Here’s a cartoon to tide you over while I get cracking on my review of the (disappointing) Unauthorized (except by Screech) Saved By The Bell Movie.
Here’s a cartoon to tide you over while I get cracking on my review of the (disappointing) Unauthorized (except by Screech) Saved By The Bell Movie.
I’m calling it. No matter what else you watch on Lifetime Movie Network in the next 50 years, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story will be worse than it. I realize this is a bold assertion, as it takes into account not only past movies but those in the future.
Attempted Blogger and I formulated a plan fit for a Masters thesis in preparation for the viewing. I would write a post from the perspective of someone who hasn’t seen Saved by the Bell, and she would write one from the perspective of someone who has. So I made like Tinkerbell and hopped on a Peter Pan over to Springfield; the bus experience was a good one: expedient, convenient, and cheap; “will ride again.” I hope what I just did there with those semi- and regular colons is ok. I can’t let shit like that slide in my Saved by the Bell Master’s thesis.
I always do my Wiki-homework before watching any Lifetime movie, and was intimidated by SBTB’s meaty entry. The show ran from 1989-1993, which puts me at 10 years old at the end– the perfect time to be exposed through re-runs. But, like most trash I eschewed as a precocious child, it aired on NBC.
To be fair, I was home-schooled at the time, and one of my many ideas of fun was to make druid garbs out of white sheets with my friend and go pretend we lived in the woods. I was a PBS kid to the bone.
A quick scroll down the Wikipedia page gave the impression that this was a program about Jr. High School and these 6th graders were stunningly complicated, with each character having a thick paragraph containing information such as “At times, Kelly and Jessie argue due to their differences, such as Jessie believing that cheerleading is demeaning to women (although Jessie herself is a cheerleader in several episodes).” Don’t get me wrong, I read over a hundred Babysitters’ Club books, but SBTB was a soap opera. For pre-teens. Yawn city.
(of course every other child my age would have strongly disagreed with me and mocked me mercilessly when I said my favorite show was Nature with George Page. True story: I was once bullied to tears after asserting that Vivaldi is better than NKOTB, so there is precedent.)
So, if the show is boring, it shouldn’t surprise you that a movie about a boring show would also be boring. Ever the optimist, I imagined that the movie would focus on the characters as adults in a where-are-they-now type situation. They could concoct some kind of adult love triangle and maybe even have slapping and/or kidnapping! Didn’t Screech release some pervy sex tape in real life? YES HE DID, LIFETIME. Actually, everything in Dustin Diamond’s Wikipedia page begs for a Lifetime movie. They made Screech the main character of the Unauthorized Story, but as a whiny kid whose only rebellious acts involve getting drunk and smoking a joint– not as an amateur pornstar/wrestlemania maniac! SMH, LMN.
AB and I slumped into the couch and doodled pictures of Screech and wrote down ridiculous quotes. She made the excellent point that the movie’s TV PG rating was a major constraint, but I can only remain disappointed in light of what could have been.
I guess the conclusion of my thesis is that it wasn’t worth writing a thesis about this movie and that it doesn’t matter whether I saw the original show or not because they both blow.
Because Attempted Blogger knows that “you can’t piss on hospitality”, she had a great bad movie picked out to watch in case SBTB proved disappointing: TROLL 2. I’m not going to say much more than it’s basically an hour and a half Are You Afraid of the Dark episode, and it contains the line quoted and linked to above which I will now say forever. And the word “troll” isn’t said in the entire movie. And there was no Troll 1.
You heard me right: The series finale of The Killing sucked. Like, deeply. Mr. Max summarized our reaction best:
We both love(d) the show, so this is a bit of a downer. In order to work through our sadness, we spent a long drive discussing exactly what went wrong and how it could be fixed. Warning: spoilers abound.
What Went Wrong Part 1: I got 99 Problems and Plot IS one of Them
I’ll start with the big one: letting Linden off via a huge, sloppy deus ex machina. I mean, are we really supposed to believe that the mayor – ANY mayor – has the ability to magically disappear a murder investigation? Because, I dunno… elections? And what about the police department? How can we be sure that no one — not even some snappy young detective ten years in the future — EVER reopens the case? What about if/when Skinner’s angry family demands their own autopsy? Or when they start doing DNA tests? For the love of pete, are we supposed to believe that ONE sentence from Billy Campbell is all it takes to get someone off the hook for murder?
Next, there’s the family stuff. Linden and the Colonel are dealing with similar mother-child issues. I get that they were trying to make a parallel here between these women, but the problem is that these issues feel a little TOO similar. It’s so literal that it doesn’t come off as smart or interesting, just redundant.
Along the same lines, I was majorly disappointed by the side plot with Linden’s birth mother. I almost fell out of my chair when they had her deliver that cheesy dig, “I think we’re a lot alike.” Because… apparently Linden’s mom is a villain from a Batman movie?
