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Unauthroized Saved By the Bell Story, The
I'll confess, I've most likely watched the entire run of the original "Saved by the Bell," including the series' origins as "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" at least two or three times in my lifetime. Whether it were on NBC or reruns on TBS, "Saved by the Bell" was a common TV viewing fixture from my pre-teen years through high school. To say I was shocked by the recently viewing some strange meta episode on DVD wherein the wacky hijinks spread from the halls of Bayside High to the backlots of the studio where the show was filmed and the teenage melodrama wasn't just focused on Zack, AC Slater, Kelly, Lisa, Jessie, and Screech, but their real-life acting counterparts. My mind is still reeling from revelations including but not limited to: Zack and Lisa in a forbidden (by the network) romance and Screech falling down a road of vice thanks to one of Bayside's nameless background students/extras. Or…maybe I'm just trying to rationalize "The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story."
Based on "Behind the Bell" by original series star Dustin Diamond and brought to the small screen by…drum roll…Lifetime Television (not just Television for Women anymore), "The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story" in all reality feels like one of the most poorly produced episodes of the original series, right down to the questionable dialogue and series proclivities to make much ado about nothing. The nearly hour-and-a-half "tell all" is exactly what one should expect from Dustin Diamond, who unlike his other series co-stars (Dennis Haskins aside), hasn't moved on from early 90s teen stardom. Sure there are appearances on reality TV and a video we'd all like to not know actually existed, but by and large, Diamond is forever linked with the character of Screech, and if you thought Screech was an awkward ostracized character on the show, wait until you see how sad and dour the story was from Diamond's point of view, mostly only for himself.
The fundamental flaw in "The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story" is that it's entirely lacking any narrative follow-through or in simpler terms, any reason to care. Once the initial kitsch factor of younger actors portraying some very iconic younger actors, all you're left with are Wikipedia level talking points about the series' developmental history and the occasional "behind-the-scenes" revelation, more than a few of which are introduced and never expanded on, making one wonder if they are dramatic embellishment or more non-sequiters blown out of proportion.
Further complicating matters are the performances in the feature lacking across the board, with Tiera Skovbye in particular seeming to channel not Elizabeth Berkley, but instead Berkley's performance as Jessie Spano; it's odd, somewhat comical, yet off putting at key moments. Julian Works treads into similar waters as Mario Lopez, although his performance isn't as cloying or intense. Add to that so-so production values (although I did enjoy the shifting aspect ratios for the recreations of key scenes from the show) and "The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story" struggles to even aspire to the quality of one its subject's worst episodes. Save your time and just watch a few classic episodes, there truly is nothing to see here.
The 1.78:1 (1.33:1 for the TV series scene recreations) anamorphic widescreen transfer is merely so-so, with average detail, notable digital noise/artifacting and a bit of minor edge enhancement. If the creators were going for a look that replicated the murky haze of the original series, they hit the nail on the head; it's a shame they couldn't replicate the bright 90s colors, because what is offered here is depressing.
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio track provides a minimal soundscape and is relatively clean. The audio track does suffer from being out-of-sync with the video, more pronounced in the first 30-minutes or so, but never really feeling natural until the last 30-minutes. It's a really bizarre A/V defect I shouldn't expect in 2014.
Unlike "Seinfeld," "The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story" truly is a show about nothing. Poor acting coupled with poor production value and mediocre, if not abjectly bad A/V production, add to that Dustin Diamond having little of value to reveal to fans and you have a true train wreck that doesn't even provide the most minimal of unintended chuckles. Skip It.