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Series / Welcome Back, Kotter

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MAD's Jack Davis is drawing us for the TV Guide cover? Very impressive, Mr. Kot-tair!

"Hey, Julie.... did I ever tell you about my Uncle Fremont Kotter.....?"

Long before Jerry Seinfeld wondered about airline peanuts, before Tim Allen grunted his first "Arrr arrr arrr!", before Roseanne Barr became a Domestic Goddess, there was Gabriel "Gabe" Kaplan, one of the very first stand-up comedians to successfully turn his stage routine into a hit TV sitcom. Welcome Back, Kotter, which ran on ABC from 1975–79, was based upon Kaplan's own high school experiences with remedial education, and his memories of one teacher who cared dearly for her students.

The premise: Gabe Kotter returns to Brooklyn's James Buchanan High School as a teacher and is assigned to the remedial class of "Sweathogs" to which he himself 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 wind up in trouble on a regular basis: ladies' man Vinnie Barbarino (breakout star John Travolta), the always cool Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), the tough Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein (Robert Hegyes), and the sheepish Arnold Dingfelder Horshack (Ron Palillo). Meanwhile, Kotter frequently finds himself butting heads with cantankerous vice principal Michael Woodman (John Sylvester White), who dismisses the Sweathogs as a lost cause, and tries his best to juggle his teaching with his home life with his patient wife Julie (Marcia Strassman).

Changes came in the show's fourth season: Gabe Kaplan cut back on his appearances because of creative differences with executive producer James Komack, whom Kaplan openly believed was not serving the show's best interests. (In-universe, Kotter was promoted to vice principal, and thus was seen considerably less frequently.) John Travolta, meanwhile, had secured his own place as a movie star, and departed from the series as a regular (though returning every so often as a "special guest star"). Barbarino's would-be replacement as the Sweathogs' resident heartthrob was transplanted New Orleanian Beau De La Barre (Stephen Shortridge), who never quite caught on. With the show having by now essentially lost its two biggest stars, it was cancelled after the season's end.

Welcome Back, Kotter contains examples of:

  • And Starring:
    • John Sylvester White (White is credited "as Mr. Woodman" for seasons 3 and 4.)
    • John Travota's billing as special guest star during the last season.
  • Annoying Laugh: Arnold Horschack had the standard comedy relief "nerd asthma attack" style.
  • Attractiveness Isolation: In "Sadie Hawkins Day", the Sweathogs all get dates to the school dance, except Barbarino, who decides to go alone.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Julie gives birth to twin girls.
  • Back to School: In "Kotter Makes Good", the principal discovers that Gabe's school records have gone missing, causing Gabe to retake his senior exams. The records are eventually found, but Gabe takes the test anyway.
  • Batman Gambit: The Sweathogs pull off a successful one in "The Great Debate" when they go up against Mr. Welles's more studious group. The Sweathogs are supposed to be arguing that humans are naturally aggressive, but they don't take it seriously; they just repeatedly goof around and antagonize the opposing team. It gets to the point when Todd Ludlow screams and threatens to attack them, which prompts the Sweathogs to say he just proved their side of the argument.
  • Be Yourself: "Hello Ms. Chips" teaches this lesson to a student teacher. First she tried Mr. Kotter's personality, but her jokes fell flat. Next she tried By-the-Book Cop, literally consulting her textbook every few minutes to figure out what to do next. This ended up pissing Epstein off, and she ran crying from the room. Kotter counseled her to be herself, and of course that worked.
  • 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's.
    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.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: After finding out that the fire alarms were not operational in the episode titled Angie, the Sweathogs threaten to go to the school board with this revelation unless Vice Principal Woodman withdraws their expulsion. When Woodman calls it blackmail, Horshack remarks that they prefer the term extortion.
  • Born in an Elevator: Barbarino once helped deliver a baby in one.
