Saturday, December 3, 2016

I Was Saved by the Bell: Stories of Life, Love, and Dreams That Do Come True

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Rating: 4 Stars

I received a free digital ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Before I get too far into this, I feel I must remind (or inform, if you have never read a review from me before) those reading that when I love something, I can become obsessed. Think Buffy, Titanic, etc.

I feel the same way about Saved by the Bell. I was younger than the intended audience, being born in 1983 and all, but man did I fall hard for Zack Morris in 1991. So I was 8, big deal. I've seen all the episodes, even the Good Morning, Miss Bliss ones, the College Years, and both movies. I could not, however, bring myself to watch The New Class. It just was not the same. I tried for a while, but without Zack and Kelly, I just could not do it.

So, given my love for all things 90s, you can imagine how giddy I was when I spied this title on NetGalley. I have know the name Peter Engel for years, as he is the man who gave the world this awesome gift (minus Tori), but it occurred to be that I knew very little about HIM, the creator of a show I loved so much (and own all the DVDs of).

Typically when reading books like this, I would want to skip straight to the part I am most interested in and not bother with anything before it. But Engel's discussion of his early exposure to politics and his belief in President Kennedy's message was incredibly interesting to me - and it seems like he felt about Kennedy the way I feel about Bernie Sanders - though THAT is an entirely different post and honestly I don't know if I can stand talking about that catastrophe of an election anymore.

Moving on...

Engel is very candid and honest about things in those early years. He mentions an affair he had while married to his first wife and how when he moved out of their home, his wife did not protest because, even though she did not know about his affair, "she new as well as I did that our marriage was not forever" (25%). This really bothered me for a while, like he was trying to justify the affair somehow? What followed that was also kind of hard for me to digest, when he began talking about his kind of downward spiral after his second divorce into drugs and meaningless sex and such. It was so the opposite of what I expected to read about from the creator of a show that was so exactly the opposite of that. I do, however, appreciate Engel's honesty in regards to this part of his life, and am glad it was not something he glossed over or sugarcoated. Sometimes brutal honesty is necessary and even cathartic.

I was then interested to read about the change that came about in Engel's life because of his new-found faith in Jesus Christ. Not only because I myself am a Christian, but because Peter was not - he is Jewish, which then makes him a Messianic Jewish person (is this phrasing even right? I am not trying to be insulting at all, I am just not sure how to phrase it?) I am someone who has recently come back to finding my faith again and so it was cool to see someone else doing so also. I have to admit I was cautious about this, wondering if it would last, but it was also cool to see that it did. And I can totally relate to Engel's experience about buying his first Bible. I purchased a new one a few years ago as I began going to church again and though I must have looked at fifty, I stuck with the first one I found - the King James Version.

The part I'd been waiting for came at 49% - Saved by the Bell! There was nothing terribly new here about the show or cast, but the behind-the-scenes things were of course news to me, such as how hard Engel had to fight for the show at first. I was also highly amused by the fact that he hated the name 'Saved by the Bell' and insisted that the show's theme would have no bells ringing, no mention of bells in the lyrics, and definitely would never say 'saved by the bell'. His tirade is kind of amusing now, given the theme song and the fact that he ended up loving it. I also love the story behind his company logo, the heart. It was drawn by his two sons when they were six and four years old.

I think it is safe to say that the episode where Jessie flips out because of her addiction to caffeine pills is by far the best-known episode of all time (though my favorites will always be the mall episode, the murder mystery episode, and episode where Zack hurt his knee before the basketball game). I am surprised I did not know this little nugget of information, but Jessie was actually supposed to be hooked on speed instead. The episode makes a zillion times more sense that way, but I also understand why the networks couldn't go for it.

There are a lot of great quotes from Engel throughout, but I have chosen a few here that I really love and I feel really show who he is as a person:

(91%) "...I resent the cheap and underhanded politicization of my Savior. I resent politicians who claim to be Christians but send children to their deaths and destroy countries and countless lives for money and for power and for ideology. I resent liars who would use the name of Jesus as great machines of war and as currency for votes. I also resent being made to feel that if I don't somehow align with the Republican Party I'm somehow less of a Christian..."

YES! A thousand times yes!

(92%) "Finally, if you're told that the finals of your show are being preempted on Illinois stations by the Democratic National Convention because a junior senator from Chicago is giving the keynote address, and you've never heard of him, hold off on screaming out, 'Who the fuck is Barack Obama?' Hold off for a few years, because that junior senator from Chicago may very well be the next president of the United States."

(99%) "To this date, Bell is by far my greatest accomplishment. It influenced an entire generation. In fact, it has touched multiple generations, including kids being brought up today, 25 years after we first hit the air. it provided kids with happiness and fun. It helped them define their characters, who they wanted to be...In a certain sense, Saved by the Bell saved me. it filled a hole, a need to do something far more important than myself that could affirm my life and make it worthwhile. Before Bell, I felt lost, like I hadn't done what I needed to do, like I hadn't done what I was meant to do."

(100%) "If your happiness abandons you, find another happiness. And remember, someday today will be a long time ago...Don't miss one moment of it!"

All in all, I can definitely say I recommend this one whole-heartedly. It will be especially meaningful for those of us who grew up watching the show, but those who found it later in life, or are part of that new generation of viewers, will enjoy it also.

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