Welcome Back Kotter : The Complete First Season (DVD)

When people remember “Welcome Back Kotter”, chances are they remember one of two things about it… none of which are really tied to the show itself.


Gabe Kaplan, Marcia Strassman, John Travolta, John Sylvester White, Robert Hegyes

When people remember “Welcome Back Kotter”, chances are they remember one of two things about it… none of which are really tied to the show itself.

Today, its theme song – ‘Welcome Back’ by John Sebastian – is probably better remembered than the series itself. What’s a great song without a great outlet to air it, though?

And here’s a kicker: “Welcome Back Kotter” was a vehicle for actor Gabe Kaplan. Something changed though, and it happens all the time with series. What happened was that one of the younger members of the show’s cast ended up becoming, not the sole, but definitely one of the main reasons to watch. He was John Travolta. His Vinnie Barbarino was comedy gold. It would be the first step in a long line of successes for the future box-office superstar. Poor old Kaplan, though. Whatever happened to him?

Looking back at this great 70s sitcom, its undeniably clear that we should be remembering Kotter for a lot more than its opening music and its breakout star – it was good fun and it was quite a radical offering – some said it was flying the flag for juvenile delinquency – for its time.

Kaplan was sensational as Gabe Kotter, a wisecracking teacher who returns to the same high school from which he graduated – James Buchanan High in Brooklyn, New York – to teach an often-unruly group of counteractive students known as the “Sweathogs.”

Back in his day, Kotter was also a member of the ‘Sweathogs’ so feels he can relate to the animated kids he’s now teaching. He’s getting somewhere with the kids but unfortunately the vice principal, Mr Woodman (John Sylvester White), thinks he’s a waste of space.

“Welome Back Kotter” was a phenomenon – there were lunch-boxes and T-Shirts; some of Barbarino’s catchphrases (‘Up Your Nose with a Rubber Hose!’) snuck its way into our vocabulary, and of course, Hollywood studios started knocking down the dressing room door of one its stars.

The first season DVD set features a Travolta-less retrospective featurette.

Rating :
Reviewer : Clint Morris