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': Beau DeLebarre tries to prove he's not an ass-kisser by playing a prank on Mr. Woodman, but Mr. Woodman refuses to believe it was him and yells at the Sweathogs instead. Luckily, he does manage when he admits to Woodman he read his student file, which is forbidden.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Up your nose with a rubber hose" (everyone)
    • "Hi, there" (Washington)
    • "Heyyyy Misssster Kotttaire!" (Washington)
    • "I don't happen to have my homework... handy." (Washington, when failing to bring his homework to school)
    • "What?" "Where?" "When"? (Barbarino)
    • "Heh, heh, heh, heh!" (Horshack)
    • "I'm so confused!" (Barbarino)
    • "Oooh! Ohh, ooh ooh!" (Horshack)
    • "Very impressive, Mr. Kotter!" (Horshack)
    • "Ba-ba-ba, Bar-Bar-ino!" with some dancing moves added for good measure (Barbarino)
    • "Right you are, Mr. Kotter!" (Horshack)
    • "Please excuse Juan from class today... [insert excuse of the week]... Signed: Juan Epstein's mother." (Epstein)
  • Celebrity Paradox: In "A Little Fright Music", Mr. Woodman sings "Staying Alive", which came from a film starring one of the Sweathogs.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: A few Season 3 episodes have shades of this, as Vinnie struggled with getting Mr. Kotter to convince Mr. Woodman to allow him to take a make-up test so he wouldn't be held back in his sophomore year and falling for one of the competitors during a talent show, Washington getting hooked on painkillers, and Horshack getting brainwashed into joining a cult. By Season 4, the Sweathogs find that Mr. Kotter is taking a more serious approach to their pranks after his promotion to vice-principal, a mix-up involving a porno flick and a G-rated sex ed film which almost costs Julie her teaching job, the Sweathogs considering dropping out of Buchanan, and Barbarino moving into his own apartment and getting a part-time job as a hospital orderly while dealing with break-ups. Even Horshack has his share of dilemmas, including talking Mary Johnson out of jumping off a ledge, taking a stand against dissecting a frog, struggling with teenage alcoholism, and deciding to remain in Brooklyn and finish school alongside his classmates when his mother plans to move to a new town.
  • Character Development: Most notably Horshack (went from the Tagalong Kid to a young man willing to stand up for what he believed in and the first Sweathog to marry), Julie (went from Gabe's mildly frustrated but mostly supporting wife to a major presence at the school) and Barbarino (went from a directionless skirt-chaser to working as a hospital orderly).
  • Chicken Joke: Julie tries to tell some jokes but she mixes up the punchline of this joke with the punchline of "Why do firemen wear suspenders?" a less famous but very similar joke.
  • Christmas Episode:
    • "Hark, the Sweatkings": The Sweathogs try to help a homeless man they've previously made fun of.
    • "Sweathog Christmas Special": While Gabe and Julie decorate their apartment, the Sweathogs (what else?) drop by. Doubles as a Clip Show.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Charlie Piper, the eccentric science teacher who appears in "Mr. Kotter, Teacher", is never seen or heard from again.
  • Citizenship Marriage: In "Bride and Gloom", Epstein calls in on an old promise of Vinnie, making arrangements for Vinnie to marry Juan's cousin Angelina, much to Vinnie's reluctance. Subverted at the end, when Angelina ultimately elopes with the marimba player.
  • Clip Show: Season 3 starts off with the "Sweathog Back to School Special", featuring the show's funniest moments from the first two seasons.
  • 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 show's direction. Mrs. Kotter became the new mentor of the Sweathogs.
  • Cool Teacher: Gabe Kotter tells jokes and believes in the Sweathogs when other teachers would dismiss them as a lost cause.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: There is a running gag about Mrs. Kotter's "famous tuna casserole." It's not known to have ever put anybody in a hospital, but at one point, Mr. Kotter noted that "nobody puts prunes in a tuna casserole".
  • Cousin Oliver: Angie Grabowski, who joins the Sweathogs in the second half of the third season for several episodes and then is never heard from again.
    • Beau De Labarre, who joins the cast in Season 4, to help fill the gap left by Gabe's partial absence due to contractual disputes, and Vinnie, with John Travolta focusing more on his rising movie career.
  • Dark Horse Victory: In "Vinnie in Love", the Sweathogs are competing in a talent show as "3 Do's and a Don't". In the midst of rehearsals, Barbarino falls in love with a girl from another school and starts neglecting the others, which leads to their group being dropped from the competition. After talking it over, the Sweathogs get a second chance, only for the Sweathogs and the other acts to lose to someone who does bird calls.
