saved by the Bell" creator/producer Peter Engel

I really like this book, a lot more than I thought I would. I figured I would like it more than Behind the Bell, but that’s a rather low bar to set since I can say that about Atlas Shrugged as well. What really surprised me is how good, how compelling it is, and I heartily recommend it whether you’re a hard-core Saved by the Bell fan or not.

And, I have to admit, I misjudged him. I knew about his past as dean at Pat Robertson’s university, his Christian faith, and the shit Dustin Diamond says about him. I assumed he would be a man I would strongly disagree with politically. Turns out I totally misjudged him based on my own preconceptions. For that, I am sorry.

What’s amazing is how well Peter Engel humanizes his life without coming off as whining and pretentious. He doesn’t shy away from the negative in his life, but he doesn’t focus on it as well. He tells negative stuff about people–such as mentioning Mario Lopez’s cheating in Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, not to put down Mario Lopez, but to show that, no, things were not perfect in the Saved by the Bell kingdom.

In many ways, Peter Engel’s life has been shittier than Dustin Diamond’s. The big difference is Peter Engel doesn’t act like a victim. He could have been bitter about his three failed marriages or the cancellation of Sirota’s Court and Last Comic Standing, or NBC’ s mismanagement of The College Years. He could have failed to see his own complicity in the declining quality of shows towards the end of his run at TNBC. He isn’t angry, though. He comes through as a man who’s loved his life and has no regrets. He’s a man of integrity, principle, and, yes, faith.

I would hang out with Peter Engel any day. And I hope he continues to enjoy his life, feeling like a totally happy man.


So, as hard as it is to believe, this is my final review for this blog. Next week I’ll have one final post: a recap of this blog and the franchise in general. So, come back next week and let’s do it one more time!

Behind the Bell

9eb5c850-a8a6-0131-3538-6e4a64a576c7

In 2009, Dustin Diamond published a tell-all book about Saved by the BellBehind 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 don’t believe Diamond for a second. I think he’s full of shit and thought that throwing his former cast mates under the bus would somehow jump start his career. After all, he was on The Howard Stern Show just before the release of the book bragging about his supposed truth bombs. I think when the entire project bit him in the ass, he suddenly realized he had to backpedal, and has been trying to resurrect his reputation ever since.

Naturally, the book is out of print, but I obtained a copy and decided to read it all the way through in order to tell you guys what I thought. Is the book as bad as critics claim? Let’s find out!

Introduction

The introduction is basically a few pages of Dustin Diamond talking about how shitty Hollywood is. He does take a moment to trash a former cast mate for the first time, in this case Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, saying Hollywood turned her into a whore. This sort of character assassination posing as gossip is a running theme of this book, as we’ll see.

Part 1: The Beginning

Dustin Diamond claims within the first part that he’s not trying to paint a woe is me portrait of his life on the Saved by the Bell set, but he sure does seem that way. What this section taught me is that he has no clue the meaning of the phrase, “If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.” The entire section is basically about how almost everyone in Dustin Diamond’s life was a meanie pants who wouldn’t let him play with the cool kids.

And, ironically, his reason for not liking many of them is because they acted like kids. Fred Savage once did something kid like on The Wonder Years, so he’s an asshole. Neil Patrick Harris had an ego like a kid who’s starring in one of television’s hottest shows. Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen thought they were all great because the fans loved them. Really, he just goes on and on about how everybody was jerks.

Well, almost everybody. He seems to have been in love with Hayley Mills. And Brandon Tartikoff kissed his ass so he was okay with him. He seems to like Dennis Haskins even though he talks shit about his ability to get women. And he has sympathy for Lark Voorhies because he seems to think she was raped or abused or something.

Dustin Diamond is also a petty, petty man. He dedicates entire sections to hammering out old, petty grievances with each of the cast members, although much of his vitriol is directed at Mark-Paul. They each did him wrong so he’s going to get them back, including talking about a rape Mario Lopez supposedly committed and then NBC covered up, which makes me wonder why Mario’s not suing Dustin Diamond for libel instead of inviting him on Extra.

And the jealous talk about sex. To hear Dustin Diamond talk, everyone was fucking everyone except him, and isn’t it just too god damned bad he was left out. As if that’s enough, his section on Elizabeth Berkley is basically devoted to how she saw a picture of his penis once and how he got to see her naked long before Showgirls.

Remarkably, for a section called “The Beginning,” there is very little information on Dustin Diamond’s life before Saved by the Bell. What little he does give seems to be designed to paint himself in a good light as a kid who started from the bottom, unlike all those other child actors who…started from the bottom I guess.  He seems really in a hurry to trash his co-stars, so he doesn’t give much background.

Chronological errors in this section:

  • Dustin Diamond places the release of Showgirls in 1995, but says Elizabeth Berkley was still on the cast of Saved by the Bell after its release. He seems oblivious to the fact that The New Class was getting ready to start its third season by that point and Berkley left Saved by the Bell in 1992. Thus, everything he says about the reaction to Showgirls is a fucking lie.
  • He tries to insinuate Ed Alonzo and Neil Patrick Harris were fucking around. Neil Patrick Harris says this is years before he even knew Ed Alonzo.

