Jack Davis is drawing us for the TV Guide
cover? Very impressive, Mr Kotter!
Before Jerry Seinfeld
wondered about airline peanuts, before Tim Allen said his first "Arrr arrr arrr!"
, before Roseanne
became a Domestic Goddess, there was Gabriel Kaplan, the first stand-up comedian to successfully turn his comedy routines into a hit sitcom. Welcome Back, Kotter
ran on ABC
from 1975 to 1979.
Gabe Kotter, formerly a Sweathog, returns to James Buchanan High School as a teacher and is assigned the remedial class to which he once belonged. Mr. Kotter is an involved and caring teacher, which one would have to be in dealing with a certain four students in his class, who end up in trouble on a regular basis: ladies' man Vinnie Barbarino, the always cool Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington, the tough Juan (Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos) Epstein, and the sheepish Arnold Dingfelder Horshack. Welcome Back, Kotter
was based on Gabe Kaplan's own high school experiences with remedial education and a teacher who cared dearly for her students.
Changes on the show: Gabe Kaplan left the series in the third season, due to creative differences with executive producer James Komack. Kaplan openly felt that Komack was not serving the show's best interests. Kotter was made vice principal, and thus was seen considerably less. John Travolta
, of course, found his own place as a celebrity, leaving the show around the same time Gabe Kaplan did (returning every so often as a "special guest star"). The replacement for Barbarino was Beau, who didn't help things much. By now the show had essentially lost its two biggest stars.
Welcome Back, Kotter contains examples of:
- And Starring: John Travota's billing during his last season on the show.
- Babies Make Everything Better: Julie gives birth to twin girls.
- Berserk Button: Don't say anything bad about Barbarino's mother.
Barbarino: Hey! NOT my mother. That woman's completely holy!
- Big Screwed-Up Family: Juan Epstein.
Epstein: I don't have to stay here and be ignored! I have nine brothers and sisters. If I want to be ignored, I'll just go home.
- Catch Phrase: "Up your nose with a rubber hose" (everyone), "Hi, there" (Washington), "Heyyyy Misssster Kotttaire!" (Washington),"What?" "Where?" (Barbarino), "I'm so confused!" (Barbarino), "Ohhh ohh ohh ohh!" (Horshack), "Very impressive, Mr Kotter!" (Horshack)
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Everyone had their moments, but Horshack is the definitive example.
- Commuting on a Bus: Mr. Kotter's appearances in the last season were very sporadic, as Kaplan had become discontent with the direction of the show. Mrs. Kotter becomes the new mentor of the Sweathogs.
- Dean Bitterman: Mr. Woodman
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In the pilot, Horshack is implied to be a Covert Pervert who apparently wasn't allowed to talk unless Barbarino told him to. Barbarino also seemed to have a regular sweathog-girlfriend. The Sweathogs were actually a tad more intimidating.
- End of Episode Silliness: Formerly the Trope Namer when it was called "Uncle Herbie".
- Enter Stage Window: The Sweathogs routinely drop in on their favorite teacher via his living room window. Doesn't bother him any, but his wife doesn't like it.
- Every Episode Ending: Gabe tells Julie an amusing anecdote about one of his many relatives at the end of every episode.
- Five-Man Band:
- The Hero: Vinnie, later relegated to The Sixth Ranger when John Travolta's movie career started taking off
- The Lancer: Freddie. Beau in the final season when Freddie was seemingly promoted to leader
- The Big Guy: Epstein
- The Smart Guy: Horshack
- RevolvingDoorChicks: Rosalie Totsie, Vernajean Williams, Angie Grabowski, Mary Johnson
- The Mentor: Gabe Kotter
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: The Sweathogs: Barbarino (melancholic), Epstein (choleric), Horshack (sanguine), and Washington (phlegmatic).
- Furry Fandom: In one episode Kotter wears a chicken suit in a restaurant to raise extra money for emergency dental work
- G-Rated Drug: In the episode "What Goes Up ... ", Freddie becomes addicted to painkillers (to heal a basketball injury); a naive Horshack takes Freddie at his word that said pills are "vitamins," while the others are well-aware that Freddie is becoming dependent on them.
- George Carlin: Guest starring as radio DJ Wally the Wow, and as Wally the Weasel, a former Kotter-era Sweathog.
- The Ghost: Principal Lazarus.
- MAD: Welcome Back, Klodder.
- Marx Brothers: Often imitated, with Epstein as Chico, Horshack as Harpo, and Kotter as Groucho.
- Notably, Gabe Kaplan did a one-man show as Groucho Marx during the height of the show's popularity.
- The Merch: Several novel sized paperback with original stories, a comic book, a lunchbox, a "Welcome Back, Kotter" board game, and Sweathog action figures with a classroom play area.
- Never Win the Lottery: In one episode Kotter chips in a quarter for the Sweathogs weekly lottery ticket when one of them comes up short. When the ticket then wins, the Sweathogs try to just give Kotter back his 25 cents instead of a share of the winnings.
- Nobody Touches the Hair: Barbarino is like this.
- Once an Episode: Kotter tells a joke about one of his relatives.
- The One Who Made It Out: Gabriel.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: One two part episode had Kotter trying to start a stand up career.
- Running Gag: Epstein's never ending supply of excuse notes, almost always signed "Epstein's Mother".
- Julie's infamous tuna cassarole.
- Signature Laugh: Horshack's athsmatic laugh.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Beau De Lebarre as Vinnie's replacement
- Thematic Theme Tune: In fact, the producers of what was originally going to be called Kotter thought John Sebastian's "Welcome Back" captured the tone of the show so well they renamed the show after it.
- Theme Tune Extended: "Welcome Back" was originally just one verse. DJs suggested recording a full-length version to Sebastian. He did, and it became a #1 hit.
- Translation Matchmaking: In Italy it's known as I Ragazzi del Sabato Sera (Saturday Night Guys), after Saturday Night Fever.
- Twofer Token Minority: Puerto-Rican Jew Juan Epstein.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Gabe and Julie, though Gabe is more plain/quirky-looking than ugly
- Very Special Episode: "What Goes Up," the Season 3 episode where Boom Boom got addicted to painkillers to heal a basketball injury. Boom Boom is in deep denial, and so is a shaken Horshack – who naively believes Boom Boom's explanation that the pills are "vitamins." The others aren't so fooled and eventually get Boom Boom to realize what he's doing. In the final season, "Come Back, Little Arnold" has Horshack using booze to boost his courage when asking out a new love interest. He snaps out of it after he accidentally punches her out while aiming for one of the guys.