As you often hear adults say nowadays, when we were kids we played outside all the time. That is true, we did, but we were also TV addicts just as much as kids today. I couldn’t get enough of my regular sitcoms growing up. The Brady Bunch. Good Times. The Facts of Life. Diff’rent Strokes. The Jeffersons. All in the Family. One Day at a Time. The list goes on and on forever. But one show that was always dear to my heart was Welcome Back Kotter and thanks to the folks at Shout Factory, you can get the entire series as of this week on DVD.
Comedian Gabe Kaplan plays Gabe Kotter, a high school teacher who returns to the inner city high school of his youth to teach a new generation of kids. Kotter is assigned to the class of rejects that can’t seem to do anything right, including the Sweathogs, a group of underachievers that Kotter takes under his wing.
Welcome Back Kotter felt like real school. Much funnier yes, but you could identify with Kotter and with his class of outsiders. John Travolta played Barbarino, the good looking rhymer, Ron Palillo was Horshack, the jokester, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs was Washington, the slick hustler, and Robert Hegyes was Epstein, the cool cat with an excuse for everything. But together these misfits were a family and Kotter was their moral compass. Kotter himself was a misfit among his peers as well and he welcomed the students into his life as family. The laughs were fast and furious but the show always had a big heart and wasn’t afraid to tackle important subjects like bullying, drugs, alcohol and sex. Like many sitcoms of that time, there was always a lesson to be learned among the jokes.
As a bonus to the almost 100 episodes of the classic show, Shout Factory has included a great featurettes on the Sweathogs as well as the actors’ original screen tests. It is truly a treasure to have the entire series now available and that just leaves one thing left to say. Welcome Back. (I had to do it.)
Available now on DVD.