"I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I'm so, I'm so... scared!"
Jessie Spano immortalized those words on Saved by the Bell. It also perfectly summed up how most felt before the premiere of last night's Lifetime docudrama The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story.
Unlike the more scandalous and indulgent Beverly Hills 90210, Saved by the Bell was made for Saturday mornings, it was preteen-focused and light heartedly blissful. The word "unauthorized" conjured up images of orgies and blow in the dressing room. Fortunately and unfortunately, it wasn't that.
Here is a collection of some of the fun, albeit vanilla, "facts" we learned:
- Originally aired on the new Disney channel as Good Morning, Miss Bliss and was supposed to focus around the teachers. Zack, Screech and Lisa were part of the show.
- Lisa Turtle was originally supposed to be a "Jewish American Princess."
- Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack) is not a real blonde and is Dutch and Indonesian!
- Dustin Diamond was the youngest, auditioned six times, and his father seemed unhappy and spoke of consequences a lot.
- Hayley Mills, who once played the dual Lindsay Lohan role in the 1961 version of the Parent Trap, was Miss Bliss.
- The show was set in Indiana.
- When the Disney channel canceled Miss Bliss, they went back to NBC and repositioned for Saturday morning for tweens. Wanted to focus on the 11-12 year olds as something beyond cartoons not yet teenagers. It would be a live-action comedy focused on the kids, where the adult stars don't matter. The show would also be set in California, because everyone wants to go to school there.
- Was going to now be three guys and two girls.
- Tiffani-Amber Thiessen and Elizabeth Berkley were both up for Kelly and when they couldn't choose between either actress they made a new character: Jessie Spano. They did eliminate Jenny Garth, who later became another Kelly, Kelly Taylor!
- A.C. Slater was supposed to be the John Travolta type, they wanted him to be Italian. We're glad they picked the Latino from Chula Vista.
- The critics slammed the first season; the "real actress" Berkley cried. (We just wish her reaction to Showgirls reviews were documdramatized.) The show was again canceled, but then the tweens and teens of America started gossiping and banning together and revived it in reruns. When they had return for the second season, everyone knew Zack and Kelly.
That was nice and all, but what about the hook-ups, fights and drugs?
Gosselaar (Zack Morris) and Lark Voorhies (Lisa Turtle) had an instant connection and held hands under the table during initial read. Although, she was a Jehovah's Witness and it never went much further. She felt uncomfortable accepting the birthday gift he bought her. He said things like "the one girl I want, I can't have," and she said, "There's a lot of things I'm not supposed to do, but I want to do."
She was not so subtle with her disdain for when Thiessen would outwardly flirt with him. There was a great photo shoot scene where they elbowed each other for the shot. And an executive quipped, "If the network don't kill us, the hormones might."
Theissen even did the ultimate move, visiting Zack's trailer so they could practice before their on screen kiss. We've got to practice. We have to make it real. Classic.
Mario Lopez, the dimples, brought plenty of dates on set and never stopped flirting, which put Dustin Diamond in a constant rage of jealousy. Although, Diamond, the outcast, was really the star of this film. Rather than Zack doing time-out freeze frames it was Screech.
At one point Diamond storms into an NBC executive's office who is on the phone discussing that Seinfeld may be "too Jewish and too New York " to say he no longer wants to be such a geek. He assures Diamond that he is the comedic star. But at a low point, he calls Lopez a "prick" after he knocks out clapping push-ups.
Diamond has fantasies where he has muscles and is in a hot tub of ladies and uses Lopez lines, but in reality everyone asked for Zack and A.C. His first kiss is actually the one on screen with Violet played by Tori Spelling. (Donna Martin graduates!)
In the movie he does make one friend with an evil extra named Eric (better than Eric the Actor) who gives him a swig off his flask of vodka, which Diamond proceeds to spit out in the bush. But Eric assures him it will get easier and they become flask buddies, until he tries to blackmail Diamond with a video of him smoking a joint and saying "Party on" and "We're not worthy" in his best Wayne's World impression.
The girls, mainly Berkley, want to tackle more important issues and devise plan -- although, Gosselaar thinks it's too heavy -- to get the writers to slowly start working it in. The most memorable is the one mentioned in the beginning where it becomes a personal victory when Berkley gets to be addicted to pills. "Should I talk to a real addict?" she ponders. The result was the most talked about scene in the history of the show. She was responsible and everyone was in awe.
Except for Diamond, who laughed at the end and "It's caffeine pills, not like she's addicted to heroin."
After the four years, the real high school time, Thiessan and Berkley wanted to get out. Berkley was basically laughed out of an audition for a TV movie on Eleanor Roosevelt for her Spano ties. Before that, though, the network tried to sweeten the deal by sending everyone on dream press tours. Zack and Kelly went to Paris, where they had their first sips of red wine. A.C. Slater got sent to Miami, obviously, solo, where he quipped that he wouldn't be alone for long. The other girls went to New York and Screech got sent to South Carolina where he got too drunk.
In the end, Kelly and Jesse left and it lasted one more season and then they decided to give them the graduation that people wanted with the girls back and Lopez famously in that green leotard.
The College Years and The New Class happened but no one wanted to see this bunch grow up. Even through sex tapes, Showgirls, the hottest sex scene on Weeds, 90210, NYPD Blue, Extra! and Dancing with the Stars, it was this gang that we wanted to have the happy ending. It was our youth before corruption and in that way we were happy the unauthorized version wasn't that scandalous. The best Saved by the Bell moment of the movie was between the two fictional best buds after Diamond tells Gosselaar about the blackmail of the extra actor.
In perfect Zack Morris advice, "Go to the network, they will bury him in lawsuits."
"We've played best friends for five years. This may be the longest conversation we've had" says Diamond.
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"Better late than never."
Our heart melts. And we are willing to call them "Mark-Paul" and "Tiffani-Amber" forever, without laughing.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst.