In November last year, NBCUniversal streaming service Peacock premiered a sequel series to the long-running 1980s-90s TV sitcom “Saved by the Bell.” The show tackles the lives of students at California’s Bayside High, with the original student characters now serving as adult figures – and in some cases parents – to the present-day class. Most of the classic cast reprised their roles save for Dustin Diamond, who portrayed geeky student-turned-principal’s assistant Screech Powers. The actor’s post-“Bell” career had some controversial highlights which might explain why he was not called back, much to Diamond’s disappointment. But any idea of him reprising for a second season on Peacock was squashed following his death Monday.
The Hollywood Reporter would have it that Dustin Neil Diamond, best known to fans of “Saved by the Bell” as Samuel “Screech” Powers, died February 1 of complications from small-cell lung carcinoma. He was 44 years old. Diamond’s agent announced the actor’s passing and gave background to his condition. The diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer was given to Diamond earlier in January of this year, leading to him undergoing chemotherapy one time on the 21st. But by that time the damage had spread too rapidly and, in the representative’s words, “Dustin did not suffer.”
Screech as played by Diamond actually debuted in “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” a one-season Disney channel sitcom that would later be retooled into “Saved by the Bell” on NBC. Being notably younger than his companions upon casting (aged 11 while the rest were teens), Diamond underwent the travails of a child actor, sticking with his character role through several incarnations of the show. Come “Saved by the Bell: The New Class” (1994-2000), he had grown up as Screech, from high-schooler to collegiate principal’s assistant, retiring the role at age 23.
Understandably, Dustin Diamond was a beset by typecasting after his time on the sitcom, finding himself in occasional film and TV roles, game reality show appearances, and even stints in professional wrestling and stand-up comedy. Eyebrow-raising moments in his career and life include directing a 2006 sex tape where his facial likeness was imposed on a stunt actor, as well as spending jail time for disorderly conduct. His representative Roger Paul has asked the public to understand that despite unfortunate events in his life, Diamond was never malevolent, and was primarily a humorous individual who liked to make people laugh.
The “Saved by the Bell” distant sequel remains available for streaming on Peacock, and has been renewed for another season with 10 episodes this January.
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