TV

The Dark Reasons Why Two "Saved by the Bell" Stars Won't Be in the Reboot

Lark Voorhies and Dustin Diamond have both hoped to be included in the reboot, but they both have complicated histories

The stars of Saved by the Bell are together again, filming a reboot of the early 90s high school sitcom.

Or, more accurately, most of the stars are together again. Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack Morris), Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (Kelly Kapowski), Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie Spano), and Mario Lopez (A.C. Slater) are all returning for the new show, while Lark Voorhies (Lisa Turtle) and Dustin Diamond (Screech Powers) will sadly not be in attendance.

Saved by the Bell stars

So why have Lisa and Screech been cut from the show? One explanation would be that those characters have simply moved on with their lives in the world of the show. The new series will follow the next generation of Bayside High students, including Mac Morris—son of now-California Governor Zack Morris—and Jamie Spano—son of Jessie Spano. But obviously, not everyone sends their kids to the same high school they went to. People move on. It makes sense that Lisa and Screech may have moved away from "The Palisades" area of Los Angeles (where Bayside High is located), or maybe they just don't have high school-aged kids.

Then again, when have reboot writers ever shied away from shoe-horning in old cast members where they don't belong? Shows like Fuller House and Girl Meets World don't exactly succeed on the strength of their careful verisimilitude. That potent hit of childhood recollection is the main appeal, so when two lead cast members are left out of the reboot—despite both expressing clear interest in being involved—there are definitely deeper explanations. In the case of the Saved by the Bell reboot, those explanations are a mixture of sad, in the case of Lark Voorhies, and gross, in the case of Dustin Diamond.

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When Lark Voorhies went on Dr. Oz to discuss the reboot, she expressed feeling "hurt" and "slighted" by not being included in the reboot and by her fellow cast members participating in various reunions and events without extending an invitation to her. But Voorhies also stated that she understood why they might have excluded her, acknowledging that she has struggled with her mental health in recent years.

At one point Voorhies was rumored to be dealing with a drug addiction, but Voorhies refuted those claims—responding with a libel lawsuit—and they were never substantiated. It may be that people around her were misinterpreting the signs of a misdiagnosed personality disorder—which has since come to light. The first word of the issue came in 2012—following a bizarre interview on The Yo Show, Voorhies' mother claimed that her daughter was suffering from bipolar disorder, which Voorhies denied at the time. Since then—after a scandalous and short-lived marriage, and some more painful and disjointed interviews—Voorhies has opened up about her updated diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder, which causes her to hear "many competing voices" that disrupt her thoughts.

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If Voorhies progress is anything to go by, this new diagnosis is the correct one. Her improved mental state is evident both in her demeanor and in her mother's renewed optimism. Both appeared on Dr. Oz and pointed to the work of Voorhies new psychiatrist in helping her cope with her condition. Sadly, many production companies would be hesitant to make accommodations for a performer's mental health, and it may be that she's still seen as a risky investment. Dustin Diamond is another story entirely.

In a recent interview with TMZ, Diamond bemoaned the idea that he would be left out of the reboot, saying, "How do you have Saved by the Bell without Screech? Right? It seems like there's a missed opportunity there." He also noted that he has so far been in more episodes of the franchise than any other cast member, which is undoubtedly the case, as Screech was the only character to star in both Saved by the Bell spinoff series—The College Years and The New Class. All told, Diamond played Screech for well over a decade, but the way he handled himself later seemed almost designed to tank this opportunity. The appeal of Screech as a character—apart from being a living punchline—was that he always came across as sweet and sensitive, and Diamond has proven himself to be anything but.

Screeched Sex Tape

It started in 2006, when Diamond tried to cash in on a trend of "leaked" celebrity sex tapes by making his own, entitled Screeched—Saved by the Smell. He has since claimed that the sex in the tape was faked using a "stunt wang" because his is, in his words, "not an idiot," and "an opportunist, really." The next year, Diamond appeared on the VH1 reality show Celebrity Fit Club, where he made a fellow cast member cry with his brash, rude behavior and challenged various people to "physical combat." He now attributes this to a deliberate and scripted effort to distance himself from the Screech persona.

Then, in 2009, with the release of his autobiography, Behind the Bell, he made things worse. It told a story of drama in which his cast-mates were more or less constantly either having sex with each other or doing drugs. In 2014—no doubt sensing that he had burned some valuable bridges—Diamond tried to disown the contents of book on the grounds that it was ghostwritten, but it's hardly surprising if that non-apology meant little to the people that book attacked. Later that year, on Christmas day, Diamond was arrested for stabbing a man during a bar fight. He was sentenced to four months in jail as a result.

