Warner Brothers Television Favorites
Gabe Kaplan, John Travolta, Marcia Strassman,
Ron Pallilo, Robert Hegyes, Laurence Hilton Jacobs
6 Episodes
Warner Home Video 2006

WB Television Favorites is a very bright idea done right in this 6 episode DVD of Gabe Kaplan’s classic sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter (also known as borough president Sebastian Leone’s claim to fame). Not everybody wants a complete season of a particular show but would like to have some episodes in their comedy collection. The WB Television Favorites series, which also includes the simply brilliant Night Court and the good at first but overstayed its welcome The Drew Carey Show, allows sweathog fans to watch six episodes spanning the first three seasons of this four-season show. Although including the pilot episode, something that was done for the Night Court, Drew Carey, and Chico And The Man classic television DVDs, would have been great, it is hard to argue with the episode selection here. Also, and most important perhaps, the price is definitely right as these DVDs are very buyer friendly (and I am sure there is no truth to the conspiracy theory suggesting Warner Brothers priced these DVDs just right to get people interested in the series and get them to buy a complete season or two).

Gabe Kaplan found himself playing Mr. Kotter, a former remedial student turned remedial students teacher following the success of his 1974 stand-up comedy album Holes And Mellow Rolls -which, for some reason, is still not available and impossible to find in any form. Holes And Mellow Rolls introduced the world to Arnold Horshack and the other sweathogs in a classic stand-up comedy track about playing the dozens or Yo’ Mama jokes. The concept of the street savvy but academically challenged and challenging sweathogs and their teacher soon became one of the mid-seventies’ best reality comedy television shows. The John Sebastian theme song is also a television classic. A staple of the show was the opening and closing story Kaplan would tell about one of his many weird uncles. This was basically the very underused Marcia Strassman’s (the Honey, I Blew Up movies with Rick Moranis) role as Julie in this classic sitcom.

Season One entries on Welcome Back, Kotter Television Favorites include One Flu Over The Cuckoo’s Nest where James Buchanan high school is hit by a flu bug that forces Mr. Kotter to teach both his sweathogs and a few enriched students. Father Vinnie has Vinnie Barbarino trying to be holier than though as preparation for the priesthood. A much lesser episode is Sweatside Story about the Sweathogs becoming a gang. This is a one joke story that gets much more mileage than it should have. It does, however, have a funny moment when the vice principal ranks both Vinnie Barbarino and Kotter.

Episode four of Welcome Back, Kotter Television Favorites has the sweathogs trying to mother Julie Kotter while Mr. Kotter is at a teacher’s conference. Of course, things do not go as planned. This episode is a fun watch not only because of the succession of substitute teachers the sweathogs get but also for their bizarre take on where babies come from and motherhood. The Deprogramming of Arnold Horshack has Ron Palillo stretching a bit when he joins an oriental style cult and becomes BooBoo Bibi or something. The sweathogs and Kotter try to convert him back into a sweathog. Modern audiences might have difficulty relating to this episode as the Moonies and other fruitcakes are no longer a concern -then again, there are the Creationists to worry about.

The last episode on Welcome Back, Kotter Television Favorites is a pun on the title of a famous movie, Goodbye, Mr. Kripps. Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta) feels guilty after the shop teacher has a heart attack while chewing him out.

One thing that is fairly obvious while watching the 6 episodes on Welcome Back, Kotter Television Favorites is although the writing was pretty good when it came to one-liners and jokes the stories themselves were often red herrings that went nowhere. This is evident in The Deprogramming of Arnold Horshack where Arnold returns to his old self just in time for the closing theme for no apparent reason. The show lasted four seasons, in part because of John Travolta’s departure after Saturday Night Fever, in part because Gabe Kaplan himself had not seen the show lasting that long and basically got a note from Epstein’s mother after the third season making him vice-principal so he could be excused from teaching the sweathogs.

Although I fail to see the interest in owning a complete season of Welcome Back, Kotter, the six episode Warner Brothers Television Favorites DVD is a good acquisition for those who liked that seventies sitcom and want to have a few shows to remember it by.

Episode List:

One Flu Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Season 1 Episode 19
Father Vinnie Season 1 Episode 22
Sweatsite Story Season 2 Episode 3
I’m Having Their Baby Season 2 Episode 22
The Deprogramming Season 3 Episode 7
of Arnold Horshack
Goodbye, Mr. Kripps Season 3 Episode 23


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