Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Created by Michael Elias and Rich Eustis, the weekly, half-hour ABC sitcom Head of the Class was partially based on Eustis' own experiences as a substitute teacher in New York. Howard Hesseman starred as substitute teacher Charlie Moore, who was assigned to take over the Individual Honors Program (IHP) at New York City's Monroe High School (later known as Fillmore High). In a neat reversal of the Welcome Back, Kotter premise, Charlie's charges were not underachieving "sweat hogs," but instead were all academic geniuses. The IHP was the pride and joy of the school's pompous principal Dr. Harold Samuels (William G. Schilling), who cared only about high GPA averages and winning academic trophies. Charlie on the other hand was concerned that his brilliant students lacked the social skills and emotional equipment to survive in the "real" world. Thus, rather than merely sit at his desk and allow the students to read and study all by themselves, Mr. Moore endeavored to prepare them for adulthood by enthusiastically teaching them a few pages from what he called "The Book of Life." Dr. Samuels didn't care much for Charlie's freewheeling approach, but assistant principal Bernadette Mehra (Jeanetta Arnette) was a firm supporter of the unorthodox Mr. Moore -- as long as he got the right results, of course. Several of the IHP students remained with the series throughout its five-season run, even though logic dictated that they would have probably graduated sometime in the third or fourth year. Among the longest-lasting regulars were Robin Givens as pampered preppy Darlene Merriman; Tony O'Dell as Darlene's male counterpart Allan Pinkard; Dan Frischman as the requisite geek Arvid Engen (pocket protector and all), Khrystyne Haje as aspiring poet Simone Foster; Dan Schneider as chubby, wisecracking chemistry whiz Dennis Blunden; Brian Robbins as the brilliant but thuggish Eric Mardian, who regarded himself as way too cool for the room; and Kimberly Russell as artistically gifted Sarah Nevins. Of the "original" students, a handful left the series at the end of season three -- the overambitious Maria Borges (Leslie Bega), who practically went into shock if she ever got any grade below an A, transferred to the High School of Performing Arts; Jawarhalal Sodhury (Jory Husain), the obligatory "funny foreigner" Indian-born student, moved to California; and 12-year-old child prodigy Janice Lazorroto (Tannis Vallely) entered Harvard. Later additions to the IHP included Rain Pryor as streetwise Theola June "T.J." Jones, an underachiever with an attitude who fought long and hard to qualify for the "smart class" and finally made it after two seasons; De'Voreaux White as budding filmmaker Aristotle McKenzie; Lara Piper as the gorgeous Viki Amory; Michael de Lorenzo as Alex Torres; and finally, Jonathan Ke Quan as Jasper Kwong. When star Howard Hesseman left the series at the end of the fourth season, it was explained that Mr. Moore had landed an acting job (the same reason that series co-creator Rich Eustis had quit teaching himself). At the beginning of season five, Scottish comedian Billy Connolly replaced Hesseman as the IHP's new teacher, perennial jokester Billy McGregor, a character who later resurfaced in Connolly's 1992 series Billy. Debuting September 17, 1986, Head of the Class ran until June 25, 1991, for a total of 112 episodes.