His memory of Anthony Harrell’s siblings appearing on The New Class also doesn’t seem to be accurate as he claims they were playing a band that had just lost its singer and Eric filled in. In reality, Harrell’s siblings were playing Eric’s siblings.

Why is Dustin Diamond talking about Anthony Harrell in this section you ask? Because it’s Dustin Diamond and he can’t go two pages without a completely unrelated tangent. He’s just that horrible a writer.

Part II: How the Magic Happened—A Week in the Life of SBTB

This may end up being my favorite section of the book as it’s one of the few where I can actually believe half the shit Dustin Diamond says. As the title would suggest, Dustin Diamond takes you through the work week and explains what it was like to work for a television show. It’s actually quite fascinating and I quite enjoyed picturing what it must be like to be a star week in and out.

Mind you, that doesn’t mean it’s all good. He takes the time to give more subtle jabs at Mario Lopez, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Fred Savage, and Neil Patrick Harris. Oddly enough, after accusing them all of being assholes for doing stupid shit, he brags about peeing in an extra’s purse and putting a bottle of Ex-lax in a member of the crew’s drink–or, more precisely, his drink he knew the crew member would steal.

Interesting enough, Diamond claims that “Slater’s Friend” is the least-aired episode of the series. He says even all the cast and he were unable to shoot the episode without laughing every few minutes because it was so ridiculous. I get the out of season episodes are bad, but I didn’t think “Slater’s Friend” was worse than, say, “Screech’s Birthday” or “The Babysitters.”

And it wouldn’t be Dustin Diamond if he weren’t bragging about his prowess with the ladies which, at this point, is beginning to just sound pathetic. He brags about getting audience members and extras to do shit with him and then tries to justify why he’s not a loser at it like Mario Lopez. How noble of him.

In the end, the theme of this section is, “Look, ma, I’m a real actor and all professional like and shit!”

Part III: Famous as Shit

So we went from the best part of the book to the worst. I swear to god, part three spends a large chunk of its time talking about girls Dustin Diamond has fucked. Like seriously, he keeps referring to his penis as a monster and talking in the most sexist terms possible about how much he enjoyed fucking all these girls. Seriously, all the shit he talks about regarding other people, and he brags about picking up foreign girls at Disneyland who recognize him from Saved by the Bell and fucking them.

I feel dirty.

On top of that, he’s turning out to be one of the most sexist guys I’ve ever encountered. Seriously, these girls were nothing but props to him, living, breathing sex dolls, and he has the gall to talk smack about Mark-Paul and Mario fucking around. Seriously, does he have no semblance of measure? He’s making himself out to be such a fucking asshole I don’t even have words.

Perhaps the chapter in this section that nauseated me more than any was him bragging about an affair with Linda Mancuso, who was VP of children’s programming at NBC. You can tell he’s doing his damndest to try to write an erotic account of his time with her, but it just comes off like someone who has no clue what sex or romance is. What’s worse, Mancuso died in 2003, so there’s no way she can defend herself against Dustin Diamond’s bullshit.

His timeline is completely off for his relationship with Mancuso as well. He claims he was fucking her while Saved by the Bell was still going on, but then he says he got his driver’s license shortly before he had sex with her for the first time. If he was eleven when Good Morning, Miss Bliss started, Dustin Diamond would not have turned sixteen until either The College Years or the second season of The New Class.

But, seriously, he wants you to think he fucked all kinds of extras and an executive at NBC.

There’s also a chapter about how he was pissed that Tiffani-Amber Thiessen went to Paris with Mark-Paul instead of him (boo hoo) and one about a violent stalker who tried to set his house on fire, forcing him to move in with the Thiessen family for protection. Perhaps the most bizarre, and infuriating, chapter was a random account of his misadventures with cats and how he seriously brags that he shot his neighbor’s cat with a BB gun to scare it away from messing with his cats. I really have no idea what it had to do with anything else in the book at all other than to further illustrate how fucked up Dustin Diamond is.

By the time I got to the second to last chapter, I was seriously wondering why I was now reading Dustin Diamond brag about all the celebrities he’s met. No, really, that’s the entirety of the second to last chapter. But there are no words for the final chapter, his account of how an extra used him and tried to blackmail him and sue NBC.

Like the previous sections, there are random tangents that have nothing to do with anything, like Mark-Paul urinating in public and Sidney Sharron, the set teacher, having to get him out of it when a police officer witnessed it, and Dustin Diamond’s history with marijuana. There’s also a bizarre account of him getting drunk the night before a promotional appearance in South Carolina and claiming that it was such a disaster the local affiliate dropped Saved by the Bell after that. I need proof of this story actually happening since I find it hard to believe that wouldn’t have made the tabloids.

