Why The “Unauthorized” Saved By the Bell TV Movie Was a Ratings Flop

Lifetime was probably expecting huge ratings numbers with their recent TV film, the Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. Lifetime had recently enjoyed success with other scandalous films, including the two TV films based on the V.C. Andrews “Flowers in the Attic” series. But the show garnered barely 1.1 million viewers from the 18-40 demographic, marking it was one of Lifetime’s least successful films in terms of ratings alone—never mind the poor critical reception! But why did this film, which Lifetime had been hyping up for several weeks and garnered plenty of online buzz, flop? Let’s look at the reasons why.

Too biased/too focused on Dustin Diamond’s character
The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell story should really have been subtitled: “From Screech’s Point of View.” The film was based on the memoir of Dustin Diamond, who obviously placed himself in the forefront of not only plenty of action, but he made himself out to be an outcast for no reason and even bullied to some extent. Whereas other cast members have noted that Dustin’s perception was likely colored because he was much younger than the other cast members when they filmed the show, and that he had a stand-offish personality.

Unfortunately, this bias definitely seeped into the TV film and made it rather boring. There are only so many scenes where they try to make it all about “poor Screech” before it becomes unpalatable.

The TV film’s actors did not physically resemble the actual actors
There is a very tricky line to walk when you are casting actors to look like real people. There will never be any actors who look just like their real-life counterparts, but the casting directors for this TV movie didn’t even seem to try. Not only were the actors much smaller than their real-life counterparts, most of them didn’t even vaguely resemble the people they were trying to play, except perhaps the actress who played Lark.

Mario Lopez behind the scenes in 1989 in 'Saved By The Bell'
Mario Lopez behind the scenes in 1989 in ‘Saved By The Bell’

Little insight into the actual goings-on of the show
This may be due to the “Dustin Diamond” bias that the film suffered from, but it seemed like there was less insight into the real guts of the show or behind the scenes drama and more random tidbits and oddly cobbled together moments which often made little sense due to the lack of clarity in the show.

The 'Unathorized Saved By The Bell' was saiad to bring up the dirt of the cast
The ‘Unathorized Saved By The Bell’ was saiad to bring up the dirt of the cast

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