'Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story': 100 things that maybe happened
On Monday, September 1, Lifetime ushered in a new generation of unauthorized biopics with its behind the scenes look at what really happened on the 1990s hit Saved by the Bell. The cast has largely disavowed themselves from the project and/or Dustin Diamond’s scandalous memoir Behind the Bell, and considering that the movie is based on that biography, it’s safe to say most of the things that happened in this movie didn’t really happen that way at all.
But still, we watch. We learn. We cringe. We tweet.
Here are 100 things that APPARENTLY happened, if we’re to believe that the Diamond-produced Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story was based on truthfacts and actualhonests and was in no way, shape, or form a gross embellishment of events:
1. Everyone called the show Bell. How awful is that. Doesn’t that just immediately make you so angry?
2. Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Dylan Everett) and Lark Voorhies (Taylor Russell) had an immediate connection in the screen test waiting room, as evidenced by their making sexy rom-com eyes at each other at first glance.
3. The role of Lisa Turtle was originally meant to be a Jewish-American princess. (Based on my own very Jewish upbringing, I have to imagine that her name should have been Lisa Turtletaub, should the casting have panned out.)
4. SBTB producer Peter Engel wasn’t sure he was the right guy for a show about middle school.
5. Mark-Paul Gosselaar is part Indonesian and part Dutch. His mother Pauline is very strict about things like homework and money, but not very strict about eyebrow care.
6. Dustin Diamond’s father did not approve of his acting career, until he started showing up to live tapings and suddenly became just delightful.
7. Dustin pissed off Peter Engel from an early stage, making frequent duck quacking noises in the rehearsal room of Good Morning, Miss Bliss.
8. SBTB was groundbreaking because allegedly no one had ever done a live-action comedy with just kids and limited adults. It’s almost as if The Brady Bunch never happened.
9. The show was set in California because “everyone wants to go to school close to the beach.”
10. Everyone on the show hated school.
11. When The Bell Rings was the show’s original title, and apparently its inception was a genuine “Eureka!” moment for all involved.
12. Dennis Haskins was a big fan of Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap.
13. Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (Alyssa Lynch) introduced herself as “Tiffani-Amber.” Same with “Mark-Paul.” They both went with it for a loooong time.
14. A.C. Slater was supposed to be a “John Travolta character, Italian, a real ladies’ man.” Instead they settled on Mario Lopez (Julian Works).
15. Jennie Garth was in the running for Kelly. This is actually an amazing revelation and would have changed the face of ’90s television as we know it.
16. Elizabeth Berkley (Tiera Skovbye) was also up for Kelly.
17. Peter Engel once thought Elizabeth Berkley had range.
18. No swearing on set.
19. Hand-holding was almost immediate between the show’s real-life couples. Lark and Mark-Paul held hands. Mario held both Elizabeth and Tiffani-Amber’s hands. Screech held no hands.
20. Mark-Paul had trouble with math.
21. Mario had trouble remembering his lines.
22. When producers asked the kids what talents they had, Tiffani-Amber said horse riding. Elizabeth said dancing. Mario also said dancing, which was the best thing he could have ever said.
23. MARK-PAUL WASN’T A REAL BLONDE AND DID HIS OWN ROOTS.
24. Elizabeth didn’t like hairspray. At least until 2002.
25. After its premiere, SBTB was a critical nightmare. Elizabeth took the bad reviews particularly hard.
26. Ratings sucked for a solid four months, and yet it still wasn’t completely cancelled. (Can you even imagine?)
27. Mario felt that Bugs Bunny was the show’s most direct competitor.
28. Mark-Paul didn’t have his own bedroom, but had his own dressing room.
29. CHEETAH. BEAT.
30. Mark-Paul’s mom would only let him spend $20 a week.
31. Elizabeth, Lark, and Tiffani-Amber would often go shopping together at a store that offered rhinestone bras, flirty sundresses, and Grecian urns in the same display.
32. Dustin played pranks on his fellow cast members, involving a tarantula (creepy!) and peeping through the clothes in the wardrobe room (normal!).
33. Mario skeezily brought girls to the Max set so that they would sleep with him and/or give him various Slaterjobs.
34. Dustin used to fantasize about being Lou Ferrigno.
35. Lark and Mark-Paul (Lark-Paul?) used to go to the rooftop to hang out and make kisses.
36. Lark didn’t make a big deal out of birthdays because she’s a Jehovah’s Witness.
37. Lark is a Jehovah’s Witness.
38. Elizabeth and Mark-Paul were close friends in real life, just like their characters on the show.
39. Dustin began calling Tiffani-Amber just “Tiffani.”
40. Before their first kiss on the show, a nervous Tiffani wanted to practice making out with Mark-Paul. “We’re friends, and good actors,” she said with a straight face.
41. Lark brought physical interaction into all the shady side-eye throwing that had been going on. At a photo shoot, she nudged Tiffani-Amber. It was a whole thing.
42. Mario used to do push-ups between photos. This is 1000% believable.
43. Dustin wanted to be like Mario and tried to do push-ups, which really upset Mark-Paul for some reason.
44. “To figure out who was dating in real life, all you had to know was which characters were dating on the show.”
45. Elizabeth and Mario gave each other high-fives after successful bouts of “acting.”
46. Dustin’s real first kiss was on the show opposite Tori Spelling.
47. Trying to be like Mario yet again, Dustin gave Tori Spelling a tour around the set and tried to kiss her; instead, she asked to be introduced to Mark-Paul. It really upset Dustin.
