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Welcome Back, Kotter: Season 01 ()

The pilot episode of Welcome Back Kotter finds history and social studies teacher Gabe Kotter (Gabriel Kaplan) taking charge of the remedial class at Brooklyn's James Buchanan High School, some ten years after he had graduated from the same class. Despite his status as a former "Sweathog", Gabe has a lot of trouble riding herd over such "unteachable" 10th graders as Barbarino (John Travolta, Horshack (Ron Palillo), Epstein (Robert Hegyes) and Washington (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), and by the end of the first day he is sadly informing his wife Julie (Marica Strassman) that he intends to quit. Gabe is prevented from doing so when the "Sweathogs" tell him how much they really like and appreciate him--much to dismay of our hero's longtime nemesis, Buchanan's scowling vice-principal Woodman (John Sylvester White). Incredibly, this pilot show was NOT the debut episode of Welcome Back, Kotter's first season: Instead it was shown third, after episodes in which the sweathogs match wits with a snotty debate team, and in which Washington contemplates dropping out to become a basketball star. Though audiences of the time were probably confused by the chronological mixup, they quickly picked up on the comic rhythm of the show, especially those scenes in which Kotter's charges indulge in their pet hobb of "ranking"--that is, topping each other's insults. Before long, all of America was rooting for Kotter's sweathogs and booing the efforts of Mr. Woodman to undermine Kotter--which including finding an academic loophole forcing Gabe to retake his high school finals! Among the first season's best episodes are "Whodunit", in which student Rosalie "Hotsy" Totzie gets even with the sweathogs for underservedly tagging her with a "fast" reputation; "No More Mr. Nice Guy", in which Kotter and Woodman unexpectedly exchange personalities when Woodman takes over teaching the class one day; "Arriverdci Arnold", wherein the nerdy Horshack is promoted to a "smart" class--and hate it); "Follow the Leader", a two-part power struggle with Barbarino and Washington vying for the unofficial position of class leader; and "Dr. Epstein, I Presume", in which Epstein displays a hitherto unsuspected talent as a veterinarian. In addition to the actors mentioned above, Season One features a number of recurring characters: Vernee Jean Williams (Vernee Watson), who in one installment is talked out of marrying Washington by his pals; supersmart Judy Borden (Helaine Lembeck), whom Barbarino despises until she helps him improve his grades; and Todd (Dennis Bowen) and Maria (Catarina Cellino). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi Hide synopsis

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  • 1. DVD, Warner Home Video, 2007

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    Description: Gabe Kaplan; Marcia Strassman; John Sylvester White; Lawrence...

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