'Welcome Back, Kotter' premiered 40 years ago today
In 1974, a 29-year-old stand-up from Brooklyn released a comedy album based on his high school memories, called Holes and Mello-Rolls. Gabe Kaplan attended New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst. The school was formerly known as New Utrecht Training School, but was changed due to its acronym being N.U.T.S. and its students being adolescents. No wonder Kaplan had a sense of humor. A common insult amongst his friends was "Up your hole with a Mello-Roll!" — a Mello-Roll being an ice cream cone shaped like something you'd use to paint a house.
Warner Bros. Television and ABC adapted Kaplan's material, memories and childhood friends into a sitcom. The crew's preferred insult would be tamed for television — "Up your nose with a rubber hose!" Naturally, Kaplan would star. Welcome Back, Kotter premiered on September 9, 1975, initially slotted after Happy Days on Wednesdays before moving to Thursdays. The antics of Kotter and his class of Sweathogs was modeled on the Marx Brothers. The affiliate in Boston banned the series at first, fearing the integrated classroom depicted on the show would stoke uproar over the city's busing program. Still, Welcome Back, Kotter cruised into the top twenty of the Nielsen ratings that season.
Popularity peaked during season two, as Kotter merchandise — games, comics, toys, lunch boxes — flooded the market in 1976. We've cover Kotter a good deal lately in celebration of its anniversary and its place in the MeTV fall schedule.
Here is a round-up of Kottermania to peruse on the birthday of the Sweathogs.