48. Dustin allowed little girls to call him “Screech,” and he didn’t seem that bothered by it.
49. Mario sunbathed between sound stages. This also sounds valid.
50. The kids lobbied the producers to give them more serious story lines.
51. “The producer finally listened to us. Jessie is addicted to pills!”
52. During the rehearsal for Jessie’s caffeine pill freak-out, Lark said “that was incredible” and Dustin laughed. Everyone glared at him, and he stormed out.
53. Dustin’s storming out was the beginning of his decline into alcoholism, because shortly after the rehearsal he was confronted by a sketchy Asian teenager with great biceps and a puka shell necklace who offered him a flask of vodka.
54. Dustin spit out the vodka on his first sip.
55. By the third season, the actors could play their characters “with their eyes closed,” which meant more time for pranks, like when Mark-Paul took a Xerox of his ass and gave it to Mario.
56. Elizabeth auditioned for a TV movie about Eleanor Roosevelt called Ahead of Her Time, which would mark the unofficial first time she wouldn’t be taken seriously as an actress. It was also the first of many references in The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story that would throw serious shade at Elizabeth’s acting career.
57. Tiffani-Amber became Tiffani-Amber again in season 3.
58. “I guess we’re just as fake as Zack and Kelly.”
59. An NBC executive’s car accident was the reason the show first began to go off the rails, as a lesser executive grew hungry with power and devoured all the good plotlines in her unending thirst for ratings.
60. Dustin, growing increasingly tired of being called “Screech” (and to a lesser extent being called ugly), began to assault people on the street when they harassed him.
61. Dustin got additional rage out of his system via karate in his own private dojo. Apparently he’s a black belt! Or he was just wearing a black belt.
62. The fourth season of SBTB was supposed to be the last—four seasons, one for each year of high school—but the show was too much of a hit for NBC to let it go.
63. Peter Engel was vehemently against the show going on and didn’t want to keep the kids from growing up.
64. Launching a series of buzzy press tours to keep the kids satisfied, NBC sent Zack and Kelly to Paris…
65. …and sent Lark and Elizabeth to New York…
66. …and sent Mario to Miami…
67. …and Dustin went to Spartanburg, South Carolina.
68. In South Carolina, Dustin got drunk at a fan event, which led to local affiliates threatening to drop the show.
69. Dustin overturned an ottoman with chess pieces falling to the floor symbolizing the fleeting achievements of humanity. Happy Labor Day.
70. Tiffani-Amber tried wine and loved it.
71. Mark-Paul tried wine and hated it.
72. Mark-Paul can’t speak French.
73. Tiffani-Amber tells Mark-Paul over dinner in Paris-Paris that she and Elizabeth both felt like it was time to leave the show so they could pursue other ventures. Tiffani-Amber believed the show would end eventually; Mark-Paul was incredulous.
74. Elizabeth made sure everyone knew she wanted to do movies.
75. “You have to show the world who Mark-Paul Gosselaar really is.” Could Tiffani-Amber have known that one day he would play Franklin and/or Bash?
76. Elizabeth and Tiffani-Amber showed up for work together to say goodbye. Elizabeth was optimistic. Tiffani-Amber was sad-sad.
77. “Don’t forget us little people when you become a big movie star,” said Mario Lopez once.
78. Tiffani-Amber was very unhappy about the addition of Tori to the cast.
79. Mark-Paul bought a motorcycle without asking his mom’s permission.
80. Mario was very eager to get on the motorcycle and even did the Breakfast Club fist-pump because he was so happy.
81. Dustin and his potentially imaginary friend (whose name, we learned, is Eric) smoked a lot of weed and wore chunky glasses before anyone else.
82. Dustin made a “that’s what she said” joke in 1992, before anyone else.
83. Dustin was duped by Eric, because it turns out their entire friendship was based on Eric getting a part on Saved by the Bell as Tori’s boyfriend.
84. Eric blackmailed Dustin.
85. Everyone was excited for Elizabeth’s movie career.
86. Mark-Paul invited Elizabeth to a party. She showed up and was surprised he was enjoying himself.
87. The idea of the kids graduating from the show was because they had all become absolute hooligans, except Lark and Elizabeth and Tiffani-Amber and Mario and one-half of Mark-Paul.
88. Elizabeth and Tiffani returned for the graduation episode, which is definitely not how it actually went down in real life, sorry.
89. Lark: “I’m sure you’ve been busy.”
90. Elizabeth: “Not that busy.”
91. In 1993, Mark-Paul finally started letting his hair get darker.
92. Peter Engel thought the graduation episode was the end of the show, but The College Years turned out to be a sick joke by the network that they didn’t tell him about.
93. Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style never existed.
94. After graduation, Lark “never stopped acting.”
95. Mario became the host of Extra.
96. Elizabeth “bounced back” from Showgirls. She even did Broadway.
97. Tiffani dropped the Amber for good.
98. Mark-Paul went on to a successful career.
99. Dustin… well, Dustin made this movie.
100. Surely a 100th thing happened in this movie—an alleged conversation, an overdramatized argument, a line for Dennis Haskins, a misguided appropriation of an idea. But no, it doesn’t look like it, because that would have been interesting and engaging and made for an illuminating viewing experience. Instead, as we’ve learned, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story reeked of offensive biopic cliches that were perhaps most offensive in their bias toward one very skewed point of view. One actor’s trouble fitting in was blamed largely through cheap shots on the personality flaws of his cohorts. It’s very evident that the one who emerged a winner only did so by hiding behind this horrendous and unmoving time-waster, which managed to make it very clear which cast member was the real loser here.