After having many conversations with my wife about our morning and afternoon watching television habits when we were kids, I think sometimes I missed out on some interesting times. She talks so fondly of a few animated series, and I remember cartoons were never a priority on my television. My childhood took a different path. I was addicted to games shows and live action shows. No matter what time it came on, if I found episodes of Saved by the Bell, I was sitting on my couch with a glass of sweet tea hoping I can yell time out and everything freezes. And my excitement peaked with the new reboot, which was a fun first season. But this is not about the reboot or even the original. Hell, The College Years seems to be more implanted into fans minds than the topic of discussion. We are going to look at the forgotten years of Saved by the Bell. The New Class.
First, let’s look at a little back story about The New Class. Of course, Zack and the gang could not stay at Bayside forever and after graduation the gang left for college. That series ran in primetime and tried to cater to a new audience with more adult humor and situations. But only lasted one season. However, NBC needed to fill their void on Saturday mornings. And that led to dropping the kids shows that always played on Saturday mornings and cater to an older audience and TNBC was born. Starting in September of 1992 and running till 2002, sitcom featuring teens would be the new norm. The reboot of this time slot brought us California Dreams, Hang Time, City Guys, and countless other shows that we will never forget their theme songs. And the cornerstone of this new block of shows would be Saved by The Bell: The New Class.
TNC lasted 7 seasons which is a longer run than the beloved original run. But why is this run of the show not talked about much? Story writing. As the original run of the show became very formulaic show which worked for the time, a new generation of preteens and teens would grow up with this show and instead of trying to cater the show with stories that appeal to a brand-new audience, they went with rehashing the run of the originals. Parts of season two take place with the new gang working jobs at a resort. Anyone remember the Malibu Sands run of episodes? But that is not all. One of the reasons the reboot works is because the characters are not watered-down versions of their predecessors. In each season of the New Class, the main character would be replaced as the show tried to capture the Zack Morris magic. And while the characters may have different names, the show still played to the same tropes of the original.
Next, you could not get attached to any of the cast of the New Class because each new season meant new members of the gang. This one puzzled me a lot. Tori Scott had a story line wrote out in her episode as to why she was at Bayside and ends up as part of the gang. But any new member of the gang on the new class, we are supposed to accept the idea and notion that they have always been part of the show. To prove this, I am going to share the cast for all 7 seasons with just the students. And with the rotating door of students, that left one character that remained through the entire run. Mr. Belding. The show starts featuring more storylines based around the Belding character to help with fans that loved the original and were not sold on the TNC. But that led to the biggest problem of all.
One of the biggest glaring issues with TNC is relying on the past to carry the new. While Belding would become the solid foundation for TNC, the writers decided to give him an assistant who just happened to be portrayed by the late Dustin Diamond, Screech. And that is when the wheels really started coming off the Saved by the Bell car. At this point, The College Years would meet its end, and Dustin would be brought back to Bayside. And this happens again when a rich businessman buys an entire school to turn into a parking lot. Not sure how an entire school just goes up for sale without anyone knowing, but sure. And who saves the day, it is members of the original cast. While we think of Nostalgia being more of a thing in our entertainment today, it was also a thing in Peter Engel’s universe in 1993.
So, did The New Class have a redeeming quality? Some. But it is hard to find with a rotating cast with the exception a few. The best character of TNC is from season 1 and that is Weasel. Issac Lidsky had a comedic timing that even the original cast lacked. And he helped so much in making the first season watchable. Do I believe if his character would have stayed, the show would be more fondly remembered? Absolutely. His character could have carried the run and may not have needed the return of Screech to help pick it up.
And while it is cheesy and hard to watch, it is a forgotten part of the lore of a show that is beloved by many. And sometimes, everyone should have their day to entertain. Maybe, The New Class will have a newfound life on the Peacock, or it may stay hidden in the deepest corner of your mind only to be thought about when you think about 90s teen shows.