In 2010, two brothers, Matt and Scott Hamilton, directed a short fan film about a group of four friends who not only think Rod Belding, Mr. Belding’s irresponsible brother, is real, but that he didn’t actually stand up the Bayside students on their rafting trip for a girl, and actually had the flu as Mr. Belding told them. When I first about this short film, I thought it sounded intriguing and, at twenty-two minutes, wouldn’t take a long time to watch.
Even more fascinating is that these young filmmakers got Dennis Haskins and Ed Blatchford , who played Rod in the episode “The Fabulous Belding Boys,” involved (Blatchford even helped write and produce the short!). This was no small feat considering that, according to IMDB, the entire thing was shot on a budget of $3,000. I know Dennis Haskins has a reputation for being a really nice guy and supporting fans, but I figured there had to be something he and Blatchford saw in this project in order to get involved. After all, Blatchford basically came out of retirement to do the short; he hadn’t had a project in five years and hasn’t been in anything since.
Indeed, there was something to this neat little film.
The genesis for Saved by the Belding was actually the Hamilton brother’s previous short, 2009’s Lost Heroes: Rod Belding. Shot in the style of True Access Hollywood, Lost Heroes features interviews with four young men who believe Saved by the Bell was a documentary about the real life antics of Bayside High, and that Rod Belding was a real person who inspired them to greatness. The nine minute short posits that everything started going wrong at Bayside after Rod disappeared, including Jessie getting hooked on caffeine pills, Slater and Jessie breaking up, and Tori’s existence. (I know they got the timelines a bit wrong, but I forgive them for this because I genuinely laughed at this, and I would like to blame Screech being at Bayside during The New Class on Rod’s disappearance.
This apparently lead them to expand the concept into the longer Saved by the Belding, shot in documentary style and following the action real time. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the Hamilton brothers have removed the short from their YouTube channel so all that is still online is the trailer. As such, I’ll be working from memory on the details. I hope one day they restore the full short so it can be appreciated by a wide audience.
The basic premise is that the four main interviewees from Lost Heroes are in a Rod Belding support group being lead by a psychologist who is a “Rodologist.” They are constantly at each other’s throats about whether Rod actually had the flu or not, and asides from the psychologist reveal he knows Rod Belding isn’t real, but realizes his patients aren’t getting anywhere with their therapy. As such, he decides to send them to California to find Rod Belding.
In California, they actually do find Ed Blatchford, who initially thinks, with the cameras around, they’re a crew from True Hollywood Story. Ed eventually figures out they’re not from the show, but still plays along, even letting them call him Ed and inviting them out for dinner.
But, at dinner, Ed runs into a female acquaintance in town for the night who wants to have some fun with ole’ Eddy. He decides to ditch the four, and Dennis Haskins randomly shows up for a recreation of the scene from “The Fabulous Belding Boys” where Mr. Belding chews out Rod for ditching the students as Ed basically takes the line of, “What the fuck are you doing, Dennis?” Instead of Zack Morris, this time one of the four overhears, and Dennis ends up having dinner with the four instead, with the one who overheard remarking, as before, they got the better Belding.
The short is magnificently shot, especially considering the budget they were working with. It could actually be believed that they were doing a documentary on four really naive kids who wanted to find the real Rod Belding. I can’t emphasize enough as well how awesome it is that both Haskins and Blatchford were so heavily involved in the project. It really is awesome that they support their fans so much they did this.
In the end, it’s a good-spirited send up of “The Fabulous Belding Boys” and Saved by the Bell in general. You can tell those involved in the making of the short are fans and having a lot of fun in the production. I have made my opinion abundantly clear on numerous occasions that I think “The Fabulous Belding Boys” is the best episode of the original class, so I think it’s great that the film picked this episode to do a parody of. I feel like, if they had focused on other episodes such as “Jessie’s Song” or “Running Zack,” it could have felt really overdone considering how cliche those episodes have become. But “The Fabulous Belding Boys” is just well known enough that the whole concept feels original, funny, and a little believable, since the inability to tell the difference between fiction and reality is a real mental condition.
The Hamilton brothers appear to have moved on to other ventures after directing just a few more shorts, which is a shame since they’re clearly talented. They each did a bit of work on legit documentaries, so it would be interesting to see what else they could do. And, hell, with their connections, maybe they could even do a send up to the horrible Lifetime biopic.
In any case, next week we’ll look at a second fan film, one I’m not as big a fan of.