In a year stuffed with films like Godzilla and Guardians of the Galaxy, somehow my expectations loomed largest when it came to the Lifetime Original The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. Sure, those expectations were positively drowning in hairspray and ironic glee, but they were also a lot easier to achieve, and every single one of them was met. It’s a post-Sharknado world, but a TV movie doesn’t need for murderous animals and weather patterns to co-mingle in order to be enjoyable. Sometimes all it takes is fake Lark Voorhies taking time from her rooftop picnic to talk about how Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate Christmas.
This flick had way too many bizarrely left field instances to limit this list to just a handful, so I present to you the 25 most WTF moments in The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. In no particular order, since this movie was in no particular version of reality. Maybe you can listen to some sweet ass jams while you read along. And there are many, many more oddball occurrences in this flick, but a guy has to sleep at night.
1. The Music! Going into this pic, I knew that Bel Biv Devoe and The Go-Go’s were going to be some of the bass-thumping tunes, but I never expected to hear Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” during a party scene. Well, I guess maybe part of me expected it, but why didn’t they have Mario Lopez (Julian Works) singing it to someone while doing the Roger Rabbit? At least this was countered by Young MC’s “Principal’s Office” and Cameo’s “Word Up” playing over two scenes! I've already thanked all of my lucky stars and yours that Color Me Badd didn't make it to the party.
2. “I’m making thousands!” This is Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s (Dylan Everett) response to his mom when she says he can only have his normal allowance and that his show wages are being put into a bank account for college. Doesn’t this woman know that Mark-Paul has motorcycles, motorcycle helmets, motorcycle gloves, motorcycle jackets and condoms to buy? He’s making thousands!!
3. The “I’m So Excited” scene. So the “WTF” in this case stands for “Watch the Face,” because it’s Tiera Skovbye’s best moment as Elizabeth Berkley (as Jessie Spano). It’s arguably the most often cited scene from Saved by the Bell’s history, and its presence certainly roused a cheer from me. Okay, so I actually began pre-cheering as soon as Berkley started talking about bringing “issues” into the show’s plotlines and asked Mario if she should talk to a real addict for inspiration. Jeers to that scene never getting filmed, but cheers to the only time Dustin Diamond (Sam Kindseth) reaches anything resembling relatability, which is when he laughed at Berkley’s performance.
4. “The pilot feels too Jewish. Too New York.” R.I.P. Brandon Tartikoff. He was presented here as a nice guy, particularly to Dustin “I’m going to play with your daughter now” Diamond, but this line was just too good and too 1990 not to laugh at. Especially when we already heard someone say, “Lisa Turtle is supposed to be a Jewish American Princess.”
5. Dustin Diamond’s duck dance. The joy of alliteration aside, what the fuck was up with Dustin walking around like a duck to make people laugh? Given this entire movie was from his point of view, you’d think all that griping about people not liking him would result in impressive behavior. Instead, he walks around and quacks (admittedly impressively) like a duck. Was that in the sex tape?
6. “When the Bell Rings” Any time a TV show or movie is made to look back at some piece of pop culture, there’s always a scene where characters bang out what the thing should be called. And Peter Engel’s big idea is “When the Bell Rings.” Not that they’d had any conversations about a bell-related title. But when genius strikes, you don’t ignore that shit.
7. 90210 references. Our own Kelly West considers herself more of a 90210 fan than a Saved by the Bell fan, and the fact that there can actually be two sides to this argument is amusing in and of itself. But the two shows actually do have some crossover history, as Jennie Garth auditioned for SBTB, and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen went on to play slutty bad girl Valerie in the later seasons of 90210. Is this Lifetime planting the seeds for a future 90210 movie? Fingers crossed.
8. “Sign my bellybutton.” It was one thing for a girl to randomly ask Mario to do this, but then her mother stepped in and asked for hers to be signed as well. (“MOM!”) And then Mario just looks approvingly at the both of them. The joys of fame in SoCal.
9. Dylan Everett’s acting. Is it just me, or was Everett legitimately pleasing in his portrayal of Mark-Paul Gosselaar? I’m not saying his lines were well-written or that his character grew at all. But on a scene-to-scene basis, I couldn’t help but think that this dude could possibly be on the road to some kind of stardom later in life. It might have been because of the lackluster competition, as no one else in this movie provoked similar complimentary thoughts, but I think he’s destined to take the co-lead in 2034’s made-for-TV movie about Franklin and Bash or something better.
10. Dustin Diamond getting drunk in a gi. As Dustin gets older and more surly about the fact that no one likes hanging out with him, he starts drinking. And he mentions earlier in the episode that he knows karate, so it was with much approval that he eventually showed up in his gi, though no one else was around to spar with or anything. So he just drank from his flask. Wax on, Dustin-san.
11. That’s not how the graduation episode happened. Now, I’m not going to stand behind a podium and say that any amount of the events portrayed in this film were real, but I know damned well that the situation surrounding the graduation episode wasn’t like it was seen here. (Because of the Internet, of course.) This movie showed Elizabeth and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (Alyssa Lynch) coming back to the show after “the Tori episodes” for a reunion of sorts, but they’d actually filmed all this before they left the show in the first place, with the confusion coming from NBC ordering more episodes than expected (or necessary). I can’t say with certainty, however, whether or not Mark-Paul and Kelly’s first kiss played out similar to the Snow White episode.