As far as the military school storyline goes, they had an interesting idea but screwed it up towards the end. The “It’s his mom!” thing was lame. Having a criminal revealed as the person everyone first suspected is tired. And giving a character amnesia is lazy and feels like something out of Megan Draper’s bad soap opera in Mad Men.
Last but certainly not least, we can’t forget the cringetastic tacked-on romance between Linden and Holder. We both groaned aloud as soon as these two started smiling and flirting and exchanging awkward, completely out of character dialogue. Why??
Linden does not smile! No!
What Went Wrong Part 2: Truth is Stranger than Fan Fiction
A lot of the weak plot stuff could have been forgiven had they avoided the temptation to write wish-fulfillment fan fiction. But they just had to go there. They had to throw in an unrealistic romance (Holder and Linden), bring back an old character (Billy Campbell, for 30 seconds), show someone’s future kid as a cutesy mini-me (Holder’s kid…whatever her name was), and tie things up with a cheesy, unnecessary epilogue. Please stop listening to Internet fans, writers. It’s the road to perdition.
I Fixed It For You
Here’s how the ending should have gone down. We pick things up just after the (excellent and powerful) scene where Skinner’s car is being pulled from the lake.
Re: the military school plot: All 3 boys end up being involved in the crime. Main kid is motivated by hatred of his abusive father. The other two want to kill the mom because she rejected them. Main kid goes catatonic after killing the dad and can’t remember anything. Little sister is killed by accident or by the other kids, with ensuing angst. Colonel is NOT the main kid’s mom but does orchestrate the cover-up, relating it to her experience killing civilians in war. She gives some sort of impassioned speech about the meaning of it all before they haul everyone away.
Linden solves the case but also gets caught/arrested for killing Skinner. However, it turns out that others in the department knew about Skinner and did nothing. In order to protect themselves, the police cover up everything, including Linden’s involvement. The Chief of Police tells Linden she is being given a second chance. She has no choice but to take it.
The last episode ends with a callback to the first: Linden’s retirement party. We see cake plates being thrown away and Linden closing her office door. Someone murmurs that she is moving closer to her son. She drives to the airport and we see her hesitate, then look back one last time at the city of Seattle before boarding the plane. THE END.
And we came up with that in like 15 minutes in a car. While driving.
You can do better, writers!
The title says it all. I had been avoiding this one on Amazon Instant for a while now, going for more splashy titles like “The Pregnancy Project.” But after watching and being wowed by a crazy-murderer/artist-dumping-brown-paint-over-his-naked-body-in-a-ritualistic-manner scene in “The Eleventh Victim,” an equally drab-sounding offering, I hoped another gem might be in store. I gamble, I win.
I knew I was in for a treat from the beginning, as the credits roll over a military uniform being straightened out and fussed with and we see CANADA emblazoned across the upper arm. I was like “holy shit this is going to be about Mounties” and went to make myself an Old-Fashioned. When I got back, a man was being introduced to an audience of military people as the new Commander of the air base. Then I was like “holy shit Canada has an Air Force?” First time for everything, I suppose. Anyway, the man is Russ Williams and he seems like a bit of a hardass, saying that he doesn’t want to move away from his neighborhood to be closer to the base. He says that he “could run the base through his phone.” Yes sir.
“Snug Harbor Road” is where Russ is so reluctant to leave, and it is made obvious that he’s a well-liked guy as he jogs around the neighborhood. I got a bit of a House of Cards vibe from Mr. and Mrs. Williams– no kids, no nonsense. Well, maybe some panty-sniffing nonsense!
<Law and Order sound>
Detective Dobson is definitely no nonsense and she doesn’t seem too happy about getting a partner. Detectives never seem to want partners, but they always come in so handy– duh. Anyway, I honestly can’t blame Dobson for not wanting this guy because just looking at him makes me angry. He looks like a bloated version of Brenda’s crazy brother Billy in Six Feet Under and he’s trying to pull off some “distant” look.
Chief Novak (the most detectiviest last name ever) tells Dobson that Gallagher is some kind of criminal profiling master and that they’re going to go investigate… a break-in. Womp womp. But Gallagher’s genius isn’t wasted because they discover that some pre-adolescent panties have gone missing! “Let’s get forensics in here,” says Dobson. Back at the office, Dobson and Gallagher eat detective food and rap about the case. “Stealing underwear is a way for him to get close to his victims.” LOL. I’m getting drunk and this is getting good.
Russ gets warmed up with a couple more panty raids, the first of which involves stealing a woman’s dildo collection and leaving a note mentioning “you’re big dildos.” The second starts off legitimately creepy with a cute air base colleague at home getting into the shower. Russ takes off all his clothes and makes like he’s going to quietly sneak into the shower behind her (eek city) but lo! He spies her underthings and decides to rub them on his chest instead. Then he takes a sip from a nearby wine glass and rubs her panties on the wine glass. His good times are interrupted by the shower being turned off, so he grabs the panties and runs.
