1975: Kotter is Welcomed Back
Gabe Kaplan starred as Mr. Kotter, a teacher who returns to James Buchanan High School in Bensonhurst, a fictional version of his own real high school in Brooklyn. In fact, the real school is shown during the show’s opening credits. Kotter’s class was filled with lazy students known as “Sweathogs” of which Kotter was a founding member years before. Instead of just “babysitting” the class who would no-doubt eventually drop out, Kotter found a way to reach and inspire his class which included Vinnie Barbarino (Travolta), Freddie ‘Boom Boom’ Washington (Hilton-Jacobs), Juan Epstein (Hegyes) and Arnold Horshack (Palillo). These characters were also inspired by Kaplan’s real classmates.
Though the show was an instant hit for ABC, Boston’s local affiliate (WCVB-TV) refused to air the show due to the city’s controversial busing program which had caused protests and riots. They were concerned that the show would only make matters worse. However, since the show usually portrayed the Sweathogs antics as juvenile rather than destructive (they were patterned after the Marx Brothers after all), the show was brought to the Boston screens starting with the fifth episode.
In 1976, the show’s theme song, written and recorded by John Sebastian from The Lovin’ Spoonful, became a #1 hit. Lunchboxes were made and Mattel even created a set of Welcome Back Kotter action figures in 1977. However, the show’s ratings began to slip in third season. A female Sweathog, Angie Grabowski (Melonie Haller) was added to the cast and Kotter became the father of twin girls.
The fourth season was the shows last with John Travolta becoming a big movie star only appearing in ten episodes and due to some off-screen conflicts, Kaplan himself also reduced his appearances on the show. As the show was winding down, three spin-offs were considered including one called Rich Man, Poor Man; Horshack! which was never developed outside of a backdoor pilot episode and Mr. T and Tina which starred Pat Morita and was only remotely related to the show. It only lasted five episodes before being cancelled.
1926: NBC is Formed
The radio and television broadcasting network, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was formed on this day in 1926. It is the oldest major broadcast network in the U. S and frequently referred as the “Peacock Network” due to its peacock logo, which originally became a symbol of NBC when it started broadcasting in color. The three-note chimes came about at a Georgia Tech football game of all places. Someone from the network heard the three notes asked for permission to use them for NBC. The chimes were heard for the first time in 1931 and became the first audio trademark.
1978: When Witchipoo Met the Bay City Rollers
In 1978, it appears that Sid & Marty Krofft may have run out of ideas. The Krofft Superstar Hour was basically the same as the Kroft Supershow, only switching out The Bay City Rollers for Kaptain Kool and the Kongs, adding a few goofy skits, a live audience and a couple of new mini shows. The result was more of a variety show with characters from previous Krofft shows. The new shows did resonate with the audience, so two months into the show, Superstar was cut down to 30 minutes and was renamed The Bay City Rollers Show. However, by January the next year, the show had been dropped from NBC’s schedule.
2021: ‘Frogger’ Becomes a TV Show
Billed as the classic game show reimagined as a real-life obstacle course, Frogger aired on the NBC streaming service, Peacock on this day in 2021. Hosted by Kyle Brandt and Damon Wayans Jr., the course did resemble the arcade game but here, the frog (human contestants) had to do more than just get across a busy highway in hopes of winning $100,000. This game show was odd in that despite that large usage of water, the show took place indoors and there was no audience cheering anyone on. Each contestant has three “lives”, like in the game. If they fall in the water, they lose a life.
- 1890: Colonel Sanders (founder of KFC)
- 1899: Neil Hamilton (actor)
- 1923: Cliff Robertson (actor)
- 1951: Tom Wopat (actor)
- 1960: Hugh Grant (actor)
- 1966: Adam Sandler (actor)
- 1971: Eric Stonestreet (actor)
- 1971: Henry Thomas (actor)
- 1975: Michael Buble (singer)
- 1980: Michelle Williams (actress)
- 1991: Lauren Daigle (singer)
- 1991: Hunter Hayes (singer)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.