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Welcome Back, Kotter

Date September 22, 2008
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Welcome Back, Kotter is a sitcom that aired on ABC from 1975 until 1979 and starred Gabe Kaplan as Mr. Kotter, who returns to his alma mater to teach a group of remedial students, and a young John Travolta, the head of Kotter's high school misfits, the Sweathogs.
Travel back to a time when sitcoms were recorded live on tape before a studio audience and dialogue was dominated by nonsensical catch phrases, like "Up your nose with a rubber hose!" and "Off my case, potato face!" The year was 1975. Saturday Night Fever had yet to make John Travolta a star, and stand-up comedian-turned-creator Gabe Kaplan had yet to become a late-night poker mainstay. Welcome to four years at Brooklyn's Buchanan High School.

Welcome Back, Kotter Cast

Along with What's Happening, Welcome Back, Kotter was what the cool kids were watching--just as their kids would turn to Freaks and Geeks in the years to come. Unlike the teens of Happy Days, Buchanan's remedial students aren't polite preppies, but slang-slinging hooligans. Gabe Kotter (Kaplan) serves as home-room teacher to a "pack of howling baboons" led by Vinnie Barbarino (Travolta), Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo), Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), and self-described Puerto Rican Jew Juan Epstein (Robert Hegyes) Their adversary: Vice Principal Woodman (John Sylvester White), who lives to put a kibosh on their high jinks--just as he did when Kotter was a Sweathog in the 1960s.

Other regulars include Kotter's wife, Julie (Marcia Strassman, who hosts the featurette "Only a Few Degrees from a Sweathog"), and Rosalie "Hotzy" Totzy (Mary Hartman's Debra Lee Scott). At the time, Welcome Back, Kotter was more than just a show. It was a cultural phenomenon, spawning lunch boxes, schoolyard taunts, and the like. In retrospect, the jokes are cornier than ever, but the anything-goes spirit--crazy costumes and musical numbers--is hard to resist. At least that's true of the first three seasons. By the fourth, Travolta and Kaplan became scarce, and Kotter ran out of steam. Rest assured, though, that John Sebastian's clap-happy, chart-topping theme remains as catchy as ever.

Cast & Characters

  • Gabriel Kaplan as Gabriel Kotter
  • Marcia Strassman as Julie Kotter
  • John Sylvester White as Mr. Michael Woodman
  • John Travolota as Vinnie Babarino
  • Robert Hegyes as Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein
  • Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Freddie Percy "Boom Boom" Washington
  • Ron Palillo as Arnold Dingfelder Horshack
  • Debralee Scoot as Rosalie "Hotsy" Totsy
  • Helaine Hembeck as Judy Borden
  • Dennis Bowen as Todd Ludlow
  • Catarino Cellino as Maria
  • Melonie Haller as Angie Gabowski
  • Charles Fleicsher as Carvelli
  • Robert Harcum as Wilbur "Murray"
  • Irene Arranga as Mary Johnson
  • Steven Shortridge as Beau (Beauregard) De Labarre (1978-1979)

Broadcast History

Welcome Back, KotterFirst Telecast: September 9. 1975
Last Telecast: August 10, 1979
Original Network:  ABC
Number of Seasons: 4
Number of Episodes: 95
Original Primetime Television Schedule:
  • September 1975- January 1976, ABC, Tuesday 8:30-9:00pm
  • January 1976- August 1978, ABC, Thursday 8:00-8:30pm
  • September 1978- October 1978, ABC, Monday 8:00-8:30pm
  • October 1978-January 1979, ABC, Saturday 8:00-8:30pm
  • February 1979- March 1979, ABC, Saturday 8:00-8:30pm
  • May 1979- August 1979, ABC, Friday 8:00-8:30pm

Theme Song Lyrics & Opening Credits


"Welcome Back" composed and performed by John Sebastian.

Welcome back,
Your dreams were your ticket out.
Welcome back,
To that same old place that you laughed about.
Well the names have all changed since you hung around,
But those dreams have remained and they're turned around.
Who'd have thought they'd lead ya (Who'd have thought they'd lead ya)
Here where we need ya (Here where we need ya)
Yeah we tease him a lot cause we've hot him on the spot, welcome back,
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.
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Welcome Back, Kotter on DVD

Season 1
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Last modified on December 16, 2013
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