Recapping these two seasons may be one of the most boring things I do for this blog, as these were two of the most boring installments of this franchise I’ve watched. Really, there just wasn’t a lot going on to piss me off like in past seasons other than general incompetence. It just seemed to be the show coasting along for two more years so they could milk every bit of this cash cow they could.
At this point, this show had long outstayed its welcome, and any possibility of laughs and redemption had died a slow, painful death. The six “teenagers” had long since grown up, all of whom were in their late teens and early twenties by this point, and you can tell they’re just absolutely bored by the horribly cliched scripts they’re being forced to deal with. And, by this time, Mr. Belding and Screech just look like they’re trying to do whatever stupid shit they can to remain relevant in a franchise that passed them by ages ago.
I’ve mentioned before my reasoning for recapping these seasons together. They were filmed as one twenty-six episode season and artificially split into two to draw out the show for one more year. I do try to be fair since I don’t know what incompetent baboon’s fault the horrible ordering of episodes is, but it did make these twenty-six episodes very difficult to figure out when they’re supposed to be taking place, and that’s a problem.
I suspect the show would have had a much more dignified ending had they stopped after season five.
It didn’t help the cast was so weak this season. With the departure of Richard Lee Jackson, the producers had basically two choices: don’t replace him and just strengthen the five remaining cast, or bring in a new guy and hope they can make the audience give a damn about him in just twenty-six episodes. Unfortunately, they chose the latter, and Tony was certainly never going to be strong enough of a character to develop in such a short period of time.
On top of that, it’s obvious that some of the cast had already began to check out. Ashley Lyn Cafagna is barely around this season and Samantha Becker seems bored out of her mind. It’s kind of pathetic to watch. Needless to say, there’s no running thread of senior year as there was on the original series. In fact, there’s no mention that it’s the gang’s senior year or that graduation was coming up until almost at the very end. At one point, it’s even implied they would be around next year! It’s like they were trying to delay the inevitable as long as possible, hoping for a last minute order for a season eight.
Of course, this also confuses the timeline quite a bit. We know season two was right after the cancellation of The College Years in 1994, due to Screech’s arrival. Maria joined the cast in 1995 as a transfer student, implying she’d been at Valley at least one year, and, if this season is to be believed, they were the class of 2000. This means Maria, and Tony (who was supposed to be the same age as her) were in high school for at least six years. This school just wouldn’t let go of their souls.
One positive thing is that it does feel like more episodes took place at Bayside. Other than the requisite mall episodes we’ve come to expect out of The New Class as well as the three episode police academy arc, every episode takes place in school. I didn’t do an episode count to see if that was actually the case but, after spending half of the last four seasons away from Bayside, it was refreshing to see the gang at high school so often in a show about high school. Mind you, the police academy arc was horrible and one of the mall episodes made me laugh very ironically, but, still, it’s nice we weren’t going to the Antarctic or some shit this year.
But a recap of these seasons wouldn’t be complete without mentioning NBC’s incompetence at airing them. How on Earth can you have a series finale that takes place before the actual final chronological episode? What were they thinking? I suspect, by this point, NBC didn’t give a damn about The New Class. Remember, they were only a year from cancelling the whole of TNBC in favor of that show kids love: Saturday morning news! They didn’t care anymore. Saved by the Bell had long passed its relevance to the world and, judging by what I’ve read, an increasing number of people didn’t even know The New Class was still on the air, if they ever knew it was to begin with.
Okay, let’s talk characters.
Like Ryan before her, Maria’s turned into a shadow of what she once was. Almost completely gone is the angry character who won’t take shit from anyone, replaced with someone whose entire life seems to center around her relationship with Tony. I mean, really, other than an episode exploring her friendship with Katie and another with her father, Maria’s entire existence this season depended on Tony. Considering how underdeveloped her relationship with Nicky was in season four, this is surprising, and I’m realizing that, like Rachel, Maria’s a character who is at her best when single.
It’s a shame because I like Maria and would have liked to see her have such a stronger season. They could have turned her into the lead character this season, but it feels like Samantha Becker was just counting down the days until cancellation. Even the little thing they gave her at the end, being valedictorian, came the fuck out of nowhere considering she had an episode in season three where she was struggling with a class. I wonder what Maria would have been like in the hands of competent writers.
