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This show ranks highly among the other 1970's shows which we remember:
in the Family", "Maude", "Sanford and Son", "One Day at a Time", and "The
Jeffersons". These shows dealt with issues such as racism, divorce,
abortion, and being poor. These shows had writing that was great, and
characters that were even greater. The characters, which had flaws
Bunker, Fred Sanford, and George Jefferson, etc.) which we all, whether we
were conservative, or liberal, or moderate, could relate
"Welcome Back, Kotter" was about a dedicated teacher who wanted to return to his alma mater to try to deal with a bunch of remedial, misfit high school students in inner city NYC when no one else wanted to deal with them. These types of teenagers were not tackled on TV before. The casting was perfect for the NYC setting: from the nerd in Horshack, to the cool maverick in Barbarino, to the Latino in Epstein, to the Black male, of course, in Washington. There is also the Principal in Mr. Woodman. The writing was great. The timing was awesome. The theme song by John Sebastian is breathtaking. The show was purely magical in its first few seasons.
There were problems, as life deals us sometimes. One was Marcia Straussman. She was very unhappy that her involvement in storylines was limited. It was unfortunate because the show primarily dealt with life at the school. Because she played the wife of the teacher, and she was primarily at home, there was not room for her. The act of making her a character on the show was not a good one. The Mrs. Kotter character would have been more appropriate on recurring basis. Another problem was differences between Gabe Kaplan and the other producers and writers. This explains why we never saw him much during the later run of the series.
Gabe Kaplan's lack of involvement in the show's fourth and final season was just one of the many problems which doomed the show. The writing in that final season was sloppy, unrealistic, unfunny, and was so amateurish. As a teenager watching the show in reruns, I saw that something was amiss. The actors on the show complained that the scripts were trash. A storyline about Horshack getting married was about as bad as the writing could get, and it was that. The E! Channel's "E! True Hollywood Story" about this show talks about that dismal fourth season. Another major problem with that show in the fourth season was that the actors who played the Sweathogs. The problem with actors playing teenagers is that they were older than teenagers when they began portraying those characters. To prepare to portray teens, they had to learn how to be teenagers again. It worked in the early days.
However, by the time the fourth season had arrived, the actors had matured and developed as adults where they were getting too old to portray teenagers anymore. They also did not look like teenagers, either. Let's not forget John Travolta and his blossoming as a movie star. These factors led to the demise of the series.
The series was about a concept so fresh, people in this modern era can relate to it even more now than they could back in the 70's. This concept is about misfit children. This is why it was so popular for awhile in syndication. However, it fizzled in syndication because when those fourth season episodes began airing, the viewing felt that the whole show was crap and stopped watching. USA Network had it. TV Land had it. They both stopped showing it.
Even though things did not end on a good note, true fans of the show can ignore that fourth season and remember the greater moments. It was a great show in general.
'Welcome Back, Kotter' is one of those shows you stay home on the weekends for. I know I do. From the puberty-neglected voice of Arnold Horseshack to the feathered and Jew-froed hair of Vinnie Barbarino, Juan Epstein, and Gabe Kotter, everything about this show is classic. At first glance it might just seem like some kitschy little retro sitcom, but make no mistake, it is awesome. By the last season the show slowed down and became a shadow of it's former self, but if you can ignore that then you will see that this show is one of the best ever.
Although not watching this TV-series for the past twenty years I'm still able to remember details as names, sceneries and the soundtrack. The characters are well-pictured and witty, the dialogues are pointed. I wished I had had a teacher like Kotter myself.
It is a mystery to this day why this beloved sitcom has not been given
the respect it so truly deserves. For one,it ranks highly among other
shows of the 1970's that were so great from that decade which we truly
remembered but also are still around in repeats: "All In The Family",
"Sanford and Son","The Jeffersons","Good Times","One Day At A Time",
"Barney Miller","Happy Days","Maude",and not to even mention "Different
Strokes","What's Happening",and "Chico And The Man". These were the
shows that we grew up watching but at the same time dealt with issues
that were relevant in its day such as racism,divorce,abortion,civil
rights,and unemployment not to mention being poor. The characters
themselves which had their flaws whether pro or con(Archie Bunker, Fred
Sanford,Maude Findley,James Evans,and George Jefferson not to mention
Ann Romano)and these characters,when they had there say were either
conservative,liberal,or moderate in their views of expression. And
these are the characters that we can relate to upfront since during the
1970's we watch them with a candid viewpoint.
"Welcome Back Kotter",was one of those shows that we can relate with since it only ran for four seasons on ABC-TV from 1975 to 1979,and it was the launching pad for John Travolta,who emerged as a superstar in his own right because of this series. However,Gabe Kaplan may have been the star of show,but lets face facts here:It was John Travolta who was bringing in the ratings and the viewers for the show's first three seasons(1975-1977). During its first three seasons,it was nominated for its brilliant writing as well as its outstanding catchy theme song from John Sebastian,from the group "The Lovin Spoonfuls". The theme song itself is a standardized classic since during its heyday became a top ten hit and was also Grammy nominated. It was nominated for four Emmys between 1976,1978,1979-and basically won in 1976 for Outstanding Musical Score. The producers that made that show successful were the brilliant team of its creator(Gabe Kaplan)and producer,James Komack(who was also the show's executive producer)along with the writing team of Alan Sacks,George Yanok,and Eric Cohen. However,James Komack was also behind this series and also another classic 1970's sitcom,"Chico And The Man",which was on NBC.