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In a 2016 appearance on Dr. Oz, Diamond attempted to absolve himself of all his past misdeeds without taking any responsibility for them. Instead he referred to "repairing the damage that was caused by things that were done by people who took advantage of me and the situation I was in at the time," and he addressed his former co-stars, saying, "I think you're fantastic, working with you has been just one of the icons of my life and I'm sorry that this has taken advantage of me, the book and other situations."

Last year, Mark-Paul Gosselaar claimed that he doesn't hold a grudge against Dustin Diamond, referring to the book as a work of fiction and saying, "Who cares?" But he also mentioned that the two haven't seen each other in over two decades—and he didn't seem eager to change that. Considering the way Diamond destroyed his image as a sweet, sensitive person, coupled with the scale of personal attacks he made against his cast-mates, is it any wonder he isn't being brought on for the reboot?

The newest installment in the Bayside High saga will be airing on NBC's forthcoming streaming service, Peacock, which is slated to launch in April.

With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.

Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.

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In “Modern Love,” Anne Hathaway Shows Us Love Can’t Fix Bipolar Disorder

The show, based on Terri Cheney's column of the same title, provides a uniquely nuanced depiction of mental illness—and highlights the gaps that still exist in the ways we tell stories about it.

On the episode of Modern Love called "Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am," Anne Hathaway's character Lexi spends half her time in bed.

She spends the other half of her life gallivanting around New York City, wearing sparkles and styling herself after famous actresses, asking out men in grocery stores and making up for the time and the lovers she lost while she was catatonically depressed.

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At best, the episode is a uniquely nuanced depiction of real mental illness, emphasizing the fact that Hathaway's illness may not be easily curable, refusing the temptation to glamorize her symptoms or suffocate her with pity and pessimism. At worst, it still falls into some old traps and perhaps could've done a better job of explaining the specifics of Lexi's diagnosis and the actuality of what bipolar is and is not.

Like all the episodes of Amazon Prime's new series Modern Love, it's based on a real-life story published in The New York Times' column of the same name. Hathaway's character is based on an essay by a woman named Terri Cheney, who specifies in the first paragraph that she suffers from what she refers to as "ultrararidian rapid cycling."

There are many different forms of bipolar disorder, far more than the typical binary of Bipolar I and II imply. Bipolar I, the best-known type, involves periods of severe mania and severe depression, whereas with Bipolar II, the manic episodes are usually slightly less severe, though periods of depression can be extremely intense. With both of these types, lengths and symptoms of manic and depressive episodes can vary, though most people experience one or two cycles per year, with episodes lasting around 13 weeks, according to a 2010 study. Episodes can be triggered by events such as seasonal changes, trauma, or grief, but they can also happen naturally due to to the vicissitudes of brain chemistry and daily life. Sometimes symptoms of mania and depression can co-occur, and this is referred to as a mixed episode.

There are many other variants of bipolar disorder, including cyclothymic disorder, which describes brief periods of mania and depression that are slightly less severe than full-on Bipolar I or II. Then there's the kind of extremely rapid switching that Hathaway's character experienced. Affecting 10-15% of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, rapid cycling is officially diagnosed when someone experiences four or more cycles in one year. Ultra-rapid cycling is when a person cycles through episodes in one month or less, and the sort that Cheney and Lexi have is called ultra-ultra-rapid cycling or ultradian cycling, which means that cycles can occur within a 24-hour period.

As with most mental illnesses, every person's diagnosis is different. For Cheney, ultradian cycling means that she'd often spend days or weeks in bed, only to awaken suddenly to the sound of birdsong and a feeling of euphoria. Like her TV adaption, Cheney tells us that she tried dozens of treatments, including dangerous electroshock therapy, while keeping her illness secret from friends and family and making up for her down periods by exceeding expectations when she was up. She was able to pull together a life, but all this didn't make dating easy. "When dating me, you might go to bed with Madame Bovary and wake up with Hester Prynne," she wrote in her Times column.

Refreshingly, neither Cheney's essay nor the TV adaption equates the right treatment or the perfect person with a cure and a happy ending. Instead, after following their protagonist through a failed relationship that began during a manic episode and quickly tanked when her mood turned, the essay and show end with a bit of realistic hope. "I've finally accepted that there is no cure for the chemical imbalance in my brain, any more than there is a cure for love," Cheney writes, lines that Hathaway repeats in the episode's conclusion. "But there's a little yellow pill I'm very fond of, and a pale blue one, and some pretty pink capsules, and a handful of other colors that have turned my life around."

MODERN LOVE Extended Trailer (NEW 2019) Anne Hathaway, Love Comedy Series www.youtube.com

Battling the Stigma Onscreen: Violence, Love, and Bipolar Representation

While illnesses like depression and anxiety have become more socially acceptable and widely understood (although too often they're still not viewed as valid illnesses, instead treated like something that can be willfully overcome with a little yoga), bipolar and other personality disorders are still heavily stigmatized and misunderstood.