  • Dean Bitterman: Mr. Woodman
    • In Season 4, Kotter becomes one in "The Drop-Ins" 2-parter when he makes the transition from teacher to vice-principal, and he reprimands the Sweathogs for their disruptive pranks.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the final season, Mr. Kotter becomes the new vice principal, and makes very infrequent appearances.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Arnold has a one-episode friend named Goldie who acts and laughs quite a bit like him.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In "California Dreamin'," the Sweathog boys go gaga over Bambi Forster, a transfer student who claims to be from California, until a background check reveals that she's not really from California, but has been transferred in and out of various schools.
  • Drop-In Character: The Sweathogs frequently dropped in on Mr. Kotter while he was at home.
  • Drunk on Milk: In "The Barbarino Blues", after Vinnie gets dumped by his girlfriend, he becomes depressed and refuses to leave his apartment. When the other Sweathogs come to his apartment, Vinnie is in the midst of what looks like a stupor of drunkenness, deliriousness, and depression... and they discover that his binge-drinking was nothing more than root beer.
  • Dustbin School: The "Sweathogs" was the nickname of a class like this at James Buchanan High in Brooklyn. Gabe Kotter had graduated from this class and gone on to become a teacher. He volunteered to return to his old high school and teach this class, hoping to help kids who were in the same position he had been in in high school. They are viewed as a lost cause by 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.
    • Epstein was known as the toughest student in the school, and voted "most likely to take a life". As time went on this trait was phased out and he was more of a smartass.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: When Vinnie is trapped in an elevator with an expectant mother-to-be and her husband and she goes into labor, the nurse talks Vinnie through the delivery process. After the baby has been delivered, the head nurse promotes Vinnie, who had been working at the hospital as an orderly and a janitor.
  • End-of-Episode Silliness: Formerly the Trope Namer called "Uncle Herbie". Every episode ended with Gabe telling Julie an anecdote about one of his many uncles.
  • 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, with occasional exceptions when the first episode of a two-part story ends with a "To Be Continued" ending.
    • The end joke was dropped for Season 4., especially after the original directors and writers were replaced with older writers and directors who had worked on 1950s and 1950s sitcoms, and the sitcom's format switched from jokes to situations involving the Sweathogs and less of Mr. Kotter, who became vice-principal.
    • Some syndicated networks such as Antenna TV choose to omit the end jokes altogether, resulting in Credits Pushback to accommodate programming time.
  • Fake Guest Star: John Travolta during the final 1978-1979 season, due to becoming a movie star with leading roles in Carrie (1976), Saturday Night Fever, and Grease, still managed to reprise his role as Vinnie Barbarino on a part-time basis.
  • Fake High: In "Barbarino Blues", Vinnie gets depressed and falls into a slump; the other Sweathogs go to his apartment to snap him out of his depression, and they eventually come to discover he's been drinking root beer.
  • Feghoot: Most episodes begin and end with Gabe telling one of these, couched as a story about a family member, usually to Julie. Her reactions range from enthusiastic amusement to weary resignation to strong annoyance. Occasionally other characters get in on the fun, either as victims or storytellers.
  • Finger-Snapping Street Gang: In the episode "Sweatside Story," after the Sweathogs try to form their own street gang in response to a scare from another gang (who all snap their fingers), Mr. Kotter, Horshack, and Mr. Woodman intervene while snapping their fingers and acting tough enough to scare both gangs out of any violent activity.
  • Flowery Insults: "Up your nose with a rubber hose!"
  • Foil: Mr. Woodman, to Mr. Kotter.
  • Foreshadowing: In Season 3's "Kotter for Vice-Principal", the Sweathogs start a petition campaign for Mr. Kotter to be vice-principal, only for the deadline to run out. In the two-part Season 4 premiere "The Drop-Ins", soon after Principal Lazarus retires, Woodman is promoted to principal, while Mr. Kotter becomes vice-principal.
    • In Season 1's "Whodunit?" Rosalie claims one of the Sweathogs got her pregnant and she wants the father to come forward and take responsibility, only for Rosalie to reveal that she was never pregnant. In Season 3's "The Return of Hotsy Totsy", it's revealed that Rosalie dropped out of Buchanan High, had a child out of wedlock, and is working at a strip club, with the Sweathogs coming to help her finish high school and get a better job.