Samantha Becker is now Samantha Esteban, She continues to act to this day and hasn’t done bad for herself, though her resume certainly isn’t as impressive as others. Among her more recognizable roles, she had recurring roles on the short-lived television shows The System and From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series and in the films Training Day and Harsh Times.
It boggled my mind for a bit why they wouldn’t develop Nicky’s character more this season and turn him into an actual draw for the series. And then I remembered: it’s because Nicky is boring as sin. He’s never had a definable personality other than NEW YORK, and it seems like the writers realized that this season as they awkwardly put him in things he’d never expressed interest in before, like as a football player and aspiring filmmaker.
Still, he wasn’t a bad character; he was just the catch-all for every trait Eric and Tony didn’t exhibit, which is kind of scary considering those characters. Nicky was never going to be as exciting as Zack Morris or Slater, but they at least could have given him some definable characteristics other than standing around with one look on his face all the time.
Ben Gould had a few more miscellaneous small roles after The New Class, but pretty much left acting after 2005, playing bass for a rock band for a while. According to IMDB, he later moved to NEW YORK for real to work in the restaurant business, but I’ve been unable to confirm this for sure. He’s keeping pretty low key nowadays.
Katie’s all over the place this year, alternatively being the smart girl, the socially conscious girl, and the stupid girl depending on what the script calls for. She’s almost completely defined this season by her relationship with Nicky and whatever whim the writers had for her that week, and it’s hard to tell if any of it was out of character.
Even when the writers wrote something just for her, like her conflict about not getting a scholarship to go to New York with Nicky, it seemed contrived, especially given how obsessed Katie was with doing everything she could over the last four seasons to get scholarships and shit. She had definitely take over the smart girl role by this time.
Lindsey McKeon continues acting to this day and has seen some degree of success. Probably her most recognizable roles post-The New Class are in regular roles on Supernatural and One Tree Hill. She was also twice nominated for Daytime Emmy awards for a role on Guiding Light. She’s also tried her hand at blogging and writing.
Eric is horribly underdeveloped this season, not even getting one of his usual wacky shenanigans with Screech episodes. He has an episode where he acts like an asshole to the rest of the gang to try and make a music video, and he gives a shit for some reason about the police academy, but that’s about it. There’s not a lot to say about him other than he likes to sing, in case you weren’t clear about that the previous two seasons.
Anthony Harrell tried his hand a bit longer at acting, but eventually gave it up to focus on his music, which continues to be a primary focus to this day. He comes from a family of musicians and even appeared in a reality show with his brothers in 2008, Brothers to Brutha. He and his brothers had a hip hop group together from 2002 to 2011, and Anthony did a bit of solo work. Nowadays, judging by his Instagram, he’s keeping busy raising his beautiful family.
Liz is barely in these seasons. Sure, she appears in all twenty-six episodes, but she’s frequently reduced to an extra with a few lines. I’m sure some of the blame for this was that she was simultaneously acting in The Bold and the Beautiful during this season. Nevertheless, I’m willing to place some of the blame on the fact the writers never evolved her past a sex doll for Ryan and being obsessed with swimming. With Ryan’s departure, the writers didn’t bother to figure out anything else for her to do and, so, it’s frequently easy to forget she’s even still around.
Ashley Lyn Cafagna is now Ashley Tesoro. She didn’t keep up acting much beyond her 2001 departure from The Bold and the Beautiful. In fact, she went a completely different direction: Christian music, producing gospel and Christian country music with her husband, producer Anthony Tesoro. She’s also busy nowadays raising her two children.
Where do I even begin with this season’s weakest link? Tony basically has all the worst qualities of Tommy D and none of the charisma of previous blonde leads like Ryan and Scott. To top it off, Tom Wade Huntington can’t act to save his life, and, as a result, Tony’s a character who’s all over the place, annoying the shit out of us and making me beg the question what I ever did to deserve such torture. Still, he’s almost exclusively defined by his relationship with Maria and being on the football team. I can’t help but question how the writers thought they’d make us give a shit about him in just the little time he had on this show.
Still, as you found out in my bonus post yesterday, I don’t quite rank him at the bottom of The New Class characters as at least he’s not Brian. Still, Tony was an entirely unneeded character in what was, no doubt, the weakest seasons of the show since the second. He was a desperation character and he didn’t work.
