Welcome Back, Kotter had a tough time getting into the mainstream. The show was met with a lot of opposition and was actually hotly contested by a lot of people.
The show premiered on September 9, 1975, on ABC and ran for four years. The blockbuster show was partly famous for starring an interracial cast. At the time, this was seen as a controversial move for television shows, but Welcome Back, Kotter persevered.
Gabe Kaplan was the star of the show and gave his thoughts about the cast’s diversity.
“The original concept of the show in my mind was you have four guys from different ethnic backgrounds, and they were best friends. Everybody accepted the characters for who they were.”
Even though the show eventually did really well, it did not start out well. In fact, the head of an ABC affiliate said that the cast of the show was unhealthy for students.
At this time, schools were trying to de-segregate, but were struggling in certain states. Nonetheless, the show was being banned all across America.
“We were banned in Boston the first episode because they were having trouble with teacher-student relations up there at the time. That was the first time we thought, ‘Wow!’ It wasn’t that far from the political revolution; the Vietnam War was in its last year – so to be banned was pretty cool to us.”
“Welcome Back, Kotter” Was Banned at Its Premiere
In Boston, the city was going through a tumultuous time. There were protests and riots over a school busing program. The city was concerned that Welcome Back, Kotter would only make the situation worse. But the show was doing well in other places, so ABC in Boston eventually picked up the show.
Additionally, teachers in other cities thought that Kotter would portray teachers in a bad light. But, the show ultimately proved those teachers wrong.
More importantly, there were concerns about the portrayal of juvenile delinquency being shown in the show. However, those fears were immediately put to rest when Welcome Back, Kotter finally aired.
[H/T Ultimate Classic Rock]