  • Forged Message: A Running Gag has Epstein turn up a note from his mother trying to excuse him from school using a variety of health complications. Mr. Kotter was never fooled by them, as they always ended with "Signed, Epstein's Mother".
  • Former Teen Rebel: Kotter was a delinquent in high school – in fact, he started the Sweathogs in the first place – and now has to deal with the current generation.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Kotter (phlegmatic/sanguine), Washington (sanguine), Barbarino (choleric), Principal Woodman (choleric/melancholic), Julie (melancholic), Horshack (phlegmatic), and Epstein (leukine).
  • 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 is never shown onscreen.
  • Give the Baby a Father: Horshack proposes to Rosalie Totsie after she claims to be pregnant by one of the Sweathogs. She's lying to trick them into taking back rumors about her being "easy," but after the reveal, she thanks Arnold for offering to do the right thing and asks him out on a date.
    • Gets a Call-Back in Season 3, when the boys discover that Rosalie is working in a strip club to support her child. There is talk of finding her a different job, and Arnold announces he has found one—for himself.
      Arnold: "I want to support you and your baby."
  • The Heckler: In one episode, Mr. Kotter goes to an Open Mic night at a club to try his hand at standup comedy. He gets heckled and loses his nerve, until he starts talking about his students.
  • Honorable Marriage Proposal: In "Whodunit", Arnold proposes to Rosalie, who is trying to guilt-trip the macho boys in the class with a pregnancy scare (which she made up whole-cloth). It earns him a second date when she drops the charade.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: The mantra of the cult which Horshack temporarily joins while in pursuit of a girl who can really fill out a sheet.
    What is, is. What was, will be. What will be was but will be again.note 
  • Idiots Cannot Catch Colds: In "One Flu Over The Cuckoo's Nest", a flu epidemic leads to a group of honors students being in the same class as the Sweathogs. The only one who never gets sick throughout the episode is Horshack.
  • Insult Backfire: When they have to debate Mr. Welles's group of students, the Sweathogs dress up for the occasion. Mr. Welles ridicules their questionable attire, until they say they got the clothes from the last school play he directed.
  • Irritation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: In "Washington's Clone", Arthur, a Black and Nerdy student, starts patterning his lifestyle after Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington, whom he idolizes and imitates. The Sweathogs attempt the Scare 'Em Straight treatment on Arthur by pretending to be tougher than they actually are.
  • It's a Costume Party, I Swear!: Epstein apparently pulled this on Horshack in their younger years (told via story in "The Deprogramming of Arnold Horshack"); he said that the school dance was a costume party, and Horshack came dressed like a baked potato (wrapped in foil).
  • Lampshade Hanging: Julie points out in "Swine and Punishment" that Gabe doesn't know any actual people, just joke people. Gabe proceeds to tell her about a relative of one of the joke people he just talked about.
  • Lethal Chef: Julie, with her tuna casserole.
    Gabe: "Nobody puts dates in a tuna casserole!"
  • Life Will Kill You: In the episode "Goodbye, Mr. Kripps", an unpopular teacher has a heart attack while yelling at Vinnie, who mistakenly believes that he killed the teacher and turns himself in to the police as a result.
  • Living Prop: All of Kotter's students, other than the Sweathogs, are just there to fill out the classroom.
  • Man in a Kilt: In "I'm Okay, But You're Not", new Sweathog Beau DeLabar read his file and found out Mr. Woodman pretty much considered him a Boy Scout, which did not endear him to the rest of the Sweathogs. To try and change his image with them, he "accidentally" spilled coffee on Woodman's pants, and asked him to take them off so he could get them cleaned. Beau then pulled the fire alarm and raised the pants up the flag pole. Fortunately for Woodman, Julie Kotter just happened to have a kilt she was hemming with her for him to wear.
  • Mirror Routine: Parodied in "Arrivederci, Arnold", when Mr. Kotter puts on a skit to convince Mr. Woodman to let Arnold back into the Sweathogs; Arnold looks at Kotter, wearing an identical hat, scarf, and coat, with identical lunch boxes, and they both do a few wheezy laughs with several "Ooh-ooh-ooh!"s, and then...
