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Warner Home Video presents
Welcome Back, Kotter (Television Favorites) (1976)

"Hey, Howdy Doody, why don't you take one end of a rubber hose and put it in your mouth. And then you take the other and you put it up your nose. And then you blow until your brains fall out."
- Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: February 28, 2006

Stars: Gabriel Kaplan, John Travolta
Other Stars: Marcia Strassman, Robert Hegyes, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Ron Palillo, John Sylvester White
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 02h:31m:09s
Release Date: February 28, 2006
UPC: 012569408425
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C+C+C D-

DVD Review

Welcome Back, Kotter stars Gabriel Kaplan as inner-city Brooklyn school teacher Gabe Kotter. He heads a class of some of the toughest under-achievers in the school, more commonly referred to as the "sweathogs." This group has trouble written all over them, but Kotter's upbeat personality, coupled with his past as a member of the same group at the same school, make him the perfect person for the job.

The principal members of the sweathogs are Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington (Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs), Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein (Robert Hegyes), Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo), and Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta). Although these are supposed to be problem kids, Mr. Kotter usually keeps them in check, but they occasionally have run-ins with the school's principal, Mr. Woodman (John Sylvester White). Still, Kotter can usually pull off his daily balancing act of teaching the guys, taming Mr. Woodman, and caring for his loving wife, Julie (Marcia Strassman).

Instead of going the seasonal DVD route, Warner Home Video has chosen to release six episodes of Welcome Back, Kotter as an entry in their "WB Television Favorites" series. This low-priced disc begins with One Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest, an episode from the first season that has nearly everyone in the school coming down with the flu. The only people that avoid it are Mr. Kotter, Horshack, and a few students from other classes. In an attempt to keep everyone healthy, the uninfected kids from the other classes spend some time in Kotter's world until the sickness has run its course.

Father Vinnie is also from Season One, and it, as the title suggests, focuses on Barbarino. This is Travolta at his best; showing that he does, indeed, have comedic talent, in a premise that is full of potential and generally delivers the goods. Vinnie's dying grandmother wishes that he would become a priest, so he looks into it. Even though everything seems good to him at first, there are a few details about the priesthood that quickly give this ladies' man second thoughts.

Sweatside Story and I'm Having Their Baby come from the second season, and both are among the funniest the series has to offer. The first finds the sweathogs forming a gang that Horshack has to physically fight for the right to be in. I'm Having Their Baby is impressive in that it shows how strong the series can be even when Mr. Kotter isn't in every frame of a given episode. Marcia Strassman gets a chance to show off her comedic talents, but watching the sweathogs slave over her is priceless.

The last two shows, The Deprogramming of Arnold Horshack and Goodbye, Mr. Kripps aired during the third season. Ron Palillo is at his best in the first of this pair, as he has to make us believe that Horshack's personality can completely change when he joins a religious cult. He pulls this off splendidly, making it all the more effective when the Horshack we know and love comes back. This collection is rounded out nicely in Goodbye, Mr. Kripps, where Vinnie is the focus again. Travolta manages to bring out some real emotion in this always goofy character, bringing us full circle on a surprisingly (given the usually disappointing "best of" format) solid DVD debut for this beloved show.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: All six episodes look quite good, given their age. Staying fairly true to the original broadcast quality, each appears to have been touched up a bit to eliminate as much dirt and grain as possible. The overall color scheme is still pretty drab, but the images are more detailed and appear sharper than I remembered.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio is pretty much what we would expect from such an old series. The important part of such a track is the dialogue clarity, and this mix does deliver. None of the laugh track drowns out the actors' speech either, and the music blends in nicely as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There aren't any extra features at all on this disc.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Welcome Back, Kotter is one of the best sitcoms the 1970s had to offer, and it is long overdue on DVD, so this compilation is actually well worth its low sticker price—but call me when the season sets come out.

 


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