Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Warner Home Video
It’s been a while since this critic has said this but thank goodness for Shout! Factory. Ever since it went from being solely a music distributor to handling home entertainment releases a little more than a decade ago, Shout! Factory has gone on to become the leading name in home entertainment, releasing some of the biggest movies and TV series of the industry’s past and present. That includes one of its latest releases Welcome Back, Kotter: The Complete Third Season. Released this past May, the third season of the classic sitcom is yet another welcome escape for those wanting to get away from all of the overly violent and over-sexed dramas and comedies on television and in theaters today. Like so many of Shout! Factory’s previous (and current) releases, the secret to this season’s enjoyment and its overall success, is the work of the series’ writers. Regardless of their familiarity with the series, viewers will agree that the stories and the jokes that made up the body of season clearly offer their fair share of entertainment. The work of the series’ cast plays its own part in the episodes’ enjoyment, too. The quality of the episodes’ footage rounds out the ways in which this standalone set shows itself to be so enjoyable and a success. The footage looks and sounds just as good as it did in the series’ original broadcast nearly four decades ago. If not for that element, the other noted elements would be moot. Thankfully that isn’t the case here. Because it isn’t, this season in whole proves to be yet another great addition to any classic TV buff’s home DVD library. It is just as welcome in the collection of any of the series’ fans.
Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season is a welcome addition to any classic TV buff’s home DVD library and that of any fan of the beloved classic sitcom. It may have only lasted a total of four seasons in its original run on ABC, but it still stands decades after it ended that run as one of the best sitcoms of the 20th Century. That is just as obvious in the series’ third season as its first seasons thanks to the work of the series’ writers. Much as with its first two seasons the writing incorporated into Season Three boasts a wonderful, solid mix of both heart and humor. It is yet another refreshing escape from everything on television and in theaters today. It exemplifies everything that was once great about television and could be again. One example of what makes the writing this season so entertaining comes in the form of the episode “Kotter For Vice Principal.” This episode sees Mr. Kotter dreaming about what it would be like if he were vince principal instead of Vice Principal Woodman. The dream takes Mr. Kotter years into the future. His wife and students have all aged by decades. But he is still young. And he is dressed in regal attire. Over the course of his dream, he discovers that everyone is out to get him and replace him, leading to his revelation that he doesn’t in fact want to be Vice Principal. He reveals his decision to the Sweathogs, explaining that a low-paying job that you enjoy is better than a high-paying one that you don’t. In an age when people are being pushed to step all over each other and climb that proverbial corporate ladder, this is a lesson that is all too necessary and welcome.
The heart and humor incorporated into “Kotter For Vice Principal” by themselves make this episode a great example of what makes Season Three a blast. On another level, the use of the dream sequence should be noted, too. The use of the dream sequence is something that while not too overly present, was commonplace among sitcoms of the day. The fact that this is the only one of Season Three’s episodes to use the dream sequence element makes it even more enjoyable. Had any more episodes used this element it might have gotten old. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Because it didn’t, it makes its use here that much more enjoyable and valuable to the season in whole.
“Meet Your New Teacher: Batteries Not Included” is another excellent example of the series’ continued display of heart and humor. This episode sees a computer introduced into Mr. Kotter’s class, leaving both Mr. Kotter and the Sweathogs concerned that it is going to replace him. Thanks to their concern for their teacher, the Sweathogs re-wire the computer in order to make Woodman look bad in front of Mr. Jan. It’s not the only time over the course of the Welcome Back Kotter’s four seasons that the Sweathogs show such dedication and loyalty to their teacher. And even with that in mind, it still doesn’t get old. Rather, it is one of those elements of the series’ writing that continues to put a smile on audiences’ faces even this far into the series’ run. It’s too bad that so few students today have that kind of loyalty for their own teachers. What’s more, it is sad that so few teachers have such dedication to their students. That isn’t to say that there are no teachers and students such as what is seen here. but they seem increasingly rare. So seeing that dedication here, it is in itself a touching scene. It’s just one part of what makes this episode such a clear example of Season Three’s enjoyment and success, too. The commentary of sorts that is included in the episode makes the episode even more enjoyable.
The commentary of sorts that is included in “Meet Your Teacher: Batteries Not Included” shows just as much heart as the episode’s story. It can be argued that the commentary featured in this episode is prophetic in its own right not just in the realm of education but in the workplace in whole. It is a commentary about the role of man and machine in the workplace. As Mr. Kotter notes, the computer should be used as a tool used by man, not as a replacement for mankind. If only employers and businesses today saw this episode, maybe they would take this commentary to heart. Even if they don’t it is nice to see that at least at one point someone out there saw the writing on the wall and cared about it, even if it was just a writer for a TV series.
