Peter Engel opens up about producing 'Saved by the Bell'

It turns out dealing with a bunch of teen actors was as hard as it sounds.

Image: The Everett Collection

What we see on television isn't always what goes on behind the scenes. That goes for every series on the air, from impactful dramas to Saturday morning television specials. 

TV producer Peter Engel recently released the book I Was Saved by the Bell, which documents his time in the television industry. The book reveals some surprising details about his most famous show, Saved by the Bell, like controversial casting decisions and behind-the-scenes antics. 

MeTV had the opportunity to chat with Engel about the show and the book, and we were amazed by some of the things we learned. 

Peter Engel sitting down with MeTV
Interestingly enough, Engel says he originally didn't want to produce the show. 

"I didn't want to do it," Engel told us. "I was under contract at NBC, and I ended up doing 11 series, seven or eight of them being teen series. It was their idea to do live action."

Of course, Engel's experience on Saved by the Bell was a far cry from his routine job as a television executive. Engel had to deal with several teenage actors, many of them who were around the ages of 14 and 15. 

"You had to be more than just a producer," Engel told us. "You had to the be the papa. You had to remember you're dealing with children, and you had to know that as they grew up as teenagers, they were going to do things that teenagers do."

Dustin Diamond was only 11 years old when the show premiered, and was only hired for the role of Screech because Engel says he misread the birthdate on his headshot.

Despite all the adolescence actors on set, Engel credits their age with the success of the show. After all, they were real teenagers playing classmates and friends onscreen.

"The kids were playing their own age, which was not happening on television," Engel said. "People on [Beverly Hills 90210],some of them were 29 or 30 when they started."

You don't have to look very far to find the show's success continues to this day. This summer, a Saved By the Bell pop-up diner opened in one of Chicago's trendiest neighborhoods. 

"Saved by the Max" opened to rave reviews, with critics and diners fawning over how much the diner embodied the early '90s series. There are even menu items named after the characters one the show, including one for Engel. 

Engel will be signing copies of his book tomorrow at 11AM at "Saved by the Max" in Chicago. You can purchase a copy on Amazon and bookstores everywhere. 

Derek Chubb'Saved by the Max' will remain open the rest of the year.

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