More than 30 years after the Sweathogs burst onto America's TV screens, are they still funny? You bet that rubber hose up your nose they are.
Fans of "Welcome Back Kotter" -- the '70s sitcom that catapulted John Travolta into the teen-idol stratosphere, gave John Sebastian a hit song and launched myriad infantile catchphrases -- have been waiting patiently for a full season of the show on DVD. They've finally gotten their wish, thanks to the recent release of a four-disc set (retail price: $29.98) packed with all 22 installments from the Buchanan High School crew's first season.
The first thing that struck me as I reviewed such classic episodes as "Father Vinnie" and "The Telethon": The Sweathogs were pretty tame. Juan Epstein, Vinnie Barbarino, Arnold Horshack and Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington were supposed to be juvenile delinquents, but each of them is about as threatening as a Teletubby.
Still, the four actors who played them remain likable, as evidenced by their original screen tests, one of only two extras that appear on this boxed set. Travolta exudes nothing but charisma as he reads for the part of Barbarino (original name: Eddie Barbarini), while Robert Hegyes (Juan), Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs (Freddy) and future "Celebrity Boxing" contender Ron Palillo (Arnold) project pure, youthful confidence during their auditions.