For example, people who suffer from personality disorders are far too frequently blamed for things like mass shootings, when actually only 3-5% of violent crimes are perpetrated by people with mental illnesses (and 97% of mass shooters are white males with histories of misogyny and domestic violence).

In reality, bipolar disorder has absolutely nothing to do with violence. It's also completely untrue that people with bipolar are unable to have relationships. Everyone is different, and people with bipolar disorder are just as capable (or incapable) of loving and being loved as anybody else.

While Hathaway/Cheney's illness appears to be unusually unpredictable, many people with mental illnesses can and do thrive in relationships. While unstable relationships can have particularly negative and triggering effects on people who suffer from mental illnesses, stable relationships of any kind can be incredibly beneficial. And while no one should use their mental illness as an excuse to use others as therapists or sole support systems, supportive friends, partners, and family members can be vital in terms of providing the kind of acceptance and structure that people with mental illness may have trouble giving themselves.

Still, it's a blessing that "Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am" doesn't over-glamorize the effects or importance of relationships. Anne Hathaway's Lexi finds relief in confessing to a coworker about her illness, but there is no implication that the coworker will be able to heal her or support her in any way. Confession and interpersonal love are perhaps over-emphasized in some forms of modern mental health discourse, but premature or forced confessions can have negative consequences, and confession by no means make up for actual treatment, large systemic changes, or genuine external and acceptance. Sometimes, acceptance means accepting the reality of illness and treatment in all their ugly and unpalatable forms, a reality that is too often forgotten in exchange for the more palatable narrative that tells us that love can heal all wounds.

The Future of Bipolar on TV: Hopefully More Diverse, and Created by People Who Really Suffer from Mental Illness

For her part, Terri Cheney, a prolific writer who has written several memoirs about her experience with mental illness, is apparently very satisfied with Hathaway's nuanced portrayal. "When you think of the illness in terms of a familiar face, it's less frightening and easier to understand," she told Glamour. "That's why having someone as famous as Anne portray a woman with bipolar disorder is so terrific: It's an antidote to shame."

As in her essay, Cheney is quick to emphasize the fact that sometimes there is no cure to mental illness; it's not like you can just confess that you have it and expunge it from your brain chemistry. "After a lifetime of living with a mental illness, I've discovered that the most helpful thing someone can say to me when I'm suffering is, 'Tell me where it hurts,'" she added. "I don't want advice. I don't want to be cheered up. I just want to be listened to and truly heard."

Terri Cheney

Hathaway also seems to understand the importance of her role. "I have people in my life who I love so deeply who have received various mental health diagnoses, and that's not the whole story of who they are," she said. "But in many cases, because of an intolerant society, that's the space of fear they're kept in."

As there's more mental illness representation on TV, hopefully we'll see more nuanced portrayals of people with mental illness. Many Hollywood shows and movies have heavily exaggerated the symptoms of bipolar disorder, giving characters who suffer from the disorder violent narratives or dramatic breakdowns (Empire, Silver Linings Playbook), painting them as anti-medication (Law and Order: SVU) and using episodes as plot devices (Homeland), despite gaining praise for featuring characters who suffer from it.

Perhaps in the future, shows will also begin discussing the disorder in more precise terms and becoming as open and explicit about treatments, medication, therapy, and the messy vicissitudes of daily life as they are with dramatizing mental breakdowns and choreographing manic episodes.

Maybe they could also try to focus on people of different race and class backgrounds, as mental illness is frequently whitewashed, though it cannot be separated from things like race and class, and certainly not everyone with bipolar has a swanky entertainment law job or lives in an apartment like Anne Hathaway's utterly absurd one. Perhaps Modern Love itself shouldn't be expected to get real about mental illness, for even this episode does feel lost in the show's saccharine, wealth-buoyed rom-com vibe, caught up in the "permanent delusion that New York makes people fall into a special kind of love, unattainable anyplace else (unless on a brief trip abroad)," as The Washington Post writes, a delusion that anyone who actually lives in New York knows is utterly untrue (but that always makes for a hit TV show).

Still, when all is said and done, there will never be a singular or perfect depiction of bipolar disorder, and a depiction of mental illness on a show like this one will certainly expose lots of people to a sympathetic narrative they otherwise might not have encountered.

Like all illnesses, bipolar disorder is an ongoing process that affects everyone in a completely unique way, and there is no quick fix for it. But with medication and support, it's something that's possible to live and thrive with—and yes, to love with.

Though Lexi never finds true love, she finds something else. She finds self-acceptance, openness, a growth mindset, and the belief that she isn't in need of fixing. And in this life, perhaps that's the best kind of fairy-tale ending we can ask for.