Both “Meet Your Teacher: Batteries Not Included” and “Kotter For Vice President” are in their own way examples of what makes Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season so enjoyable for audiences. Both episodes show their own share of both heart and humor. They are but a couple of examples of what makes Season Three such a hit. “The Return of Hotsy Totsy”, which comes near the end of Season Three, is one more example of the humor and heart that continued to be exhibited in the series’ third season. As the episode’s title hints, Hotsy Totsy returns. Only this time, it’s in a rather unexpected fashion. She is re-introduced, if only for the one episode, when the Sweathogs make a trip to a strip joint (yes, a strip joint) and discover her working there. They also discover much to their surprise that she is a mother. What happens from there is just as much of a surprise as Mr. Kotter, the Sweathogs, and even Vice Principal Woodman work to find her a job, rather than judge her. Even more touching and surprising is that Horshack reveals he has taken a job in order to support Hotsy Totsy and her baby, even though the baby isn’t even his. Such behavior is the polar opposite of what one might see on TV or even in theaters today given the presented story. There is no judgement, only respect, care and concern for her and her baby. The fact that even Vice Principal Woodman would even try to help her makes this episode even more touching and entertaining. It is one of those few moments from at least this season the Woodman shows he has a heart. There are other moments in which he shows a humane side. This is just one of those moments. It’s yet another way in which Season Three’s writing shows itself to be key to this season’s enjoyment. Whether through the episodes noted here or through any of the others that make up Season Three, audiences will agree that every one of Season Three’s episodes exhibits its own way writing that will both move viewers and move them to laughter. The fact that every single episode can move viewers in such positive fashion is a strong statement in itself. It’s just one way in which Season Three shows itself to be so enjoyable, too. The work of the show’s cast should also be noted in its enjoyment.
The episodes that make up Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season offer far more than their share of enjoyment. Not one episode can be said to be unenjoyable. As much enjoyment as they bring, they are just a fraction of what makes Season Three so enjoyable. The work of the series’ cast makes each episode enjoyable in its own right, too. Whether on their own or interacting with each other, the show’s cast members create plenty of enjoyment for viewers. Horshack’s continued zany antics will leave viewers in stitches as will Washington’s own take on Good Times actor Jimmy Walker’s J.J. Evans. Gabe Kaplan and John Sylvester White are just as entertaining together as Mr. Kotter and Vice Principal Woodman. The duo’s continued back and forth throughout this season harkens back to the comic greats of days gone by even before them. Of course one would be remiss to ignore John Travolta’s portrayal of Vinnie Barbarino. Travolta is just as entertaining as his cast mates both in his comical moments and his more moving moments. There is a solid balance of those moments both for him and his cast mates, too as audiences will see for themselves throughout Season Three. Whether for Travolta’s work in front of the camera or for that of the rest of the series’ cast, it can be said in watching through Season Three that the combined efforts of the cast in whole makes Season Three all the more enjoyable. Together with the work of the show’s writers, both elements make Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season yet another A+ installment of the classic series.
The work of both the writers and cast members throughout the third season of Welcome Back Kotter give it a clear passing grade. For all of the enjoyment that both elements bring to Season Three, neither would be of any importance if not for the work of those charged with restoring the footage for its presentation here. Those individuals are to be just as highly applauded as the show’s writers and its cast. Being that nearly four decades have passed since Season Three made its original debut, a lot has changed in the world of recording technology. It is thanks to those advances and the work of those at Shout! Factory and Warner Home Video that the footage looks and sounds as good as it does here. The sound and video are perfectly synched up and sounds wonderful. In regards to the video, many of the imperfections created in the series’ original recording have been handled with just as much as care and precision. While some smaller elements do still remain, the footage by and large looks far clearer than in its original broadcast making it that much more worth the watch. Coupled with its clean audio mix, the overall production values presented in this season round out the ways in which it shows itself to be so enjoyable. Those values coupled with the work of the show’s writers and its cast, all three elements combined show Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season to be one more welcome addition to the home library of any classic TV buff and any long-time fan of a series that is one of the 20th Century’s greatest sitcoms.
Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season is one more welcome addition–and must have for that matter–to the home DVD library of any classic TV buff and fan of Welcome Back Kotter. It shows this clearly through the work of the series’ writers, who have presented once again a solid balance of humor and heart that will move viewers and move them to laughter. The work of the cast in its interpretation of each episode’s script makes for even more enjoyment throughout the season. The restoration of this season’s episodes rounds out the ways in which Season Three shows itself to be so enjoyable. All things considered, Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season gets yet another A+ as does Shout! Factory for its release. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/welcome-back-kotter-season-three. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:
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