R.I.P. Dustin Diamond, who became a Nineties icon as Screech in Saved by the Bell
Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) was undeniable the star of Saved by the Bell, the most popular kid in Bayside High, and the one talking to the camera as the narrator. But one could argue that Screech, played by Dustin Diamond, was the central character.
Diamond was there from the very beginning when the teen sitcom began as Good Morning, Miss Bliss, set in Indiana, on the Disney Channel in 1988. When the show shifted networks (to NBC) and settings (to sunny California), Samuel "Screech" Powers came along for the ride. He was the comic relief, the Urkel. But much like Jaleel White on Family Matters, Diamond gained more and more of the spotlight as the series progressed. There were more kids out there who could relate to Screech than Slater, one would imagine.
When Saved the Bell ended in 1993, Screech matriculated to Saved by the Bell: The College Years, which lasted for a season. The franchise carried on, however, with Saved by the Bell: The New Class, which lasted a surprising seven seasons. Diamond appeared on that show for six seasons, returned to Bayside High to work as Mr. Belding's assistant. He was the only young cast member to hold a regular role in the original and The New Class, as if Spock had carried over to The Next Generation.
But like so many adolescent stars and Tiger Beat kids, Diamond struggled to say in the spotlight and hold his career together following the final bell of Saved by the Bell. (He did not take part in the recent reboot.) The California native appeared on reality competitions such as The Weakest Link, Celebrity Big Brother, and Celebrity Boxing 2, and ran into personal problems off-camera.
On February 1, Diamond passed away after battling cancer, according to TMZ. He was 44.