Tom Wade Huntington may be the biggest mystery post-The New Class since Spankee Rodgers. He had a few minor roles through 2005, and then he kind of dropped off the face of the planet, keeping no social media accounts I can find. To top it off, when I commented on Cookies and Sangria‘s Where Are They Now post for The New Class and pointed out they left off Rodgers and Huntington, an anonymous poster commented that Huntington has been dead since 2008. This sent me in a frenzy to see if I could confirm this rumor, and I have not. Through some persistent searching, though, I think I was able to track down his mother and sister on Facebook, and, judging by their posts, it seems like he moved back to his hometown in Missouri post-acting and is probably leading a relatively normal life.
Mr. Belding and Screech have little to do during these seasons other than their C-plot of the week, which is usually a pretty terrible excuse for them to act gay and/or completely incompetent for cheap laughs from an audience who doesn’t have any idea how horrifying it is that two administrators would act this way. Both characters have very little interaction with the gang this season, and Mr. Belding especially is a shell of his former character. Dustin Diamond claims, in his memoir, that he and Dennis Haskins were almost relieved when this stupid show was finally cancelled, and that’s one of the few things I can believe coming from his mouth.
I wish Mr. Belding had a more dignified end, but I suppose getting a new job and getting the fuck away from Screech is about as good as we were going to get. Mr. Belding was one of my favorite characters throughout the original. It was so painful to see him reduced to this idiocy for The New Class. I’m glad he’s finally out of his pain.
But fuck Screech. Fuck Screech and his complete incompetence that was constantly being rewarded. Thank god he didn’t end up principal, at least on screen. It’s horrifying to think of him fucking up the young lives of his students. I’m so tired of him I just can’t muster the hate for him any longer.
These two seasons will definitely go down as two of the least memorable, even if they’re not technically the worst. I find myself, as I prepare to give my worst list for the season, having already forgotten most of them as they really left that little impact on my memory. Some of you have said in the comments that these episodes never aired in syndication. If that’s true, it wouldn’t surprise me. There’s just nothing here of any interest, and, perhaps it’s fitting that The New Class ended so horribly unspectacular.
As usual, here’s my picks for the best and worst of the year. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments below!
One Episode I Loved Ironically:
Season 7, Episode 8: “A Mall Shook Up” Don’t get me wrong: this episode is terrible. But it’s terrible in such a way that I was laughing hysterically the entire time at the sheer ridiculousness of Nicky’s mistreated PTSD after saving Tum Tum, not to mention the fact everyone stuck around the mall after falling debris nearly killed the two of them.
Five Episodes I Hated:
Season 6, Episode 5: “Cigar Wars” We did not need a second anti-smoking episode, especially one centered around Tony. It’s not quite as terrible as Lindsay’s anti-smoking episode from season three, but it’s certainly as preachy, and the reverse peer pressure and Tony smoking on the world’s most open campus are two of the stupidest things of this season.
Season 6, Episode 9: “Mind Games” This is a painful one to watch as the writers are obviously doing their best to try and depict an emotionally abusive relationship, and obviously failing hard at it. I don’t buy for a second Liz would put up with the bullshit in this episode, especially after how quickly she was shown to have the confidence to date again after Ryan’s departure. This episode was complete bullshit.
Season 7, Episode 5: “Liz Burns Eric” All three of the police academy episodes are ridiculously stupid, but this one has a special place in the pits of hell. Liz suddenly acts like an asshole to attract a boy she likes. Is it out of character for her? Does Liz have any character? Who knows. The sudden contrived friendship with Eric and Liz is pretty horrible too, since it comes the fuck out of nowhere.
Season 7, Episode 6: “The X-Friends Files” Another ridiculously over-the-top entry where the writers made a character an asshole for no particular reason other than it was convenient to the plot. How was Nicky the voice of reason for this episode while Katie was the impulsive asshat? I guess we’ll never know, but it made for a horrible episode.
Season 7, Episode 9: “Party Animals” What a terrible, preachy episode. Basically, don’t drink because it’s illegal and you might act like an impulsive asshole. I bet Nicky and Katie’s vow to never drink again lasted about two seconds until they got to their first college party. The fact that most of the consequences of the episode happened off-screen didn’t help either, and Mr. Belding and Screech’s subplot was more moronic than usual.
So that’s it for the recap. I’ll have another bonus post tomorrow. And this Monday I’ll have one final recap of The New Class as a whole, along with some news as to what’s next for this blog.