"Welcome Back,Kotter",was about a dedicated teacher who wanted to return to his alma mater to try to deal with a bunch of remedial,misfit bunch of high school students that no one else wanted to deal with and to put it bluntly no one really cared. The casting was perfect for the NYC setting:from the nerd Horshack(Ron Palillo),the cool maverick Barbarino(John Travolta),the hot-headed Latino Epstein(Robert Hegyes), to the cool black male,Washington(Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs). There is also the school's principal,Mr. Woodman(John Sylvester). By the way,during the show's first three seasons,John Travolta wasn't the only one that became a mega superstar in his own right. However,the show was also a launching pad for Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as well,since he was still making movies when this series came out and continues to do so in movies and television and not to mention Broadway after the series ended. Also to point out the show made stars out of other actors as well including Vernee Watson,Debralee Scott,and Ron Palillo. The guest stars were also the focalpoint of the show including some that made their mark including a very teenage looking Michael Jackson,and not to mention others that would come on board as well. The timing during the first three seasons were awesome and purely magical and sometimes breathtaking within the first few episodes of the show. Then tragedy settles it which basically saw the decline of the show as well.
There were problems especially with actress Marcia Straussman,who was unhappy that her story lines on the show were limited. Another problem was the differences between Gabe Kaplan and James Komack and some of the writers on the show. The other problem was the disputes with the producers and network executives over at ABC who wanted control over the series. This led to Gabe Kaplan's lack of involvement over the show and its shows in the last two seasons of the series and some of the many problems which doomed it in which we never saw Kaplan much during the series final two seasons. In the show's final season,the episodes were silly not to mention unfunny and very sloppy. From there the actors on the show complained about the show's scripts since some of them were completely garbage. Not to mention the cast weren't teenagers anymore since they were grown adults playing adolescent kids,which goes to show they didn't looked like teenagers either. These were the factors led to the demise of the series in 1979,after producing 95 episodes. The other reason why the show demise? For one,it had to do with the leaving of John Travolta at the end of the show's third season especially when Travolta was a hot commodity in Hollywood after the huge success of the greatest disco-movie ever made,"Saturday Night Fever". After the series ended,Gabe Kaplan was never heard from again. The Rise and Fall Of The Kotter Empire.
This was a great series. Most of Kotter's jokes were so corny, but ya just gotta laugh anyway. This was made back when they knew how to make a sitcom, something the whole family can enjoy (yes that means it's safe for parents too). The "Sweathogs" always crack me up. Myself, also put in remedial education during high school could relate to a lot of it also. Great writing and acting has made this show a classic.
This show premiered in September of 1975 and instantly became a
The First three seasons are pure genius, however I have no idea what the
hell happened to season 4.
This show has potential if you ignore season 4.
TVland now shows this show every Friday and Saturday night at midnight.
"Welcome Back, Kotter" was one of the funniest serials I have ever seen. It starred Gabe Kaplan as Mr. Kotter, who taught a remedial class of "Sweathogs" which featured Arnold Horshack, Juan Epstein, Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington, and Vinnie Barbarino as four of his students. Between the hilarious plots and the identifiable high school situations, the show was a hit. What student in a diverse environment can't identify with "Roses are red, violets are blue, my mom wants me to date a Puerto Rican Jew"? My favourite episode focused upon the Sweathogs cleaning for a pregnant Mrs. Kotter, only to destroy her apartment. Reruns have been off the air in Canada for quite some time, so I suggest that if networks want to improve ratings, that they welcome back Kotter!
I'm 17 years old now, and a few years ago when Nick-At-Nite did the revival, showing every episode of "Welcome Back, Kotter", I was immediately hooked! It was so funny, I tuned in every night they showed it. The characters are all so stupid, you grow to love them :o) Definitely a great show for all ages!
I really enjoyed Welcome Back, Kotter. It was a very funny show with an
outstanding ensemble cast anchored by Gabe Kaplan, who brought lots of
humor to the class of unteachable sweathogs with jokes and impressions.
I always got a kick out of his uncle jokes in the opening and closing
of each episode, including the ones when he was telling a joke to a
turkey and to a computer used as an electronic teaching device.
As for the sweathogs, they were a riot. John Travolta catapulted his way to success as the macho, monosyllabic ("What? Where?") Vinnie Barbarino, Robert Hegyes portrayed TV's first Puerto Rican Jew Juan (Little Juan) Epstein and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs made me crack up every time he said "Hi there!" But my favorite of the sweathogs was Arnold Horshack. Ron Pallilo's portrayal of one of TV's funniest nerds was so outstanding, from his nasal voice to his inimitable laugh. His laugh was the funniest on TV prior to Steve Urkel.
Gabe constantly got grief from vice principal (later principal) Mr. Woodman, who kept barging into his class with the same frequency Frank & Marie Barone did to their son years later on Everybody Loves Raymond. Let's not forget Marcia Strassman as Gabe's wife Julie, who didn't have much to do in most of the show until the fourth season.
As for the fourth season, the least that can be said, the better. it was horrible without Kaplan and Travolta on the show full-time and Stephen Shortridge as Beau. It was like watching the Sanford and Son episodes a couple of years earlier without Redd Foxx.
I'll wrap this up by mentioning the theme song by John Sebastian that made it to No. 1 on the pop charts and resurrected his career. it was one of the best 70s TV theme songs. Welcome back. Welcome back. Welcome back.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
...and it's driving me nuts.
JG: I remember there was one episode where Epstein paints Kotter's wife naked on the side of the school. They didn't show any details, of course. I hope that's not a spoiler.
JL: Kotter is the prodigal son of NYC. He has gone out in the world with ambition, and now returned to find that his real calling was right at home. I often reflected on this difficulty as a youngster, seeing the elevated trains and dirty streets during the closing credits. I would always struggle with the duality between ambition for new experiences, and sticking with what you are good at. How would a neurotic Kotter sound after a hard day with the sweathogs?
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