Back at headquarters, Dobson and Gallagher meet with Chief Novak to tell her they found a male pube on some underwear he left behind. Novak, as all good police chiefs do, needs more evidence. She also demands a full profile by noon, which leads directly to hilariously bad detective dialogue like:
“He does his homework. He’s methodical.”
“It’s almost like he WANTS the women to discover him.”
“Wearing the underwear represents subjugation of his victims from afar.”
As minds race and midnight oil is burned, Russ enters the bedroom of a new mother who has passed out after finally getting her baby to sleep. He does that “almost touch” thing and then, to our surprise, actually grabs her. He ties her up and blindfolds her, and pretends to be part of a robber posse, keeping her quiet until his guys get the stealing done. In the meantime, he says he’s going to take some pictures of her. The camera sound effects here are those of a camera that looks like this:
Noisy shutter, popping flashbulbs… He must also have an antique camera fetish, no?
Nope. That’s just the way tiny digital cameras sound in Canada. Russ is mostly pretty nice to her and even gets her aspirin for a headache she complains of through her sobs of terror. He takes a few crime selfies and tells her to count to 200 and peaces out. She counts all the way, and only then does her baby wake up and start screaming. Whew!
Russ is on a roll now but the detectives are closing in fast. And by “closing in fast” I mean getting sidetracked by the last victim’s misidentification of Russ’s “sketchy” (not at all) neighbor named Charlie in a lineup who, during questioning, says “do you think I look like the kind of guy who would do that?” They’re like “yeah, you’re right” and let him go. Good cop, great cop?
My quickly-shortening attention span was refocused by a clever cut to a weird charity auction at the air base where they put good old Commander Russ in a fake jail cell and bid on who’s going to bail him out (?). He raises $3000 (??). “Great for moral,” says some other army guy to Russ on his way out of the men’s bathroom. Yup, says Russ… and then takes off his clothes to reveal that he is wearing women’s underwear!!!
It was definitely time for Old-Fashioned #2, and (thankfully) by the time I got back Russ had actually killed a couple women, and Dobson and Gallagher were coming to the conclusion that “he’s highly organized, disciplined” and therefore “could be someone from the air base!” They get some roads closed off for random stops for tire tread match identification purposes, possibly the only smart detective thing they do, and get evidence of Russ’s guilty tires. But how could it be Commander Williams? He’s an officer!
AND A MURDERER! Back in his garage, he rolls up a dead woman in a rug and dumps her somewhere. When he gets back, his high degree of organization and discipline manifests in the form of a tiny little dustbuster that he uses to get rid of the forensic evidence. If I know anything about dustbusters, this won’t work, but maybe Canadian dustbusters are more powerful.
Dobson is burning some more midnight oil, and Gallagher praises her diligence (he has done basically nothing useful at all) but warns her that she’s “gotta be careful with cases like this; they really get inside you, they eat you up. So put up a firewall (?).” And oh, by the way, Commander Williams’ tires matched. Dobson checks their profile against Russ’s info and she is ON it. Like a good TV detective, she shows up at his house Clarice Starling style, alone, no backup, no warrant. Russ is inside, Jame Gumbing out, wearing a victim’s bra and panties, watching his video recordings and taking more crime selfies. Dobson peers into his garage, stares at his tires, leaves, goes back to the office and looks at a photograph of his tires they got at the roadblock. Amazing, quality policework right there. You make that face, Dobson.
Chief Novak says that they’d better be able to back up their accusation because if they’re wrong about Commander Williams they are all going to be writing parking tickets for the rest of their lives. Classic police chief threat, classic police chief face.
Russ agrees to answer some questions down at the station, and before heading into the interrogation room he removes his shoes by the door (??). Dobson doesn’t get it either, but she takes the opportunity to grab a shoe and bring it down to forensics to have it matched with tracks that were left on a victim’s floor. It matches and BOOM, it’s all over for Russ. They find his panty stash and he’s off to the clink. One of his army colleagues is so flustered he pukes in the bathroom. The final scene is a weird ceremonial burning of Commander Russ Williams’s uniform. Probably a Canadian thing.
And then the Internet tells you that Russ is the Office Space guy and you go to sleep!
I drew this after a (frustrating) day spent recording audio by myself. Oh, well – at least I got a cartoon out of it.
Amazon is failing at marketing. They need to cut the crap about AmazonPantry and just tell people they’ve got this on Instant Video:
You KNOW you want to rewatch it.
Amazon doesn’t have all the episodes, probably because the show 1) isn’t important enough and 2) predates the whole entire-season-on-a-DVD thing. It’s just as well since a smattering of episodes from each season is probably the most that anyone can handle, anyway.
