Twenty years of lingering rumors will — hopefully — be put to rest once and for all with the Sept. 1 premiere of Lifetime’s The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story — a new behind-the-scenes TV movie that aims to expose the seedier side of Tiger Beat’s most popular poster children.
From alleged drug use to reported threesomes, there is a lot of scandalous ground the film needs to cover in order to be everything Saved by the Bell fans are hoping for. But let’s not overlook the iconic onscreen moments that also deserve to be included. Here are the 13 things we’re so excited (so excited) to see in the movie:
1. The Show’s Ignoble Beginnings
Saved by the Bell was actually an unofficial spin-off of Good Morning Miss Bliss, a 1988 Disney Channel series that starred Parent Trap icon Hayley Mills as the titular junior high teacher who — in addition to working for Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) — mentored students Mikey Gonzalez (Max Battimo), Nikki Coleman (Heather Hopper), Samuel “Screech” Powers (Dustin Diamond), Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), and Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies).
The show was canceled in 1989, after only 13 episodes, but NBC purchased the rights to the series and reconceptualized it as the Saved by the Bell we all know and love.
2. Real-Life Love Triangles
The onscreen partner swapping was nothing compared with the backstage banging, according to Dustin Diamond. In Behind the Bell, his 1999 tell-all, the actor wrote that Tiffani-Amber Thiessen was hooking up with Mario Lopez and Mark-Paul Gosselaar — at the same time. Elizabeth Berkley followed suit after her co-star had tired of the boys (of Berkley, Diamond wrote, “There was a desperation to [her] ho’ing, like she had a lot of catching up to do”), and, eventually, Lark Voorhies slept with both of them as well.
Diamond also heavily implies — so, you know, grain of salt — that Gosselaar and Thiessen used to have threesomes with SBTB executive producer Peter Engel! But since these alleged trysts all took place behind closed doors, chances are it’s a rumor that will not get addressed.
4. Zack’s Inexplicable Control of the Space-Time Continuum
Although it was used sparingly, Zack Morris possessed the ability to call “time-out” and pause the world. Typically this gift was used to speechify to the camera, evade a teacher, or ogle a lady. Oh, Zack, always using your powers for good.
5. Horrible Clothes and Enormous Hair
Sartorially speaking, no one escaped the late ’80s/early ’90s unscathed, but the ladies collectively fared the worst, thanks to high-waisted jeans, an insane dependance on ruffles, and colors not normally found in nature. As for the hair, well, you know what they say: The higher the hair, the closer to god. And their bangs were holy.
6. Zack Morris’ Huge Phone
Because if you have to win a call-in radio contest, pay phones simply will not do.
7. The Audience’s Endless Hooting
The actors came and went, but the ooh-ing remained.
8. The Dark Side of SBTB
While Bayside was a perennially sunny town, some dark deeds were allegedly committed during the show’s run — most notably, the accusation that Mario Lopez sexually assaulted an 18-year-old girl at this home in Chula Vista, Calif., in 1993.
Diamond states in his book that NBC lawyers got involved and paid the woman “around fifty grand” to drop the case.
In the end, the actor was not charged with any crime, as police found no supporting evidence. San Diego Deputy District Attorney Peter Longanbach also said that several witnesses supplied statements that contradicted the woman’s claims.
9. Stacey Carosi
Action shifted to the beach in Season 3 and gave the gang — except Lisa (her parents were members) — jobs at Malibu Sands Beach Club. So, for six insanely popular episodes, Zack, Kelly, Slater, Screech, and Jessie worked for Leon (Ernie Sabella) and Stacey Carosi (Leah Remini), a father-daughter duo who ruffled Zack’s feathers before both fell for his charms.
While she’s gone on to star in countless other projects, the enduring popularity of Carosi — the best non-main character in the show’s history, IMHO — tickles Remini. “To this day I still get tweets from people that are like, ‘OMG! You kissed Zack Morris!!!!’” Remini told BuzzFeed earlier this year.
10. A Zack Attack Performance
A 1991 episode, titled “Rockumentary,” imagined a world where Zack, Kelly, Lisa, Slater, and Screech — aka The Zack Attack — were the world’s biggest rockstars. The episode, narrated by Casey Kasem (RIP), chronicled the band’s rise, fall, and subsequent reunion…before Zack woke up to reveal the whole thing was a dream.
11. The Two Toris
Tori Spelling landed one of her first major recurring television roles on SBTB — she played Violet Bickerstaff, a love interest of Screech’s, in a trio of episodes that aired in October 1990, December 1990, and October 1991.
A much more significant addition to the show happened as a result of contract shenanigans during the final season courtesy of Thiessen and Berkley. That led to the introduction of a new student: Tori Scott (Leanna Creel), a biker chick who eventually falls for Zack. She appears in 10 of the final 26 episodes, but thanks to some scheduling insanity, NBC aired episodes featuring Tori intermittently with Kelly and Jessie episodes.
None of the characters’ departures were ever discussed (“Hey, where’s that girl you’ve spent three years in love with, Zack?”), which is one of the many reasons why the continuity-free series has found so much success in reruns.
12. Drugs Onscreen and Offscreen
In 1991, Saved by the Bell produced an episode called “No Hope with Dope” that tackled drug use head-on as Zack and Kelly were offered marijuana by Johnny Dakota (Eddie Garcia), a movie star shooting an anti-drug PSA at Bayside.
It turns out that art may have been imitating life, as Dustin Diamond — who admits to smoking a lot of weed while making the show — claims the actors were all getting method for the episode. “I just can’t help but think of all the off-camera drinking and recreational drug use being indulged in by the cast members during that time,” he wrote. “I could even smell a certain ‘smoke’ wafting from the crack beneath Tiffani’s dressing room.”
An assertion that makes this PSA all the more outstanding.
13. This Valuable Life Lesson
It will be a shock and a shame if the single most iconic moment in Saved by the Bell history — Jessie’s caffeine pill freak-out — doesn’t get re-created in Lifetime’s movie. So, here’s hoping Tiera Skovbye (who plays Elizabeth Berkley) is a big fan of The Pointer Sisters.
The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story airs Sept. 1 at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.
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