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Welcome Back, Kotter
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this often-silly sitcom follows a bunch of remedial students attending an inner-city high school. Teens make fun of each other constantly, calling guys things like "cream puffs" and women "dogs," but other than that, the language is pretty clean. Race, poverty, and drug/alcohol use are occasional topics, though the treatment of the issues is always sanitized. The students are under-achievers, and their apparent stupidity is a source of humor.
What's the story?
In the classic 1970s sitcom WELCOME BACK, KOTTER, Gabe Kaplan stars as Gabe Kotter, a teacher who returns to his Brooklyn alma mater to teach a group of remedial high school students known as the "Sweathogs." Kotter's sense of humor and heartfelt affection for the teens make him an ideal advocate and mentor. The lighthearted sitcom follows the antics of the dumb-but-loveable students, who are led by wise-cracking Vinnie Barbarino (a young John Travolta), tough Juan Epstein (Robert Hegyes), basketball-playing Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), and goofy Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo). Episodes usually center on a problem within the Sweathogs that Mr. Kotter helps solve.
Is it any good?
Welcome Back, Kotter takes a comic approach to the difficult circumstances of the kids' lives, joking about things like food scarcity and race relations. While some episodes touch on drinking and drug use, Kotter rarely reflects the reality of its inner-city public school setting. But this breezy treatment allows for some memorable, if superficial, characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between the school experience portrayed on the show and kids' own experience. Do you think the differences between the TV version and the real-life version were less notable in the '70s? How have high school and high schoolers changed since the show first aired? Does the relationship between teacher and student seem realistic? Do teens have a teacher like Mr. Kotter? What kind of trouble do kids get in at your school? How is discipline handled?