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Dennis Haskins: Timing to blame for 'Saved by the Bell' reunion delay

“Hey, hey hey hey hey – what’s going on here?!” Nearly 20 years after Dennis Haskins finished putting the “pal” in principal” as Mr. Belding on 1990s teen sitcom “Saved by the Bell,” fans still ask him for his famous catchphrase – and he’s “absolutely fine” with obliging them.

Brandon Goodwin / TODAY.com

Dennis Haskins strikes a classic pose as everyone's favorite principal, Mr. Belding.

“I’ve kind of carried the banner for ‘Saved by the Bell’ for a bunch of years because, let’s face it, I’ll be Mr. Belding for the rest of my life,” the actor told TODAY.com. Haskins stopped by TODAY as a surprise guest host of a ’90s trivia segment that also featured his former co-star Tiffani Thiessen.

Haskins and another former co-star, Mark-Paul Gosselaar – who played blond, baby-faced Zack Morris – recently told TMZ they supported a “Saved By The Bell” reunion.

“TMZ stopped Mark-Paul the other day and asked if he was going to watch the ‘Boy Meets World’ spinoff and he said, ‘Yeah, I'll see how they do it and maybe we'll do a reunion as well,’” Haskins said. “So TMZ called me and asked if I was still interested, and I said, yes, I would love to do something if everyone is involved, whatever it is, because I think the fans will want it.”

Jimmy Fallon and others have tried unsuccessfully to get the cast back together in the past. Haskins claimed it was just an issue of timing and finding a project that everyone can agree on, and, while he acknowledged there are some issues, he denied that bad blood among certain cast members was preventing it from going forward.

Brandon Goodwin

"Mat, in my office, now!" Dennis Haskins gets in character with TODAY producer Matt Greenfield.

“It’s not like something is holding it up – I think it’s a matter of timing and finding something that everyone wants to do,” he said.  “There’s some issues with Dustin [Diamond], he wrote a book that wasn’t real positive.”

Diamond, who played the annoying but beloved nerd Screech, released a tell-all book, “Behind the Bell,” in 2009, which made scandalous allegations about drugs and sex on the set. Despite that, Haskins says he has no ill feelings toward his former co-star.

“I worked with Dustin for 11 years, he was my sidekick and we had a great relationship,” he said.

Haskins says he does stay in touch with a couple of the cast members, namely Mario Lopez and Gosselaar, and had glowing comments about his former colleagues’ careers. “They’ve gone on to do some amazing things,” he said.

And while Haskins has several other credits under his belt, including  stints on “How I Met Your Mother,” “Men of a Certain Age” and “Mad Men,” he says he still savors the impact that Mr. Belding had, and continues to have.

“I don’t think there’s one episode where Mr. Belding didn’t do right by the kids,” he said. “I’ve had people say they went into education because of Mr. Belding. I’ve had a guy say he went to Yale because of our show, because  Zack was supposed to go to Yale [he went to Cal U in “Saved By The Bell: The College Years”].  I’ve had several people say they learned to speak English because of our show. I was in Romania a few years ago. Romania. And a guy looks at me and says ‘Teacher?’”

Fans are still enamored with the show – even though so many of the story lines were a bit hokey. But Haskins says the attachment is because of its universal message.

“Because high school is still tough,” said Haskins. “Yes, we only showed a minimal amount of trouble, but kids still get stressed; they have pressure from tests – that still goes on. If you like some girl and she doesn’t like you, it hurts your feelings, that still goes on. Fans are grown up and now their kids are watching the show. It crosses generations and populations. I don’t really know why it’s been that successful. It’s unheard of.”

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