12. Tori! Miss Bliss! Violet! Some of the most beloved/reviled characters in Saved by the Bell’s run barely showed up in the movie, though I suppose we’re lucky they were included at all. Alison Raine played Hayley “Miss Bliss” Mills, to whom Dennis Haskins (Ken Tremblett) introduces himself with the unsultry Mr. Belding laugh. Then there’s the back of Violet’s (non-Tori Spelling) head, and then we see leather-wearing Tori’s outline in the distance while Elizabeth and Tiffani-Amber talk mild shit against her. We don’t even get to see Stacy Carosi! What gives!?!
13. The audience reaction shots. A decent portion of The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story involves the actors taping scenes from the show, and almost more enjoyable than reliving these scenes is watching the audiences laugh at this trite garbage. It’s like a double whammy for an extra. Specifically during the Winter Carnival sequence, there’s a kid who just nails it with a fist-pumping move straight out of a G.I. Joe cartoon. I want all the B-roll for those reaction shots.
14. Screech does push-ups. As the gang are taking promotional photos, the angst between everyone comes to a head. It’s jealousy between the girls and…push-up skills between the boys. After Mario inexplicably just drops to the ground to do some quick exercises, Dustin follows suit, only to tire almost immediately. He then calls Mario a prick and they almost get into a fight. And Dustin still wonders why nobody liked him, and why he was having uncomfortable pink-outlined fantasies about being inside of a muscle suit.
15. Mario can’t remember the line, “Who are you, the King of England?” I seriously have no idea what this was about, or why this was the line that Mario just kept forgetting. Remember all those great A.C. Slater monologues? No?
16. NBC executive scenes. We’re led to believe from the beginning that this is Dustin Diamond’s story, and that this would be how he experienced the Saved by the Bell years. Yet, almost immediately, viewers are treated to the behind-the-scenes conversations between the show creators and producers, which happens often enough throughout the movie. I would have accepted this a little better had they shown Dustin as the fly on the wall, hanging off of it with plungers strapped to his hands and feet.
17. “Accept the challenge!” The gang are all having their on-set schooling when the subject of talents comes up. Mario and Elizabeth both declare their backgrounds in dancing, and when Mario asks Elizabeth to dance, she initially declines. At this point, one of the other girls awkwardly states, “Accept the challenge!” This weird ADR line, in a nutshell, is what the entire script is like.
18. Dustin’s dad. This is the only character in this movie that actually reached redemption. Mostly for liking his son’s show more than he initially thought he would, not because he started to like his son more or became a better father or anything. Boy, did he respect Peter Engel.
19. Saved by the Bell: The New Class doesn’t get mentioned. I mean, what the actual Tommy De Luca fuck, guys? This movie makes a good effort to mention some of the projects surrounding the careers of these characters, from Saved by the Bell: The College Years to Showgirls, yet the direct spinoff series gets no love at all, even though Dustin Diamond and Dennis Haskins both starred in it. Maybe Robert Tefler was one of the extras in the audience.
20. “I just want a piece of what you got, D.” Perhaps my secret favorite part of this movie was Eric (Manny Jacinto), the Asian kid who befriends Dustin by turning him onto booze and weed, which is all revealed to be a long con so that he can get out of being an extra and secure himself a career. It’s even more ridiculous when one considers Eric came up with this plan in the seconds after Dustin kicks over a trash can right next to him. And his BIG MOVE – videotaping Dustin getting stoned and acting like Garth from Wayne’s World – happens just before the show is taping the final episode. Solid timing, Eric.
21. Mario sunbathing between sound stages. At some point, Elizabeth finds Mario to talk about a scene, and he’s just laying down on a lawn chair in a hat and sunglasses. No judgment, here. Apparently this wasn’t at all in direct opposition to the No Dangerous Activities clause.
22. Zack’s unchanging hair. Saved by the Bell was on the air for four seasons, which meant the real Mark-Paul Gosselaar, along with the ladies, went through some serious hairstyle changes as they went through their teenage years. Yet Everett’s hair stays the same throughout the entire flick. Understandable from a Lifetime perspective, of course, but I really wanted to see some heinous wigs on display, and not just a bunch of hair dye jokes.
23. The Hudson Hawk marquee. Now, I understand that movie marquees are an easy way to transport an audience to a specific point in time, and it is almost always a success. Such as here, when one of Hollywood’s biggest busts, the Bruce Willis adventure Hudson Hawk, is used to remind people that it’s 1991. Sure, the movie has its own cult following now, but I just want to know if Problem Child 2 or Double Impact were available?
24. That one sign. During the fan-mauling scene, somebody has a posterboard with “LISA” written in big pink letters above a drawing of a turtle. I may or may not have rewound this just to laugh at it again. I mean…really? In small print beneath the drawing, it should have said “This is my first poster ever and I’m not supposed to be out of my cage right now.”
25. The Time Out scenes. It was funny enough in the beginning, when Mark-Paul first called the “time out” and Dustin melodramatically stole the fourth-wall-breaking talking stick, because all of the extras behind them were completely incapable of standing still for very long. Then in the end, when Dustin gives his epilogue tale of “Where Are They Three Years Later?” he walks through the graduation crowd, which presents even more instances of wandering hands, blinks and shaking bodies. Choices like these mean no one can ever deny this movie’s power. It is magic and magic is it.