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|Welcome Back Kotter|
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Kotter began its run amid controversy. In Boston, a city going though a tumultuous school busing program to enhance racial equality, the ABC affiliate felt Mr. Kotter's integrated classroom would only add fuel to the fire. The affiliate refused to air the first four episodes, but decided by the fifth episode to pick up what had become a ratings success. Meanwhile, teachers had concerns about how Mr. Kotter might be portrayed, so producers allowed a teachers' union representative on the set to ensure the show protected the image of those in the profession. There were also fears that the show would amount to a celebration of juvenile deliquency; however, such sentiments faded when the Sweathogs' antics proved to be silly rather than scary.
The show enjoyed ratings success during its first two seasons, spawning a host of merchandising tie-ins such as lunch boxes, dolls, comic books, novels and a board game. The characters' signature lines, such as Barbarino's "Up your nose with a rubber hose" and Washington's "Hi there," became catch phrases. It wasn't long before the previously unknown actors became hot commodities, particularly Travolta, the show's breakout star.
By the third season, the ratings began to slip. In an interview years later, Kaplan attributed the decline to the age of the actors playing the Sweathogs (Palillo was 30, Hegyes was 28, Hilton-Jacobs was 27 and Travolta was 25), saying they were no longer believable as high school students. His idea, which never materialized, was to have Mr. Kotter join the faculty of a community college attended by the Sweathogs. To help lure more viewers, a storyline developed that saw Mr. and Mrs. Kotter have twin girls, though that wasn't enough for the show to regain its earlier momentum.
Major changes took place in the fourth and final season. Travolta, who had already starred in box office hits such as Grease and Saturday Night Fever, began to focus more time on his film career. He was featured in less than half of the episodes that year, now billed as a "special guest star." Meanwhile, some behind-the-scenes disputes led to limited appearances by Kaplan. To help fill the voids, Stephen Shortridge joined the cast as smooth-talking southern sweathog Beau De Labarre, and Kotter's wife, Julie, became a substitute teacher at the school. Many fans consider the fourth season to be the worst, often singling out the departure of Travolta as when the show "jumped the shark."
Show Description Credit: Wikipedia
|> Airing History & Information|
|Last Airing||Aug 10, 1979|
|Premiere||September 9, 1975|
|Format/Time||Color / 30 Minutes|
|Upcoming Airs||Not currently airing|
Boom Boom Washington
Robert Hegyes.... Epstein
Gabe Kaplan.... Gabe Kotter
Rob Palillo.... Horshach
Helaine Lembeck.... Judy Borden (1975-1977)
Marcia Strassman.... Julie Kotter
Catarina Cellino.... Maria (1975-1976)
Debralee Scott.... Rosalie Totzie
Dennis Bowen.... Todd Ludlow (1975-1977)
John Travolta.... Vinnie Barbarini
John Sylvester White.... Woodman
[More Cast & Guest Stars]
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