Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–1979)
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Welcome Back (Pilot) 

Gabriel Kotter is a teacher in Brooklyn, New York who ends up teaching at his old alma mater: Buchanan High School. He has been assigned to teach the remedial students, better known as the Sweathogs, a group to which he used to belong.



(created by) (as Gabriel Kaplan), (created by) | 4 more credits »

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Episode cast overview:
Gabe Kotter (as Gabriel Kaplan)
Freddie 'Boom Boom' Washington (as Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs)
Vinnie Barbarino


Gabriel Kotter is a teacher in Brooklyn, New York who ends up teaching at his old alma mater: Buchanan High School. He has been assigned to teach the remedial students, better known as the Sweathogs, a group to which he used to belong.

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Release Date:

23 September 1975 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Arnold Horshack: I'm Arnold Horshack, the last.
Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein: Why the last, Horschack?
Arnold Horshack: Cuz when they made me, they broke the mold.
See more »

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User Reviews

The founding Sweathog returns to his alma mater
25 June 2016 | by See all my reviews

"Welcome Back" served as the pilot for WELCOME BACK, KOTTER, the culmination of bringing to television the standup routines of Gabriel Kaplan and his reminiscences of life as a remedial student in Bensonhurst, a multiethnic section located in the Southwestern section of Brooklyn, advertised in the opening credits as the '4th largest city in America.' The fictitious James Buchanan High was represented by Kaplan's actual school, New Utrecht, Gabe himself in the starring role of social studies teacher Gabe Kotter, back at the same school where he was a founding member ten years before of the 'Sweathogs,' a close knit group of misfit students from all ethnic backgrounds, expert in issuing insults at the drop of a hat, which they call 'ranking.' Some ABC affiliates were afraid of the show when it debuted, and it must be said that the delinquent traits portrayed in the pilot were toned down considerably soon after, so that they would remain street smart but more wisecracking. Cast as Julie Kotter, Gabe's Nebraska wife, was actress and singer Marcia Strassman, pretty with or without glasses, her most notable recording a 1967 regional hit in California titled "The Flower Children." Cast as the buffoonish vice principal Michael Woodman was John Sylvester White, whose disdain for the Sweathogs was often belied by occasional bouts of tolerance, especially when he required a favor. The self proclaimed leader of the quartet was John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino, his breakout role after three years of television and stage work, even singing as T-Bird Doody in a road company production of GREASE. Next to be introduced is Robert Hegyes as 'Juan Luis Pedro Felipo de Juevos Epstein,' born of a Jewish mother named Biberman, and Puerto Rican father (voted 'most likely to take a life'). Third is Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, recently starred in the popular "Cooley High" (which begat a TV spin off in WHAT'S HAPPENING!!), in the role of basketball star Freddie ('hi there') Washington, nicknamed 'Boom Boom' for his penchant for pretending to play the bass. Last, and certainly least, is Ron Palillo as class nerd Arnold Horshack (wisely changed from 'Arnold Horseshit'), 'the last,' whose nasal laugh easily identified him, decidedly more childlike than the others, and probably more intelligent. The cast knew right from the start that they already had a special chemistry, long before its first broadcast, just going by the incredible reaction from the studio audience. Executive producer James Komack (who directed this pilot), a sometime actor and comedian himself, had already struck gold with two earlier hits, THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER and the previous year's CHICO AND THE MAN, but would remain best remembered for bringing Kotter to the small screen. The pilot finds Kotter somewhat reluctant to begin his career as a teacher right back where he spent 'four degenerate years as a student' at James Buchanan High, named for our country's worst president of the 19th century, and even more shocked to be teaching social studies in the remedial academics class where he actually founded the term 'Sweathogs.' The current group is notorious for terrorizing faculty and students alike, but warm up to Gabe's warmth and humor, a necessary strength when going up against boys adept at ranking, chopping, or sounding. Already Kotter makes an impression by recalling how the current crop attack directly ('up your nose with a rubber hose!'), while his generation were content to name check family members ('your aunt is so low she plays handball against the curb!'). Later, the new Sweathogs make an unannounced visit to the Kotter apartment, only the first of many, by their usual route on the fire escape. It must be said that this survives as one of the most indelible pilots ever produced, a surefire hit for its expert casting of all four students, with Travolta soon graduating to feature films such as "Carrie," "Saturday Night Fever," and "Grease."

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