Last night, as Christmas came to a close, my sister Megan and I continued to celebrate the holiday week by bonding over yet another episode of a bad (yet oddly addictive) 90s sitcom. Last night, we watched “Belding’s Prank,” an episode from the 2nd season of Saved By The Bell: The New Class.
Why Were We Watching It?
You can read the full details here but, long story short, I’m spending my holiday week in Ft. Worth with my sister Megan and Megan (because she’s the best) has every episode of Saved By The Bell: The New Class on DVD. When I learned this, I naturally became super excited because, when I was too young to know any better, I used to watch SBTB: TNC every Saturday morning. Anyway, for the past few days, Megan and I have been bonding over bad sitcoms from the 90s.
(For the record, Megan claims that, if she ever saw a single first-run episode of SBTB, it was just because she was waiting for California Dreams to come on.)
Last night, we watched several episodes of SBTB: The New Class but the one that made the biggest impression on me was the 9th episode of the 2nd season, Belding’s Prank.
(Before anyone asks, yes — we both would have rather been watching Django Unchained or Les Miserables but yesterday, it snowed! Needless to say, we were all excited to look out the window and see snow falling on Christmas. We had fun playing in the snow but there was no way that any of us we were planning on trying to drive in it. Seriously, we live in Texas, where 80 degrees is considered to be a cold front. We don’t know the first thing about driving in the snow.)
What Was It About?
SBTB: TNC was infamous for changing its cast of characters almost every season. When I first saw the show, the main character was Ryan (played by the adorable Richard Lee Jackson) but what I didn’t realize was that Ryan was actually the third main character. He was preceded by a guy named Scott and another guy named Brian Keller. Belding’s Prank is a Brian episode. When we first started watching this episode, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to follow the episode because I didn’t know much about Brian (played by Christian Oliver) as a character. However, I quickly discovered that Brian had absolutely the exact same personality as Ryan (and, I assume, Scott) and therefore, it really didn’t matter.
Anyway, in Belding’s Plot, it’s prank week at Bayside! Brian is encouraging everyone to engage in increasingly elaborate pranks. Bayside’s principal, Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins), thinks that it’s all a lot of fun. However, Belding’s assistant, Screech (Dustin Diamond) is concerned because there’s a new district superintendent and he could drop by the school at any minute. It appears that Mr. Belding has yet to meet (or even see) the new superintendent (which is kinda odd when you think about it) and when the superintendent does show up, Belding assumes that it’s a prank. The superintendent, meanwhile, sees that Bayside is in chaos and he promptly fires Mr. Belding.
This is where things get weird. The superintendent holds a school assembly to introduce the new principal. Since this is Saved By The Bell, there’s only about 20 students at the assembly. Anyway, before the superintendent can announce the new principal, Brian stands up and shouts, “We don’t want a new principal! We want Mr. Belding back!” Now, instead of suspending Brian for disrupting a school assembly, the superintendent replies that the students should have respected their principal if they liked him so much.
“Here’s your new principal,” the superintendent announces, “Mr. Richard Belding!”
Mr. Belding steps out on stage. The 20 students at the assembly go wild. So, was Mr. Belding really fired or was he just playing a prank on the students? Or did Brian’s words sway the superintendent?
Seriously, what the Hell’s going on?
Say what you will about this episode overall, it’s here that Dennis Haskins gave perhaps his best performance in the role of Mr. Belding. When Belding came out of his office and told the assembled student, “I’ve been fired,” you truly felt both the man’s pain and the disappointment he felt towards the entitled students who had just ruined his life. I may be wrong but I’m pretty sure that Haskins even had tears in his eyes as he delivered the line.
What Did Not Work?
Okay, let’s ignore the obvious flaws. I won’t go into the odd logic of the film’s plot. I won’t mention the fact that the student body at Bayside High appears to be abnormally powerful and influential for a bunch of public school students. I won’t even talk about the fact that Dustin Diamond is in this episode.
However, I am going to point out one of the most glaring continuity flaws in the history of this show.
As you may remember, in the original Saved By The Bell, Belding’s office was this tiny and depressing room with ugly wood paneling and a window that was never opened. Starting with the second season of The New Class, Belding got a new cheerful office. This office was much larger, much more colorful, and it had large windows that showed off the green campus of Bayside High. A good deal of this episode took place in Belding’s “new” office and, watching it, I couldn’t help but think about how much more cheerful Belding seemed to be now that his office was less oppressive.
However, if you’ll remember, there was a flash forward episode of the original Saved By The Bell that took place in 2003. This was the episode where a bunch of students gathered in the principal’s office so that they could watch a video time capsule left behind for them by Zach, Slater, and Screech. In this episode, it’s established that Mr. Belding is still principal of Bayside in 2003…
AND HE’S BACK IN HIS OLD OFFICE!
But that’s not all! When SBTB: TNC ended in 2000 (3 years before the time capsule episode), it was established that Belding was leaving Bayside so that he could take a job as dean of a college in Tennessee. It was also suggested that Screech (despite never having graduated from college) would be his replacement as principal…
So, what happened during those 3 years that led to Belding returning to Bayside and moving back into his old office? And why did Belding pretend like he barely remembered Screech while watching that time capsule video?
Seriously, this was really bugging me last night. Fortunately, it turned out that it was really bugging Megan as well. We spent about half an hour trying to figure out what had happened and we came up several possible scenarios, all of which concluded with Belding returning to California and murdering Screech in one grisly way or another.
Seriously, we had a lot of fun with it.
“OH MY GOD! Just like me!” Moments
None. Everyone in this episode was just too stupid.
It’s fun to come up with grisly ways to kill off an annoying character.