This is the forty-second episode of The New Class I’ve reviewed. I’ve reviewed two seasons of this shit fest and I can truly say that, in that time, I’ve never come across something quite like this before. What is it, you ask? Well, I’ve found an episode of The New Class that may be, well, genuinely good.
I know! I know! I’m questioning my sanity as well! Maybe reviewing episode after episode of Saturday morning’s long forgotten ugly step-sister has driven me crazy. In any case, I liked this episode. I feel so dirty for typing these words about this show!
So what’s good about this episode? Well, we open at an assembly where Mr. Belding and Screech give Todd Green, the star of the football player, an award. Wow, he’s been held back quite a bit! Yeah, the actor playing Todd was twenty-eight when this episode was filmed. Guess the casting department really doesn’t know what a teenager looks like.
Also, yeah, guess we’re forgetting about Tommy D being retconned into the star football player last season, which is a good thing because I never bought it either. Mr. Belding asks Todd to read the inscription on the plaque to the school but he has trouble reading the words. The school, including our gang, start laughing at Todd because reading difficulties are hilarious.
Yeah, this is obviously going to be a very special episode about learning disabilities, which makes it all the more perplexing to me that I like this episode. I feel like I need to rewatch “Jessie’s Song” or the episode of Diff’rent Strokes where Dudley was molested by the bicycle shop guy just to remind myself how horrible a very special episode can be!
The other order of business for the assembly is for Mr. Belding to ask for nominations for homecoming king. Ryan very quickly nominates Lindsay, and Tommy D acts butt hurt that he has too slow of reflexes to do it first. Maria’s all, “This whole thing is bull shit,” so R.J. decides that means she wants to be homecoming queen and nominates her.
In the hallway, Maria’s fucking pissed that someone would dare nominate her for homecoming queen and says she’ll withdraw as soon as she can find Screech. Lindsay tells her it’s a good thing, too, because Maria’s unpleasant to be around and no one would vote for her skanky ass anyway.
Maria’s all, “Oh no you di’int!” and says she’s in this bitch to win it just to show up that biatch Lindsay.
As the rest of the gang walks away, Mr. Belding asks Rachel to tutor Todd in history. Turns out that Todd is failing history and, since Megan isn’t around anymore, he needs someone else to play the role of the smart one. Rachel tells him that she’ll reluctantly accept this role since someone has to fill it.
Mr. Belding asks Screech to put the crown in the trophy case. Screech, though, is afraid some Valley punk will steal the crown. Forgetting the incompetency Screech has exhibited over the course of this franchise, Mr. Belding agrees to allow Screech to hide the crown and not even tell him where it is.
At The Max, Rachel tutors Todd in American Civil War history. Though Todd has trouble reading, as soon as Rachel reads the question, he rattles off a very thorough and rehearsed answer, thus proving he does actually know the material. He also subtly hits on Rachel and, by subtly, I actually mean subtly this time. I didn’t think the writers of this series had it in them, but they manage to pull off flirting less obvious than, “Let’s fuck!”
Lindsay says she doesn’t want to campaign for votes, but Ryan points out that whore Mimi Murphy, Lindsay’s only other competition besides Maria, who’s campaigning by passing out cupcakes to fat people. Oh, it’s nice to know that this franchise still thinks fat people have no dignity and also still has no idea what a fat person looks like. Mimi’s shenanigans are enough to convince Lindsay, who gives Ryan and Tommy D her blessing.
Tommy D goes to a table and tells them that Lindsay Warner’s campaign is paying for their lunch. Unfortunately, his dumb ass forgot to check whether the people at the table are Bayside students, and it turns out they go to Valley because it’s the one time someone without a Bayside connection is there to eat and not just further the plot. Ryan, meanwhile, gets Lindsay the votes of a bunch of geek girls by promising them hot shagging with Tommy D.
Screech, meanwhile, comes in and asks Ryan if he can guess where Screech hid the crown. Apparently Ryan was the one who stole the crown last year, but the episode didn’t bother to tell us that before now. Ryan uses his psychic powers to correctly guess in the air vent above the girls’ locker room, and Screech runs out screaming like a fucking idiot at his own incompetence.
The next day at school, we see Maria’s campaign strategy involves slapping “Vote for Maria” stickers on people and threatening random nerds. R.J. tells her that, if she wants to get elected, she’s going to have to stop being a fucking psycho and actually be nice to people. She does this by giving a boner to a nerd, who immediately runs off to masturbate in the bathroom.
Screech tells Mr. Belding to guess where the crown is and he’s like, “Why would you ask me to guess when you couldn’t trust me to know before?” Screech suddenly remembers he’s such an idiot he forgot where he hid it and runs off screaming and hopefully to kill himself.
Todd thanks Rachel for her help studying by eating her face and says he hopes he passes the test. Rachel tells him that he’s a lot smarter than most people think and that she’s sure he’ll do fine. It’s nice to see that, post-Brian and David, Rachel still goes for much older guys.
After class, Maria suddenly has a bunch of cocktail franks that Milton loves enough to tell the “Weenie Mama” she has his vote. Oh, Milton, you are the consistency in this show. Lindsay’s upset at this development so Ryan gets an unexplained idea about what to do.
In Mr. Belding’s office, Screech searches desperately for the crown so Mr. Belding won’t realize how incompetent he is. Mr. Belding comes in and wants the crown so he can take a picture of the candidates around it so Screech runs out to continue his search.
