Welcome Back Kotter Premiere Episode (1975)
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Let’s go back to 1975 for Vinnie, Epstein, Boom Boom and the rest of the Sweat Hogs.
Debuting on ABC in 1975, Welcome Back Kotter starred Gabe Kaplan and launched the careers of John Travolta, Lawrence Hilton Jacobs, Ron Palillo, the late Robert Hegyes and more.
The show stars stand-up comedian and actor Gabriel “Gabe” Kaplan as the title character, Gabe Kotter, a wisecracking teacher who returns to his alma mater, James Buchanan High School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York, to teach a remedial class of loafers, called “Sweathogs”. The rigid vice principal, Michael Woodman (John Sylvester White), dismisses the Sweathogs as witless hoodlums, and only expects Kotter to contain them until they drop out or are otherwise banished. As a former remedial student, and a founding member of the original class of Sweathogs, Kotter befriends the current Sweathogs and stimulates their potential. A pupil-teacher rapport is formed, and the students often visit Kotter’s Bensonhurst apartment, sometimes via the fire-escape window, much to the chagrin of his wife, Julie (Marcia Strassman).
The Sweathogs celebrate a winning lottery ticket as Mr. Kotter looks on.
The fictional James Buchanan High is based on the Brooklyn high school that Kaplan attended in real life, New Utrecht High School, which is also shown in the opening credits. Many of the show’s characters were also based on people Kaplan knew during his teen years as a remedial student, several of whom were described in one of Kaplan’s stand-up comic routines entitled “Holes and Mellow Rolls”. “Vinnie Barbarino” was inspired by Eddie Lecarri and Ray Barbarino; “Freddie ‘Boom Boom’ Washington” was inspired by Freddie “Furdy” Peyton; “Juan Epstein” was partially inspired by Epstein “The Animal”; however, “Arnold Horshack” was unchanged.
The show lasted four seasons with its last episode on May 17, 1979.
Source: Sal Amato