    Arnold: "Wait a minute: I don't got no mustache..."
  • Morality Pet: Horshack, to the rest of the Sweathogs.
  • Mouthy Kid: Although the Sweathogs are older than most examples, they still have a comeback for everything.
  • Multi-Part Episode:
    • "Follow the Leader", in which Freddie becomes the leader of the Sweathogs, causing Vinnie to drop out.
    • "And Baby Makes Four", where Julie has her babies while Vinnie gets held back.
    • "Barbarino in Love", where Vinnie falls in love while the Sweathogs are competing in a talent competition.
    • "There's No Business", where Gabe considers quitting teaching to become a stand-up comedian.
    • "The Drop-Ins", where the Sweathogs drop out after Gabe is promoted to Vice Principal.
    • "Oo-Oo, I Do", where Horshack gets married and has to move away.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: One episode reveals that Arnold Horshack's last name translates into "the cattle are dying."
  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: The episode "Whodunit?" where Rosalie "Hotsy" Totsy claiming one of the Sweathogs made her pregnant. Feeling sorry for her, Horshack offers to be the baby's dad and notes the nobility of his namesake: In his lineage, Horshack means "The cattle are dying."
  • 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.
  • New Year, Same Class: The Sweathogs end up in Kotter's class every year, presumably because Kotter is the only teacher who can put up with them.
  • N-Word Privileges: In "The Great Debate", when drama teacher Mr. Welles calls Kotter's students sweathogs, Kotter mentions that the Sweathogs take no objections to refer to themselves as such, but no enlightened educator would use the term. A moment later, Mr. Woodman comes into the teachers' lounge, derisively calling Kotter's students sweathogs.
  • Nobody Touches the Hair: Barbarino is like this.
  • Oh, Cisco!: Every episode ends with Kotter telling Julie about one of his previously-unknown uncles and a bad pun.
  • Oh Wait, This Is My Grocery List: After Kotter is accused of sexually harassing a student, the Sweathogs want the girl in question to sign a confession stating that Kotter hadn't done anything. Horshach wrote the confession on the back of a grocery list and read that to her at first.
  • Older and Wiser: Gabe Kotter was a former student who comes back to his high school alma mater to teach an often unruly group of remedial wiseguys known as the "Sweathogs", of which he was a founding member.
  • Once an Episode: Kotter tells a joke about one of his relatives.
  • The One Who Made It Out: Gabriel made it out of the Brooklyn "ghetto", became a teacher, and then moved back to teach in his old neighborhood.
  • Parental Neglect: Epstein due to the large number of siblings. One time Epstein went missing for days and no one noticed. His mother also didn't seem to know his name, saying she identifies her kids by a given number.
  • Parental Substitute: Gabe often acted like this for the guys, especially Arnold.
  • Personality Swap: Occurs with Kotter and Woodman in Season 1's "No More Mr. Nice Guy", when Woodman briefly resumes teaching and becomes a Cool Old Guy for a day, even briefly becoming more popular than Kotter, while Mr. Kotter turns grumpy and loses his cool, ordering the Sweathogs to return the stolen chalk back to Mr. Woodman.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: Part 2 of "Whatever Happened to Arnold?" focuses on Horshack's family.
    • "Career Day" with Pat Morita as Taro Takahashi for the short-lived spinoff ''Mr. T. and Tina".
  • Possession Presumes Guilt: In "Epstein's Madonna," after Epstein paints an outdoor nude mural (Julie Kotter's face on Dolores Delvecchio's body) as his "art week" project, Woodman (who considers it obscene) defaces it with spray paint, and leaves the can behind, just before Kotter and the Sweathogs are to have a meeting about it in the schoolyard. Kotter sees the damage and picks up the spray can just before the Sweathogs arrive. Fortunately, they realize that even though Kotter is not happy about his wife's face on the mural, defacing it would be completely out of character for him — but not for Woodman.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: One two-part episode had Kotter trying to start a stand up career.
  • Role Swap Plot: In "No More Mr. Nice Guy", Kotter and Mr. Woodman change jobs, leading to Kotter becoming the grumpy martinet no one likes and Mr. Woodman the cool teacher (who even dresses up as George Washington for a history lesson at one point).
