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Warner Home Video presents
Welcome Back, Kotter: The Complete First Season (1975)

"Arnold, this is the biggest moment of your life, don't sleep through it!"
- Gabe Kotter (Gabe Kaplan)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: September 06, 2007

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

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 09h:13m:29s
Release Date: June 12, 2007
UPC: 085391130994
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

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).

After the show made its first DVD appearance as part of their short-lived Television Favorites line, Warner has finally granted a seasonal release. Amazingly, having now revisited a full slate of episodes, the thing still holds up after a few decades. The subject matter is still timely, although I'm sure any bully-ridden school would take these Sweathogs over what they have to deal with daily. The bottom line is there are still plenty of laughs to be had from all, as each of these young actors, as well as Kaplan, craft unforgettable characters with their own unique, unforgettable qualities.

The 22 first season episodes are spread out among four discs, beginning with The Great Debate, where the Sweathogs use their unique brand of arguing to take on Buchanan High's highly-ranked debate team. After the Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington-centric episode Basket Case, we finally get to the Pilot, simply titled Welcome Back. It's strange that this episode aired third back in 1975, but it's better late than never that we get to see this dynamic relationship's birth. Disc One finishes up with a trio of hilarious installments in Whodunit?, The Election, and No More Mister Nice Guy.

Disc Two starts with Classroom Marriage, as the Sweathogs try and talk Washington out of tying the knot, and One of Our Sweathogs Is Missing, in which Epstein goes missing after losing a fight. After Mr. Kotter, Teacher, Barbarino's Girl, and California Dreamin', it's on to Disc Three and Arrivederci, Arnold. This is Ron Palillo at his finest, as Horshack has problems dealing with his promotion to a "regular" class. The Longest Weekend has the Sweathogs fearing the worst about Mr. Kotter's marriage, when, in reality, Julie is simply on a skiing trip. The Sit-In is the least entertaining show in the set, but then, it's on to the two-parter, Follow the Leader. Barbarino is on the losing end of the Sweathog leader election, so Mr. Kotter takes him in. A fed-up Julie moves out so Gabe can help Vinnie, and after his issued are resolved, the focus shifts to Juan again for Dr. Epstein, I Presume.

The fourth and final disc houses only three episodes, beginning with One Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest, where the Sweathogs are forced to share a classroom with more advanced students. The Telethon has Arnold attempting to host a Sweathog telethon, but the season ends with the best episode of the bunch in Father Vinnie. This is Travolta at his best, serving as prime evidence that no other actor could have pulled off the Barbarino character with the same grace and ease. Speaking of grace and ease, that's exactly what this first season of the show exhibited, and then some.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: No one expects anything spectacular from an older series, and these full-frame presentations are far from special. However, they aren't overly grainy or dirty, but some compression problems are evident. The colors are muted, and softness is an issue as well.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio is also far from flashy, but the most important aspect of this series, the comedic dialogue, is crystal clear at all times. The show's music is well-integrated into the overall mix as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 110 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Original Screen Tests
Extras Review: There are only a couple of features spread out among this set, including the 23-minute retrospective Only a Few Degrees from a Sweathog. This wonderful piece is hosted by Strassman, who introduces recently filmed cast interviews with nearly everyone involved in the show, except John Travolta. Some great, candid stories are told, but the lack of participation from Travolta didn't sit well with me.

There's also a collection of five original screen tests that run for just over 11 minutes consisting of Travolta, Hilton-Jacobs, Strassman, Hegyes, and Palillo.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Finally getting the respect it deserves in the form of a seasonal DVD box set, one of the funnier sitcoms of the last few decades arrives from Warner. Welcome Back, Kotter: The Complete First Season is just what the show's fans want: 22 episodes, adequate audio and video, and a couple of extras that serve as great series retrospectives.


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