In 1988, I was 16 years old and had long since given up Saturday morning cartoons. That was the year the teen oriented situation comedy, Saved By The Bell, was born. According to Dustin Diamond, author of the 2009 tell all book Behind the Bell and the actor who famously played "Screech" on Saved By The Bell, that show ushered the beginning of the end of Saturday morning cartoons. Maybe I should hate Saved By The Bell for that very reason. I never watched it until I got to college. Some of my male friends were fans, mainly because they all thought Kelly Kapowski (played by Tiffani Thiessen) was a hottie. There was something mesmerizing about the cheesy, goody-goody sitcom and I ended up eventually seeing every episode more than once.
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Fast forward to 2007. My husband, Bill, was deployed and I was watching a lot of bad reality TV. One show I unexpectedly got hooked on was Celebrity Fit Club. Dustin Diamond, who had been the scrawny, token, nerdy sidekick to the "cool kids" on Saved By The Bell was now on Celebrity Fit Club trying to lose weight! And, I couldn't help but notice, his behavior on that show in 2007 was the antithesis to his character on Saved By The Bell. He came off as a complete @$$hole. Nevertheless, I love a good celebrity tell all. I had read reviews of Diamond's book, Behind the Bell, and the vast majority of them led me to believe that Diamond is still an @$$hole. Because I was curious and am a glutton for punishment, I decided to buy a copy of Diamond's book, just to see if it was really as bad as the reviews claimed. I just finished the book this morning and am more than ready to skewer it.
Birthing the "Bell"
Behind the Bell is basically one part autobiography and one part scandalous tell all. In prose liberally peppered with profanity, vulgarity, and typos, Dustin Diamond explains how he got into acting and landed guest roles on commercials and shows like The Wonder Years before he won his iconic role as Screech. He gives readers a little background about his family, but not much. Mainly, he sets up how tough it is to be a child actor, even as he admits that as a child actor, he had some pretty awesome experiences as well as enough money to buy whatever gaming system his little heart desired.
It doesn't take long before Diamond dives into dishing about his fellow Saved By The Bell cast members and the powers that be at NBC and Disney. Back in the late 80s, NBC and Disney were talking about merging. Saved By The Bell was originally called Good Morning Miss Bliss, starring Hayley Mills as Miss Bliss. That show aired on Disney and consisted of just 13 episodes. It was set in junior high and starred Mark-Paul Gosselaar as cool kid Zack Morris, Lark Voorhies as Lisa Turtle, Dennis Haskins as Principal Richard Belding, and of course, Dustin Diamond as Screech.
The original premise didn't work out, nor did Disney want to keep airing the show. The folks at NBC revamped the cast and changed the premise so that the show was about high school kids. Gosselaar, Voorhies, Haskins, and Diamond were joined by Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as Kelly Kapowski, Elizabeth Berkeley as Jessie Spano, and Mario Lopez as A.C. Slater. Saved By The Bell became a huge hit and eventually went into syndication. That's how I ended up seeing it.
The "sour grapes" of Screech's wrath...
If you've ever seen Saved By The Bell, you know it's a fairly wholesome show featuring stereotypical high school kids. The cast is attractive and the storylines are fun, but pretty silly. Watching those kids on camera, one would never come away with the idea that they were anything but squeaky clean. But, according to Dustin Diamond, every single one of the kids on Saved By The Bell was somehow sullied by the Hollywood lifestyle. He is particularly bitter toward Mark-Paul Gosselaar, whom he refers to as "The Golden Child". He has very little good to say about anyone involved with the show, with the exception of Hayley Mills and a certain NBC executive who has since died of breast cancer. But even the NBC exec isn't spared Diamond's crass treatment; according to him, the two had a torrid love affair, even though Diamond was underage at the time. Nothing classier than kissing and telling, right? Especially when the other person involved is no longer around to defend herself.
Screech, the man-ho
Once Diamond has trashed most of the cast and crew on Saved By The Bell, he moves on to writing extensively about all the women he laid. On page 177, he asks "is it bragging to say I've banged over two thousand chicks in my life?" Dustin Diamond gives new meaning to the expression star f*cker and comes across as a complete dick in the process. He seems to hate women and even writes an "open letter" to all the chicks he's banged before, basically shaming them for being "filthy" and engaging in sex acts with him to further their careers. That's an interesting thought, given that Diamond admits to "banging" over two thousand women and even spells out his methods for bagging them at Disneyland.
Screech gets screwed...
According to Dustin Diamond, Hollywood is full of shallow people who would screw over their own mother to get ahead. He may be right about that. However, he makes himself out to be a decent enough guy who bent over backwards for others. One guy, referred to in his book as "Captain Douchebag", apparently really double-crossed Diamond and inspired a lot of bitterness. Diamond never actually identifies the person, but he does devote plenty of pages toward venting about the guy. He also complains bitterly about his neighbors and all the fake people in California who fail to recognize Screech's genius. In fact, he pretty much seems to think (and actually calls) most people he encounters a "douchebag" or worse, a "douchnozzle". Just as an aside, I've never understood why a person should be offended by being called a douchbag. A douchebag is basically a bag of cleanser. I think I would be more offended by being referred to as douchewaste, but that's just me...
Even though, up to this point, I've mentioned a lot of negative things about Behind the Bell, I do have to admit parts of this book were entertaining and even interesting. And though this book is full of typos, misspelled words, and occasionally bad grammar, Diamond isn't that bad of a writer. His tone is snarky, occasionally funny, and conversational, but very profane. If he'd run his manuscript past an editor and added some more information about himself, this book would have probably turned out much better and might have even been somewhat well-received. I really have read worse writing and Diamond does include some photos.
However, Dustin Diamond also comes off as a legend in his own mind, revealing some disturbing narcissistic traits that make me think that if he's anything like the way he comes off in his book, he's the one who's a douchewaste. Diamond exhibits a very angry and entitled attitude and seems to hold just about everyone in contempt, including his readers. I actually congratulated myself for getting this book second hand. I would have hated to pay full price for Dustin Diamond's smug musings and bellyaching.
Behind the Bell might be worth reading if you don't mind profanity and endless vulgar fish stories about Dustin Diamond's many meaningless sexual conquests or if, like me, you're curious about the poor reviews. For most people, though, I'd say it's best to play hooky and skip Behind the Bell. Your time would most likely be better spent douching.
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