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.
5. Stop constantly stuffing me in a metaphorical locker, a–holes.
If there’s one takeaway from Unauthorized, it’s that Diamond’s co-stars treated him like s–t at all times. When Zack, Slater, Lisa, Jessie, and Kelly weren’t making Screech hide in file cabinets and lockers onscreen, they were throwing mad shade IRL. Like the time Diamond talked about getting his black belt and Lopez just laughed at him, or when Gosselaar gave him the cold shoulder during their first table read. These people make Regina George look like Lizzie McGuire.
4. I just want to be bad!
Diamond’s attempts to break free from the Screech persona are legendary. (Need we remind you of his 2006 sex tape, aptly titled Screeched – Saved by the Smell?) We get a real taste for his yearning to set fire to everything when a mean fan starts harassing him at the movie theater. Enraged, Diamond gets all up in this fan’s grill, yells “I AM NOT SCREECH!” and punches him. Again, the Emmys aren’t ready.
3. Congratulations, you’re going to South Carolina.
It’s pretty evident Diamond wanted more respect throughout the filming of Bell (more on that later), and this reared its ugly head during one incident with producers. In an attempt to entice the cast to renew their contracts, producers send the kids around the world for glitzy press tours. Two go to New York City. One goes to Miami. Two go to motherf–king Paris. And where do they send ’ole Screech? Spartanburg, S.C. Where dreams go to die.
2. Will the real friends please stand up (and not film me smoking weed)?
Diamond is pretty lonely on the set of Bell (with his co-stars being colossal jerks and all), so he seeks solace in an extra with a vodka flask permanently attached to his hand. The two become fast friends/drinking buddies, but something isn’t right about this dude. Our suspicions are confirmed when vodka man films Diamond smoking weed and uses it as blackmail to get a larger part on the show. Seriously, Screech can’t catch a break.
1. I WANT TO WEAR COOL CLOTHES, TOO.
Once Diamond realized his co-stars were treating him like Screech offscreen, too, he goes to a head producer to express his feels. He’s sick of playing the geek, and all he wants is to play a cool character who wears bomber jackets and attracts Lisa Turtle (Voorhies). But, as usual, his problems are pushed to the side. According to the producer, Screech’s “loserdom” is what defines him, and Diamond should be happy getting stuffed in lockers every day. It’s funny, damn it.
What do you think of Screech’s side of the story? Was it as dramatic behind the scenes as you had always hoped? Are you offended that Mark-Paul had to dye his own hair? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and enjoy watching Mr. Belding dole out high school superlatives to his teenage co-stars, below.
[Photo Credit: NBC Productions]