Saved by the Bell, the New Class: Christmas in July (1994)

I’d like to say that we saved the worst for near the end on purpose, but it was just challenging to get a hold of this episode. It turns out that these DVDs are out of print for a reason.

Here’s what I know about Saved by the Bell: There was a character named Screech, and it must have come on after something I watched regularly, because the theme song is familiar.

Here’s what I know about Saved by the Bell: The New Class: When I was looking for Christmas in July television episodes, I found out that there was a spin-off of Saved by the Bell.

So, with that lack of knowledge in place, let’s begin.

This is a heavily Christmasy episode, which we appreciate, and it packs an impressive amount of plot into 22 minutes. It does this by making every line, beat, and sound effect exquisitely painful to experience, thus extending the subjective time spent watching.

I can’t say this enough: do not under any circumstances watch this show. Making it was a waste of electricity, props, and craft services. The writing is atrocious, the acting broad beyond the point of parody, the unnecessary laugh track and sound effects are distracting and awful.

The main cast seems to be a bunch of teenagers and young adults who work at a… I guess it’s a country club? I don’t know for sure. There’s a couple older adults too. Maybe this is a summer episode, and the “regular” episodes take place in school? The opening credits seemed to take place at school.

Anyhow, the country club holds a “Christmas in July” party every year. First up: Secret Santa Drawing.

Screech is still a character in this show, and every second he is on screen I want to put the actor out of all of our misery. In any case, he rigs the Secret Santa so he selects his girlfriend. And immediately I don’t understand. She doesn’t seem to work there (her dad is the head boss), while Screech and the teens do, and there are a lot of names in the bowl and a big fancy banner, so are both staff and guests involved in a mandatory gift-giving activity? That sounds horrible and vaguely in violation of good workplace ethics.

My misgivings are confirmed, incidentally, by the subplot about the two boys who draw the supervisor and the boss. Both adult men proceed to drop hints about expensive gifts to their underpaid juvenile subordinates. Everyone in this world is a horrible person, and that goes double for all the people on the laugh track.

Next Christmas activity: The Snow Queen Pageant.

In keeping with the “everyone’s a scuzzball” theme, this is a beauty pageant for the (juvenile, underpaid) female staff, and the prize is a thousand dollars towards college. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be annoyed by yourself, viewer. You can be annoyed at Megan, who heads up a subplot about the sexism inherent in swimsuit competitions. Her objections are so annoying and pathetic in execution that I can only imagine how many kids watching this decided that sexism was A-okay if it would drive off people like Megan.

The other plot is also a follow-on from the Secret Santa. Screech’s girlfriend (the boss’s daughter, remember?) receives a car from her dad, and Screech decides he has to get her something extravagant, proving that he doesn’t know her or the conventions of after-school television very well. First he sells pictures with “Santa” to raise extra money, and when that doesn’t work, he sells his scooter to buy her a gold sports watch.

These scenes interweave with the aforementioned “pressure teenage boys to buy presents for adult men” and “sexism 101” plots. Megan tries to get the other girls to walk out on the pageant, but they decide they need the money. The boys trade Secret Santa names and each come up with a half-ass solution.

Megan finally decides to crash the swimsuit competition in a ridiculous 80’s power suit and give a painful speech about it, thereby clinching the thousand bucks. She was ahead of her time in claiming the trappings of feminism to get herself ahead.

I guess Screech’s girlfriend knew they were supposed to do “Gifts of the Magi” but didn’t know how it went, because she bought him a used and broken-looking horn for his scooter but didn’t sacrifice anything. She does refuse to keep the bracelet. The episode closes on some awkwardly forced caroling.

So today we’ve learned rich people can have anything they want, sexism is bad but you can solve it by posturing to gain sympathy, and minimum wage employees should be grateful that all their bosses want out of them is overpriced gifts.

Merry Christmas in July!