LIFE IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT!!!
‘Saved By The Bell‘, premiered on NBC in 1989, and almost 30 years later executive producer Peter Engel opens up about the ups and downs of his life, and gives readers a behind the scenes view of the iconic TV show in his new memoir, I Was Saved by the Bell: Stories of Life, Love and Dreams That Do Come True.
Y: Peter, may I start by telling you how much I loved your book?
PE: Thank you very much.
Y: Being a huge fan of Brandon Tartikoff, who ressurected NBC back in the 80’s, I have to say the Prologue, where you laid down on his floor and demanded “13 more episodes or for him to call security” was a wonderful way to start the book. haha
PE: I was once asked what would happen if someone laid down in my office and my response was…”I would have gotten up and left the office.” haha
Y: Personally, I would wait to see how it played out.
While reading the book, it played out like a narrative in my head, I automatically went to ‘A Christmas Story’, where Jean Shepherd (Adult Ralphie) narrates.
PE: That’s wonderful! Thank you.
Y: When ‘Saved By The Bell‘ premiered in 1987, I was 19, and truthfully I did not watch it till many years later. You always knew who the cast member were though. Case in point, When Tiffany Amber Thiessen joined 90210, you knew her from ‘Saved By The Bell’.”
PE: College kids caught up on, when they used to run marathons. The audience demographics started growing.
Y: The first few chapters were an introduction to your life as a child growing up in Upper West Side Manhattan and although the title of the book is “I Was Saved By The Bell”, you really don’t talk about the show till half way through, why did you decide to tell this wonderful story of your life?
PE: Because life’s a journey, and it is not you are born, you grow up, you go to school, you go to college, get a job, get married, have children, that you have success of some kind and life is golden. That is not how life is, it is not a straight line. My quest, was I needed a hit. I had a whole in my heart that needed filling. I needed to make a difference and I tried it with Sirota’s Court, which broke my heart. A show about gay marriage in PC 1977, I must have been nuts. All those things we could not accomplish with Sirota’s Court, sadly, we weren’t cancelled, we just faded away, I was able to accomplish 10 years later on ‘Saved By The Bell’. I didn’t even think about it till I started writing this book. We accomplished diversity, dignity, respect, with all those different stories we told.
It was my journey…A journey of life, love, and dreams that do come true! How many times I had my heart broken or I was knocked down and got up off the mat, how many shows that coulda, woulda, shoulda, My daughter being taken to NY when she was less than 3, my drug problem, my redemption and it happening all over again then coming back to ‘Last Comic Standing’. Don’t ever give up!
I am totally blessed to have no regrets and I would not change a thing, even the heart break, it makes you who you are. Yvette, you will never, ever appreciate the victory, until you have heartbreak.
Y: I agree. Now, you were born in a era before TV and have spoken how you would listen to the news on the radio about the Holocaust and World War 2, and throughout the decades and with the advancement of technology, media has grown and is so much more in your face. How different is this for you?
PE:The media was not supposed to make news, they were supposed to report it, unbiased. Now they make the news and people tune in to whatever news station agrees with them. We all do. If someone now says the Holocaust did not happen, you can find someone who will agree. It was definitely simpler back when I was young.
Y: When you created ‘Saved By The Bell’, did you ever imagine, even 30 years later that it would have turned into such an iconic show?
PE: Never! I just wanted to do this show. People forget our lead in was The Chipmunks and our lead out was The Smurfs. No comedy at the time had ever gone to more than a 1/2 dozen foreign countries and we were in 85 countries! That is unheard of and I believe it is because comedy is very indigenous to each country but we all have something common…every kid goes to school somewhere and they all wanted to see how the California kids lived.
I never dreamed in a million years it would become such an iconic show. What other show gets the cover of People magazine for their 20th Anniversary or did a reunion on Jimmy Fallon, which ended up getting 35,000,000 hits on YouTube. That’s how I knew I had to write the book, Bell filled a hole in my heart, that made me who I am.
Y: Once the run with ‘Saved By The Bell’ was done, why did you decide to do ‘The College Years’?
PE: I made a mistake with ‘The College Years’. We should have brought back all the kids and made it more like ‘Bell’. I tried to make it different and the same and that’s when you end up with nothing. It was a good show but it couldn’t compete with ‘Full House’, which was the demographic.
Y: What about ‘Saved By The Bell: The New Class’?
PE: That was an accounts dream? haha That was strictly business, yet it was on for 7 years. I had to bring Screech (Dustin Diamond), back who was only 11 at the time when ‘Bell’ began to be the vice principal and he was only 17 in real life. He did an amazing job!
Y: If you were pitched the idea today to recreate ‘Saved By The Bell’, would you?
PE: Absolutely not! It had its time and place. I am working on a Broadway Musical which is different. It is still in the works. I am consulting with Lin-Manuel though on the music.
Y: I look forward to hearing about it.
PE: You will. I promise!
Y: You are very inspiring, and if you could tell the world one thing, what would it be?
PE: Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It is not bang, bang, bang, and if you don’t make it, it is over. Challenge is part of life and it is how you face these challenges and keep going, that defines your path. Never give up!
With those amazing words of wisdom, I thanked Peter, and told him I look forward to our next interview.
If you would like a copy of Peter’s Book go to Amazon and wherever books are sold!
You can also purchase an autographed copy of ‘I was Saved by the Bell’ here.