Whether or not we really need a Saved by the Bell tell-all movie is a matter of opinion (We’re going with ‘no.’); but the TV Gods at Lifetime have nonetheless hit the greenlight on a juicy tell-all about what really went on when the cameras stopped rolling on one of the most popular teen comedies in TV history.
The cable channel best known for its made-for-television dramas is producing one about the Saturday Morning ’80s/’90s cult classic. The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story will air on Labor Day, Monday Sept. 1, at 9/8c.
Saved by the Bell was repackaged in its best known form after the cancellation of the short-lived NBC/Disney Channel series Good Morning, Miss. Bliss. The new show premiered in 1989, making instant stars of its young cast — which included Mark Paul Gosselaar, Dustin Diamond, Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkeley, Lark Voorhies and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen.
Lifetime suits — already busy readying biopics on R&B divas Whitney Houston and Aaliyah for release in the next year — promises that this TV movie will shed new light on the struggles the show’s teen stars faced “growing up under public scrutiny while trying to maintain the squeaky clean image of their popular characters both on and off-screen.”
If (emphasis on this) Diamond’s 2009 tell-all book Behind the Bell is to be believed, the fodder for interesting content is aplenty. Dustin’s tome accused blonde bombshell Gosselaar and the dimple-cheeked Lopez of bedding every female member of the cast. He alleged that NBC paid top dollar to make a 1993 sexual assault allegation against Lopez mysteriously disappear; this after the claim made its way to TV newsmagazine A Current Affair.
Diamond described the on-screen love of his life, Voorhies, as a shy Mama’s Girl. Lark, he said, became even more withdrawn after her reportedly abusive romance with comedian Martin Lawrence ended with their very public uncoupling (he broke off their engagement) during a 1989 episode of The Arsenio Hall Show.
There was even talk of cast drug abuse. The horror!
Dustin has since sought to distance himself from Behind the Bell, claiming that the book was filled with the “highly-inaccurate” ravings of a ghostwriter. Lifetime, on the hand, insists its expose is based on hours of interviews with individuals connected to the show. The network even hired Saved by the Bell’s original casting director to hunt down the stars that will appear in the Labor Day tell-all.
The public first learned of plans to bring the (alleged) Saved by the Bell story to life on Thursday, when the network released a promotional shot of its cast. So far, the biggest complaint ’round the blogosphere has been the casting director’s sheer inability to properly pair the characters. (Hello! Kelly dated Zack — not Slater!)
Much like the original series, Lifetime opted to hire fresh-faced, Hollywood unknowns for the SBTB movie. Here’s how the cast rounds out:
– Dylan Everett (Degrassi: The Next Generation) is set to play Mark-Paul Gosselaar in the role of mischievous ringleader “Zack Morris.”
— Sam Kindseth (Shameless) is Dustin Diamond, everyone’s favorite geek and loveable sidekick “Screech.”
— Julian Works (Paranormal Activity, Modern Family) fills the shoes of superstar Mario Lopez as the hunky jock “A.C. Slater.”
— Alyssa Lynch (The High Jumping Witch) plays the role of America’s favorite sweetheart, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, who originated the part of Kelly Kapowski.
— Tiera Skovbye (Supernatural, Girl in Progress) takes on the role of talented beauty Elizabeth Berkley and her beloved character “Jessie Sapano.”
-Rounding out the cast is Taylor Russell McKenzie (Blink) who will portray Lark Voorhies and her on-screen persona, the privileged “Lisa Turtle.”
Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time a network has sought to dirty up the public image of a beloved TV series. In the early aughts, NBC commissioned “unauthorized” stories recounting the behind the scenes drama of ’70s classics Three’s Company and Diff’rent Strokes.
Will you tune into The Unauthorized Story of Saved by the Bell?
(Just because this never gets old…)