As he leaves, Rachel comes in and expresses concern for Todd. Despite him knowing the material during the study session, he told her he had trouble with the test and only finished half of it. Rachel tells Mr. Belding how Todd seems to understand everything but he has trouble reading.
Tommy D fumigates a classroom to get votes for Lindsay, thinking the chess club will appreciate the effort. Unfortunately, he’s still an idiot and forgot to check who actually meets there, which is the insect club, who vow eternal vengeance for his misdeed.
Meanwhile, Ryan starts a campaign of misinformation about Maria’s wieners and tells two idiot football players that Maria tainted them on purpose so they couldn’t play in the homecoming game. They naturally believe every word he says.
As Rachel leaves Mr. Belding’s office, they finish the conversation that was awkwardly cut off from the last scene. Mr. Belding suspects that Todd might be dyslexic. Rachel asks if there’s anything they can do for him and Mr. Belding tells her dyslexia is a real thing and there’s things they can do to help him. Mr. Belding agrees to do his job and talk to Todd.
Screech, meanwhile, drug R.J. into his idiocy by placing him in charge of security for the crown. Screech has replaced the crown, still missing, with a kids hat from Tamale King hoping that everyone is as stupid as him and won’t notice. When Mr. Belding and the three candidates walk in, Screech has R.J. run off with it really fast, claiming a Valley spy is watching them from the frosted windows. Screech is not the brightest, is he?
Rachel, meanwhile, tells Todd she talked to Mr. Belding about his reading problems. Todd’s fucking pissed that, instead of everyone believing he’s stupid, everyone may now view him as a freak because he has a disability. He walks off declaring himself to be dumb. Todd, I’m pretty sure people think you’re stupid because you’re in your late twenties and still in high school.
In class the next day, Todd has indeed failed the test, which means he can’t play in the game. His fellow football players start making fun of him for being stupid but Mr. Belding comes in to break stuff up.
Mr. Belding writes a sentence in what I originally assumed to be the native language of Lichtenbourg, but turns out to be gibberish. Mr. Belding tells the class they have to correctly answer this question or they all fail the test. R.J. tells Mr. Belding that he’s finally gone off his rocker, and Mr. Belding tells them that there’s millions of people who have a learning disability called dyslexia that makes them see all words like this. It is, indeed, not fair to fail someone who can’t answer a question that looks like this, which is why Bayside should have fired its three batshit crazy teachers who lived to fail students with impossibly hard questions. Tommy D wonders if he might have dyslexia and Ryan tells him, no, he’s just a moron.
This scene actually makes a lot of sense. Mr. Belding comes in to talk to Todd, sees the fight, and gives the students a lesson in neurodiversity. I’m actually quite impressed with the handling of this scene. It’s possibly the best I’ve seen in the franchise when handling a very special issue.
Screech and R.J. still haven’t found the crown. Screech suddenly remembers that he hid the crown in the janitor’s closet. They run there and find it gone so R.J. suggests the janitor may have thrown it out so they should look in the dumpster. Just where Screech belongs.
Mr. Belding gives Todd a verbal make-up test, which he passes with flying colors, meaning he can play in the homecoming game and that he might actually be able to graduate high school before he’s thirty.
At the homecoming dance, Milton and this geek talk smack about how much of a whorish traitor Maria is. Maria’s devastated that they think horribly of her but doesn’t respond in her usual ghettoish manner, instead slinking off sadly.
Eight hours later, Screech and R.J. are still looking through the dumpster with no luck on finding the crown. We get some attempts at gross out jokes that fall flat, and Screech decides it’s time to tell Mr. Belding the truth.
Back at the dance, Maria and Lindsay make-up, both saying they’re giving it to the other if they win because apparently no one really wants to be queen except that whore Mimi.
Screech walks in and, before he can confess, suddenly finds that Sidney, the janitor, is the other person at Bayside who always wanted to be homecoming queen. Uh, why didn’t you just fucking ask him if he saw it in the first place! That would have been better than digging through the fucking dumpster! Screech takes the crown from Sidney and gives it to Mr. Belding.
Mr. Belding announces the results of homecoming queen. Turns out it’s a write-in and Rachel wins. Rachel’s surprised and overjoyed and turns out Todd got the whole school to vote for Rachel to think her for what she did for him. There’s no mention of homecoming king. I guess since it’s not relevant to the plot there is no homecoming king this year.And our episode ends with Rachel and Todd dancing as the gang gathers around them clapping that they actually made a good episode.
So what do I like about this episode? It handles a really sensitive subject very well, a rarity in the Saved by the Bell universe, and it’s a real issue that the target demographic of this show may actually have to deal with. On top of that, there are some genuinely funny moments, especially in the homecoming queen subplot, and Dennis Haskins was giving his all in the role Mr. Belding should fill more often: that of the loving, caring educator that only wants the best for his students. Even more, Sarah Lancaster’s performance wasn’t bad…for a change, and Screech’s stupid subplot didn’t take up too much of the running time.
I was puzzled: how was this episode good when so many others have been so horrible? Turns out the writer on the episode was Leslie Eberhard, a veteran theatrical and television writer, whose credits included writing routines for veteran comic Betty Walker, a Broadway version of Jeckell and Hyde, and stints on 9 to 5, The Munsters Today, The John Larrorquette Show, and, perhaps most notably, Fraiser, for which he won a Humanitas Award. This guy was the real fucking deal!
This wasn’t the first episode of The New Class Eberhard wrote; unfortunately, he wrote four episodes for season two. I do attribute the fact, though, that they had a real fucking writer on this episode for its success. If only I had faith that this trend would continue into the future…