For those of us who grew up watching “Saved By the Bell” — and especially for those of us who still enjoy watching it — it was a sad day Feb. 1 as we learned of the death of Dustin Diamond, who played Samuel “Screech” Powers.
Diamond, who played the lovable geek for 12 years in four different series and two TV movies, died at the age of 44, just three weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer. He was only 11 years old when he was chosen to play Screech, the goofy best pal of the scheming Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) in “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” the Disney Channel series that gave birth to “Bell.” In his book, “I Was Saved By the Bell,” creator Peter Engel said if he had realized he was three years younger than the rest of the kids in the cast, he probably would have never hired him. But Gosselaar believed he was perfect for Screech, and Engel agreed.
In the years since “Bell,” as Diamond struggled to find work while trying to shake his Screech persona, he took a number of bad turns, alienating his co-stars and many others along the way. But the shine of his performances as Screech was never dulled. As Gosselaar tweeted upon his death, Diamond was “a true comedic genius” with “raw, brilliant sparks that only he was able to produce.”
While Diamond had classic moments in every episode of the series, I’ve singled out these three episodes as his very best. A special thank you to E! for its weekend “Bell” marathon to help me make my choices.
3) “Screech’s Spaghetti Sauce” (Season 4, Episode 3)
When Screech’s spaghetti sauce is a hit, the gang decides they can make money selling it. But the plan comes to a screeching halt when it’s discovered where Screech got his recipe, and a gold digger (Soleil Moon Frye) convinces Screech to spend all the profits on her.
2) “The Glee Club” (Season 2, Episode 18)
The Bayside High Glee Club’s only shot at a trip to Hawaii is their soloist Violet Bickerstaff (Tori Spelling). But when she loses her nerve, it’s up to her boyfriend, Screech, to help her through the performance.
1) “Beauty and the Screech” (Season 1, Episode 10)
When Kelly (Tiffani Amber Thiessen) finds herself failing science, Zack gets Screech to tutor her. But when Kelly falls for Screech, Zack and Slater (Mario Lopez) convince Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) that Screech and Kelly are getting married so he’ll break them up. This episode has my favorite exchange of the entire series as an exasperated Mr. Belding proclaims, “Screech, you can’t elope!” To which Screech responds, “Who you calling a cantaloupe, you melon head?”
You can stream every episode of “Saved By the Bell,” as well as its spin-offs and TV movies, on Peacock. You can also watch “Bell” Saturday mornings beginning at 7 on IFC.