Four Years of Buchanan High with Welcome Back Kotter Complete Series

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Welcome Back Kotter, The Complete Series

A series doesn't have to be long-running to be long-remembered. For evidence of that, look to Welcome Back Kotter, the Gabe Kaplan comedy vehicle which starred Kaplan as Gabe Kotter, a high school remedial education teacher returning to his Brooklyn alma mater, Buchanan High, to educate and mentor a class of misfits who've named themselves The Sweathogs.

The series only ran for four years -- fitting, since that's how long high school should last -- but the Sweathogs, the irascible Mr. Woodman (John Sylvester White), the recipes of Julie Kotter (Marcia Strassman), and Kotter's endless supply of uncles who inspired so many stories, made an indelible impression on American audiences. Lunch boxes, comic books -- the usual marketing machine engines were fired up to feed the audience as much Kotter as they could handle.

While the entire class made up The Sweathogs, the four characters who were the core of the group were Juan Epstein (Robert Hegyes), Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo), and Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta).

The series is light on bonus features -- there are only two, tacked onto the first season collection -- and they feature all the living major players with the notable exception of Travolta. The remaining three seasons are purely the episodes with no embellishment, and the four cases fit snugly into a nicely done slipcase which also includes an episode guide peppered with candid photos and shots from the series. And, really, that's all that a fan needs (although it would have been nice if Travolta had put in a token interview) as the series is strong enough to satisfy all on its own.

At sixteen discs, nearly 100 episodes, and 2280 minutes, this Shout! Factory offering will take a while to get through, but it's totally worth the effort. It's a welcome revisit to the late 70s and a show that introduced a whole new way of crafting insults for people. Hey! Up your nose with a rubber hose!

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0