The Adult Perspective
I’m not gonna front — I watched Are You Afraid of the Dark back in the day with at least a small amount of enthusiasm. While it wasn’t perfect, It was clearly one of the better things on SNICK (even then I knew the proper reaction to Roundhouse was mortification).
That said, watching AYAOTD as an adult is at turns nostalgic, amusing, and horrifying. Certain facts are impossible to ignore:
1) The framing device — you know, the kids telling stories around the campfire — is dorkier than a No Fear sweatshirt. A bunch of creative writing nerds back-patting each other at 8:30 PM in what is clearly someone’s wooded suburban back yard is what we call the opposite of scary.
Also — and I know I’m ranting here but bear with me — why do they pretend that each story is under review (or “submitted for approval”)? They have the same exact reaction every single time: “Wooooah! AMAAZING story.” It’s like being trapped in a terrible, self-congratulatory creative writing workshop.
2) It’s a kiddie ripoff of Tales from the Crypt. Think about it.
But let’s get to important business of reviewing/capping some choice episodes.*
*Take note that these all feature classic AYAOTD “unhappy endings.” Life is too short for the sappy ghost stories. I skip right to the meat.
The Tale of the Pinball Wizard
In this one, slacker teen Ross blows off his responsibilities to play arcade games. In the first 15 minutes we’re treated to several not-so-subtle scenes establishing that Ross is a dick. He steals quarters from the mall’s wishing fountain, then gets into a tussle with a homeless beggar lady over a handful of them.
To pay for his somewhat obsessive hobby, Ross starts working part-time for the obviously creepy guy running the mall arcade. Creepy guy lets him man the shop, but makes him swear not to play the broken-looking pinball game in the back. And GUESS what he does in about 30 seconds?
When Ross finally calls it a night, he discovers he’s stayed past mall closing and all the doors are locked. Then he discovered he’s not just trapped in the mall, he’s trapped in the game itself!
Production note: It’s supposed to be a pinball game, but the game he’s trapped in resembles more of an early video game – like Ghouls ‘n Ghosts or something. But whatevs. I guess them both being arcade games is close enough for Canada.
After a bunch of twists and turns Slacker Ross manages to beat the game and rescue the princess, who is really just some cute girl from the mall.
(I should note that this whole episode plays like a bizarro version of that Scott Pilgrim movie, complete with the protagonist making a grand personal realization to beat the baddie at the end.)
Villain: You shouldn’t play the game, boy, if you don’t know the rules!
Ross: But this isn’t a game! It’s real! And when it’s real, you can make up your own rules!
Ross crowns the princess (in a way that made me feel somewhat uncomfortable) and BAM we get a happy ending complete with triumphant video game music. But wait! You hear creepy arcade guy’s booming voice and you know something’s about to go down.
Turns out that the whole thing was a scam and Ross is trapped in the game forever. And if that weren’t grim enough, here comes a giant pinball of DEATH!
Take that, quarter stealer!
The Tale of the Phone Police
I don’t actually remember seeing this one when it was on, but watching it as an adult is a wonderful, wonderful gift. And not just because the entire plot is based on a completely archaic childhood pastime (picking random names in a phonebook [what’s that?] in order to prank call strangers [but wouldn’t they just ring your number right back?]). It’s also because the plot involves something called the PHONE POLICE, a fiction I can’t imagine even the most gullible of children buying.
They come after you when you mess around with the phone. No, your parents didn’t just make it up!
Despite this silly, silly, concept, the notion of a dystopian police state run by a ruthless shadow organization is, well, kind of creepy. Jake, our rascal phone prankster, gets thrown in a windowless prison to rot, and even after he manages to escape the phone police have limitless resources to hunt him down. It’s like a kiddie version of Brazil.
A kiddie version of Brazil? That’s so wrong I can’t even.
The Tale of the Super Specs
My personal favorite. This one follows Weeds, a snotty little prankster who buys some X-ray glasses and mystery powder at the local magic shop. His bland girlfriend Marybeth tries on the goggles and starts seeing spooky faceless people everywhere.
And they’re actually scary! I’m a little scared right now.
It turns out that the creepy turtleneck no-face people belong to another dimension and the magic powder opened up a channel or something. This is – you guessed it – really, really bad.
They call on Sardo (no Mr., accent on the DO!), the recurring character no one asked for, to help them close the portal thing. Despite Sardo being a fraud, it seems to work and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The turtleneck no-face lady even shows up looking like a harmless real estate agent.
However, the kid was kind of a bratty jerk and by the rules of AYAOTD you know this HAS to be an unhappy ending….
…..aaaaaaaaaaaaand the alternate dimension people take over the world and the protagonists are trapped in a crystal ball forever. Goodnight kiddies!
I’m going to bravely continue our epic rewatch into the questionable late-period episodes. But for now, I declare this meeting of the Midnight Society closed.