This section should have been titled, “Hey, guys, I’m cool! Please believe me! I’m cool!” I feel a little sick to my stomach after reading it, and it was the longest section in the book. Dustin Diamond claims everyone else were such huge jerks. Maybe they were. But he’s the biggest of them all and dares to point fingers when all fingers should be pointing at him.

Part IV: The Denouncement

This is a weird section. Diamond has the expected, obligatory chapters on The College Years and The New Class. Yet he talks very little about those shows in their respective chapters. In fact, he really only gives two brief vignettes from The College Years before going off on a tangent about Mark-Paul injuring himself while training for Circus of the Stars and then giving his own woe-is-me story about how he got injured playing at a concert.

There’s no real analysis of why The College Years failed other than Drew Carey and some critics hated it and how pissed off Diamond was that Tiffani-Amber wiggled her way into it. What’s worse, the entire last part of that chapter is all about the final season of the original Saved by the Bell. Yeah, Diamond can’t even stay on topic for a chapter. He talks about the graduation episode and the Tori episodes and continue spewing bullshit about his imaginary timeline for Showgirls. Not only that, he claims Tiffani-Amber joined the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 immediately after she quit Saved by the Bell, apparently forgetting he was just fucking complaining about her joining The College Years!

He also talks a bit about Wedding in Las Vegas so he can take the opportunity to brag about fucking a Vegas showgirl, the classy guy he is, and accuses Mark-Paul of taking steroids during The College Years. As if that’s not enough, he randomly decides to talk about how Tori Spelling had no boobs in those years and wanted to fuck Mark-Paul, apparently jealous she didn’t want him in real life.

For The New Class, he mostly complains that Brett Dewey was purposely making homoerotic scenes for Mr. Belding and Screech while getting dates very wrong. For instance, he claims that Richard Lee Jackson replaced Robert Sutherland Telfer for season two, even when a photo in his own book clearly shows Christian Oliver in the blonde lead role for the second season. He also claims he grew his hair out into a curly Afro during the final season to divorce himself from the Screech character, even though that was seasons four and five and he was back to short hair for seasons six and seven.

Yeah, he claims that he grew his hair out and did the horrible Screech voice because he thought that would allow future casting directors to separate Dustin Diamond from Screech and not typecast him. He must have been a fucking moron if he really thought that.

He doesn’t get very much into his post-The New Class career. He devotes a chapter to complaining that Hollywood screwed him over because the live action Scooby-Doo movie was his idea and he wanted to play Shaggy and fuck Matthew Lillard and all that shit. He talks about doing stand-up on the college circuit and about how he moved to Wisconsin. He waxes poetic about his messed-up childhood and reveals that his parents squandered most of his money; as a result, he’s not on speaking terms with his father. And he talks about his reality show days, claiming he’s not really an asshole, but it was another role he was playing.

Perhaps the most hypocritical part of the book, though, is when Dustin Diamond complains about people labeling other people based on roles, like how Screech was a nerd. I say it’s hypocritical because he spends most of the book labeling his co-stars and other random celebrities who caught his ire. So, fuck you, Dustin Diamond. Fuck you.

Epilogue

After spending nearly three-hundred pages talking shit and whining, Dustin Diamond switches to philosopher in the last few pages and talks about how, despite everything, he misses playing Screech, but will fight anyone who talks shit to him. Yeah, I think that’s where some of your legal trouble has come from. In the end, it’s an attempt to justify some of the pretentiousness of the rest of the book, and falls completely flat.

My Thoughts

One Amazon reviewer made the claim that this book is basically Dustin Diamond pleading with you, the reader, to think he’s cool. I’m tempted to agree, but I think it’s more than that. Imagine you walked into a bar and saw a drunk Dustin Diamond. You decide you want to speak to this guy who was on one of your favorite shows as a kid, and you ask him what it was like to do Saved by the Bell. This book is the drunken ramblings that follow as Diamond talks shit about everything that comes to his mind.

It’s not a book, really. I’ve read plenty of great biographies and memoirs. This is not one of them. It really has no cohesive structure, and can’t even be said to be chronological considering he seems to write this stream of thought, complete with confusing and boring tangents as well as enough sexism to make me think Dustin Diamond was taking cues from Bill Cosby.

The entire book is about how the cool kids didn’t let Dustin Diamond play with their toys, and now he, a man in his thirties at the time, is pissed and wants to get back at them. It comes off as a pathetic attempt to cash in on his washed-up celebrity status.

What’s worse, the book doesn’t seem to have been edited or even proofread before publication. There are horrible line breaks where there should be none, random repeats of paragraphs, and misspellings all over the place. The book is of such low quality I’m honestly surprised it got published.

This book makes me hate Dustin Diamond. I don’t believe for a second he didn’t write this, and he’s just such an asshole. His high profile run-ins with the law since publication of Behind the Bell seem to confirm this. In any case, I have no sympathy for him and the consequences of publishing this piece of trash. He made his bed. Now he’s sleeping in it.