  • Running Gag:
    • Epstein's never ending supply of excuse notes, almost always signed "Epstein's Mother".
    • Horshack's very enthusiastic hand-raising in class: "Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Mr. Kotter!"
    • Barbarino's "What?" "When?" "Where?" when Kotter or Woodman is looking for answers to a situation.
    • Whenever Mr. Kotter has just gotten the class in order, he'll say "I don't want any more interruptions", and Mr. Woodman will come into the classroom, saying "Sorry to interrupt you, Kotter" before making an announcement.
    • Julie's infamous tuna casserole.
  • Santa Claus: Appears at the end of both Christmas episodes. Both times Gabe tells him a story about one of his relatives.
  • Save Our Students: Kotter doesn't exactly revolutionize the school. He becomes reasonably popular with his students, but they remain solidly mediocre. He does, however, prevent the students from dropping out, which was beyond what the principal expected.
  • She Is All Grown Up: In one episode, Juan Epstein's slightly younger sister puts in an appearance. Barbarino remembers her — but not quite like that.
    Barbarino: So, Carmen... you've filled out!
  • Single Mom Stripper: "The Return of Hotsy Totsy";(Season 3), Rosalie Totsie has dropped out of Buchanan and works at a night club to support her baby. Kotter and the Sweathogs help her to finish her education at Buchanan so she can improve her job prospects.
  • Sit Comic: One of the first, the show was based on Gabe Kaplan's comedy routine.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Vinnie had some of this with Judy Borden in the early seasons, even dating for a short time.
  • Signature Laugh: Horshack's asthmatic laugh.
  • Sorry to Interrupt: Whenever Kotter tells the Sweathogs he doesn't want any more interruptions, Woodman will come in on cue and say this before reading the announcements.
  • Studio Audience: "Welcome Back, Kotter was recorded live before a studio audience."
  • Surprise Multiple Birth: In Season 3, Mrs. Kotter gives birth to surprise twins. (Alan Oppenheimer plays Dr. Mel Melmann, who had been Kotter's doctor ever since delivering him.)
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Beau De Lebarre as Vinnie's replacement.
  • Swapped Roles: Kotter and Mr. Woodman switched places in one episode.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Horshack talks a new girl out of jumping out the window when she has trouble fitting in. Said girl would become his love interest and eventual wife.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: In fact, the producers of what was originally going to just 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.
  • They Call Me Mr Tibbs: The Season 2 episode, "Sweathog, Nebraska Style," saw Gabe's teenaged sister-in-law, Jenny, stay with the Kotters, and she temporarily joins the Sweathogs. In class, Jenny is being obnoxious and calls Gabe by his first name when he tries to call the class to attention. He immediately reprimands her: "In class, I am Mr. Kotter." Nothing more is said of it.
  • Three Stooges Shout-Out: After helping Gabe deliver his and Julie's baby, Horshack comments "We are doing the work of three men here. Larry, Moe and Curley."
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: To the UK sitcom Please Sir!, which predated this one. Some British viewers believe Welcome Back, Kotter is in fact an uncredited remake, but while the shows have similar premises, no one's ever been able to prove plagiarism.
  • 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.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Occasionally shows up at the end of episodes, such as the story of one of Kotter's innumerable uncles, a tailor who had a friend he hadn't seen in years named, improbably, Euripides Feldman. One day, the story went, a man who looked like his long lost friend walked into the uncle's shop carrying a torn pair of pants. Uncle Herbie studied him a moment, then asked, "Euripides?" The other man replied, "Yes. Eumenides?"
  • 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. Both of them are back to normal by the following episodes.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: "Sweatwork" is a spoof of Network, with Horshack in the Howard Beale role.
  • Written-In Absence: As explained above, Kotter was promoted to vice principal in season 4 and appeared less frequently due to Kaplan's feud with executive producer James Komack.
  • Your Mom: Averted when Kotter contrasts the Dozens with the "modern" (1970s) style of insult-duelling starting with the beginning of a classic "Your momma..."
    Barbarino: Hey, say whatever you want about my dad or myself, but you don't talk about my mother! That woman's holy.