Like most children of the ‘90s, I grew up watching “Saved By the Bell.” It was a necessary part of life, so much so that I tried to mimic Lisa Turtle’s hair and outfits (yes, tried—and subsequently failed), developed crushes on any boy that remotely looked like Zack Morris (read: they had blond hair) or A.C. Slater (read: they were Latino), and vowed never to succumb to the evils of caffeine pills.
So when Lifetime TV announced a few months ago that it would air the movie The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story, I let my inner 9-year-old self out, squealed, and literally marked my calendar with a red pen for the movie’s premiere. I also told all family and friends to not call or text or communicate with me in any way on Labor Day between 9 and 11 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, or they will get stabbed.
Then the movie finally debuted. And after all the hype and patiently waiting and threatening to physically harm certain people, I wanted to personally call—not email, not send a letter, call—Lifetime and demand an explanation for that movie, because, even though I had low expectations, what I saw was nothing short of a hot mess.
Here are 9 moments from Lifetime’s The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story that got a healthy dose of side eye:
1. There was virtually no drama. I expected a fun, lively, juicier than juicy tell-all with this movie, something akin to a cast member sleeping with an NBC executive, catching syphilis, then later developing a cocaine habit to ease the pain. Nope. Didn’t happen.
The juiciest we got were the various times Dustin Diamond (Screech) drank vodka from a flask before being videotaped smoking weed by his “friend” Eric (see No. 2) who later blackmailed Dustin into giving him a part on “Saved by the Bell.” Heck, they barely showed Lark Voorhies (Lisa) and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack) kissing.
Basically, the entire movie was cheesy and hackneyed, even for Lifetime. Right now, the Saved-by-the-Bell-movie concept needs to be picked up by HBO so that fans can get the real lurid details on what happened behind the scenes of the show. But what if “Saved by the Bell” isn’t as scandalous as we’d like it to be? If so, that’s unfortunate.
2. Eric. Eric was the guy who randomly popped up and turned Dustin onto the hard life of booze in a flask and marijuana. But, really, who is/was this Eric? Where’d he come from? Gabourey Sidibe is convinced that “Eric” is basically the movie’s version of Tyler Durden from Fight Club. She gets it.
3. Mark-Paul and Lark’s romance. If you can call it that. What exactly was it? Did they began “dating” right away after meeting each other? Did they call each other “girlfriend” and “boyfriend”? Did they ever hang out in public as a couple? Did Lark ever accept any of Mark-Paul’s gifts even though she was a Jehovah’s Witness? Was the relationship ever consummated? Are Lark and Mark-Paul friends today? This is too much.
4. Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (Kelly) goes from “Tiffani-Amber” to just “Tiffani” back to “Tiffany-Amber.” Because ‘80s teen actors. Also, she’s back to just Tiffani again. ‘Kay.
5. The hair … and eyebrows. Take a look:
Sigh. Also, Mark-Paul, who is not a natural blonde, touched up his roots himself. Who knew?
6. Dustin punched a guy because the guy called Dustin “Screech.” The guy got a bloodied nose and everything from Dustin. Allegedly. I have a hard time believing that a teenaged Dustin Diamond could beat up anybody, so I’m going to pretend that that never happened. Probably because it didn’t.
7. Dustin made a “that’s what she said” joke. Wait, what? Yes, the phrase was popularized in the early ‘90s—but by Mike Myers in the movie Wayne’s World. And the phrase got even more popular after it was used in a March 2005 episode of the U.S. version of The Office. You tried it though, Dustin.
8. Mario Lopez (Slater) does push-ups randomly in the middle of a photo shoot. Seriously, who does that? Apparently Mario Lopez.
9. The caffeine pill reenactment. The main reason I planned to watch The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story was to get the inside scoop of the famous Jessie-is-addicted-to-caffeine-pills scene. Unfortunately, the scene was played out all kinds of wrong in the movie that it made me give a side eye so massive that I lost my eyesight for a good 12 seconds.