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Welcome Back, Kotter - The Complete First Season


TITLE: WELCOME BACK, KOTTER - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON


Info:

DVD Release Date: June 12, 2007 (Warner Home Video)
Color/1975-1976
MSRP: $29.98
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: 553 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: Closed-captioned
Special Features: “Only a Few Degrees from a Sweathog” featurette; Actors’ Original Screen Test


Introduction:

Welcome back to James Buchanan High School! The Complete First Season of Welcome Back, Kotter brings you the first 22 episodes of the series about a bunch of remdial students and their teacher--a former remedial student that was once in the very same class that he is now teaching. The series stars Gabe Kaplan (who is now better known for being a poker star from what I’ve heard) as the teacher, Mr. Kotter. His students are Vinnie Barbarino (played by John Travolta), Freddie Boom-Boom Washington (Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs), Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo), Juan Epstein (Robert Hegyes), and a bunch of other background characters that never seem to have any role in the class at all. This is one of those shows that truly defines everything ‘70s in a fun-to-watch (and family friendly) sitcom form!


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

The set begins with the first aired episode (though not the episode that was intended to be the first episode), “The Great Debate,” where the Sweathogs (who have no debating experience) are going to debate... the Buchanan High Debate Team. Mr. Kotter has to give Washington a lesson in reality when Washington believes school isn’t important (because he can just go into the NBA) in “Basket Case.” In “Welcome Back,” we see how Kotter came to working at Buchanan, and begin to wonder if he’ll be back for another day. Barbarino is running for student body president in “The Election,” does he have what it takes to win?

The Sweathogs have to encourage Washington to NOT marry Vernajean in “Classroom Marriage.” In “Mr. Kotter, Teacher,” Gabe ends up getting suspended from his job--only the Sweathogs can save the day (and Mr. Kotter’s job). Horshack is moving on up to the regular classes in “Arrivederci, Arnold,” but would he rather be in the regular classes or be with his friends? Vinnie drops out of school and Julie leaves Gabe in the two-parter “Follow the Leader,” but rest assured--all will be okay by the end of the second part.

In “One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” everybody gets sick but Kotter, Horshack, and a few other students--and everybody that is not sick in the school must come together as one class. Can they all get along? The Sweathogs must have a telethon to save their program in “The Telethon.” The season ends with “Father Vinnie,” where Vinnie decides to become a preist... holy crap (no pun intended).


Packaging:

Basically, the packaging is just a standard box with two slimcases in it, with each slimcase holding two discs. The box is a white box with pictures of all of the Sweathogs on the front, and episode snapshots on the back. The slimcases for the episode list all of the episodes, along with the original airdates, directing and writing credits, and a brief episode synopsis. Each disc contains a picture of one of the Sweathogs, with Barbarino on Disc 1, Horshack on Disc 2, Epstein on Disc 3, and Washington on Disc 4. Discs 1-3 all contain six episodes each, and there are four episodes on Disc 4. As already mentioned, the “Welcome Back” episode, which was the first produced episode and about Mr. Kotter’s first day at Buchanan High, is actually the THIRD episode on the set, but that is the order in which it originally aired.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The main menu on each disc has the theme song playing with options of Play, Episodes, and (on Discs 1 and 3) Bonus Features. It is very simple, and once you select Episodes, you are greeted with a chalkboard that lists all of the episodes on the board, and as you move through the menu, you find arrows drawn on the chalkboard to indicate which episode you have navigated to--it looks very nice! While there are no scene selection menus, chapters are placed in all of the appropriate places in each episode.


Video and Audio Quality:

This is a series from the ‘70s that was recorded on tape, and it really shows... but the quality isn’t as bad as it COULD be (for those that have seen the TV Favorites release, it is about on that level as far as the video and audio quality is concerned). As one would expect, the picture isn’t particularly sharp, but it isn’t problematic either. The audio levels are a bit low at times, but it is nothing to be too concerned with either. The set is closed-captioned for the hearing impaired.

It seems as if all of the episodes are unedited, running at approximately 25:10 for most episodes (one episode is a bit shorter, at 24:47, but I don’t know of any reason to believe there is a problem with the episode). Runtimes are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. The Great Debate (25:11)
2. Basket Case (25:10)
3. Welcome Back (25:19)
4. Whodunit? (25:09)
5. The Election (25:13)
6. No More Mister Nice Guy (25:10)

Disc 2:
7. Classroom Marriage (25:08)
8. One Of Our Sweathogs is Missing (25:11)
9. Mr. Kotter, Teacher (25:09)
10. The Reunion (25:08)
11. Barbarino’s Girl (25:10)
12. California Dreamin’ (25:10)

Disc 3:
13. Arrivederci, Arnold (25:11)
14. The Longest Weekend (24:47)
15. The Sit-In (25:10)
16. Follow the Leader, Part 1 (25:08)
17. Follow the Leader, Part 2 (25:12)
18. Dr. Epstein, I Presume (25:09)

Disc 4:
19. One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (25:20)
20. The Telethon (25:09)
21. Kotter Makes Good (25:09)
22. Father Vinnie (25:08)


Special Features:

The set isn’t exactly jam packed with special features, but this is one of those cases where quality beats quantity. The main special feature here is “Only a Few Degrees from a Sweathog” (23:26), and can be found on Disc 1. Basically, this is retrospective featurette that has all of the cast members (except, of course, John Travolta) talking about their memories of the show and getting their respective roles. We have Gabe Kaplan, Marcia Strassman, Robert Hegyes, Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs, Ron Palillo, Alan Sacks, and Eric Cohen--basically most of the cast as well as two of the three producers! It is a very nice featurette, and like most other Warner ones, itgives plenty of details and is very nicely produced.

Over to Disc 3, we have screen tests (11:23) for John Travolta, Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs, Marcia Strassman, Robert Hegyes, and Ron Palillo. These are exactly what they sound like--screen tests for the series. The most interesting of these is the Robert Hegyes one, though. He auditioned to play the part of “Eddie Barbarini” (which later became, of course, Vinnie Barbarino) and that is the audition that we get to see here. And when you see this, you’ll agree that he would have made a horrible Barbarino, and in fact, Hegyes makes the Barbarino character into this very mean type of person!

Hopefully, when and if future seasons get released, we’ll see more bonus features. Some bloopers would have been nice, I’d think there would have to be plenty from this series. After all, as you will learn in the retrospective featurette, the show had bloopers that were left intact, beginning with the first episode where the paper airplane that is supposed to land in front of Mr. Kotter lands in his hair!


Final Comments:

Honestly, I’m surprised this made it to DVD considering the fact that Warner seems to be hesitant to release ANYTHING on DVD that doesn’t give them the same sales numbers as a release of Friends would. But considering that this set is being released after they already released the TV Favorites compliation suggests that it is doing well enough for them (as the logic behind the TV Favorites idea was to test the market to see if people were interested in the series), and it does give some hope that future seasons will be released. Hopefully they will, because this is one of those series that has successfully become part of pop culture from the ‘70s. Hopefully, Warner doesn’t give us an “up your nose with a rubber hose” and abandon this series!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 2/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 06/11/07

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000NJMJHA/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

Questions or comments about this set? Post on our message board:

http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=202991


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