W is for Welcome Back Kotter, the Waltons, Wild Kingdom, the White Shadow, Walker: Texas Ranger and What’s Happening! #atozchallenge



Welcome to the A-Z Classic TV Shows Theme Songs and Intros! Last year I did an A-Z Musical Tour of My Life and featured tons of classic rock music. I had so much fun with it that this year I decided to present classic television shows theme songs and intros. These are shows that I remember from my youth during the 60s and 70s…with an occasional 80s show thrown in. Each show is introduced with information (gathered primarily from my favorite go-to for info, Wikipedia) or associated memories, followed by a video of the TV show’s theme song intro. At first glance, the posts may seem long because of the number of videos included but it’s really laid out in a way that will enable you to scroll through and read, watch or hear just what you want and then either move on to the next A-Zer or linger and go back in time with all the fun theme song intros you’ll find here. Please leave a comment and share your favorite classic TV shows. By all means, bookmark my blog so you can come back! I hope you enjoy my collection. Now, let’s get started with…

W is for Welcome Back, Kotter:

Welcome Back, Kotter is an American sitcom starring Gabe Kaplan and featuring a young John Travolta. Videotaped in front of a live studio audience, it originally aired on the ABC network from September 9, 1975, to May 17. 1979.

Welcome Back Kotter dvdcover

The show stars stand-up comic/actor Gabriel ‘Gabe’ Kaplan as the title character, Gabe Kotter, a wisecracking teacher who returns to his alma mater, the fictional James Buchanan High in Brooklyn, New York, to teach an eclectic crew of remedial loafers, called “Sweathogs”. Befitting its low ranking, classes were held in room 111. The school was based on New Utrecht High School, which was used in the opening credits, and also the high school that Kaplan attended. The school’s principal was referenced, but mostly not seen on-screen. The rigid vice principal, Michael Woodman (John Sylvester White), dismissed the Sweathogs as witless hoodlums, and only expected Kotter to contain them until they were banished or they dropped out.

Kotter, himself a past remedial student, was a founding member of the Sweathogs. Hip to the Sweathogs’ do-little manifesto, he befriends them and stimulates their potential. A pupil-teacher rapport is formed, and the students often visit Kotter’s Bensonhurst apartment, sometimes via the fire-escape window, to the chagrin of his wife, Julie (Marcia Strassman).

Many of the characters of Welcome Back, Kotter were based on people from Kaplan’s teen years as a remedial school student in Brooklyn. As a stand-up comic, one of Kaplan’s routines was “Holes and Mellow Rolls”, in which he talked in depth about his former classmates. The names of characters in Holes and Mellow Rolls: “Vinnie Barbarino” was inspired by Eddie Lecarri and Ray Barbarino, from Miami, FL; “Freddie ‘Boom Boom’ Washington” was inspired by Freddie “Furdy” Peyton; “Juan Epstein” was partially inspired by Epstein “The Animal”; and “Arnold Horseshit” was changed to “Arnold Horshack” for network television.



W is for the Waltons:

The Waltons is an American television series created by Earl Hamner, Jr., based on his book Spencer’s Mountain, and a 1963 film of the same name. The show is centered on a family in a rural Virginia community during the Great Depression and World War II.

The series pilot aired as a television movie entitled The Homecoming: A Christmas Story and was broadcast on December 19, 1971.[1] Beginning in September 1972, the series originally aired on CBS for a total of nine seasons. After the series was canceled by CBS in 1981, NBC aired three television movie sequels in 1982, with three more in the 1990s on CBS.

The story is about the family of John Walton Jr. (known as John-Boy), his parents, John and Olivia Walton, their seven children, and John’s parents Zebulon “Zeb” and Esther Walton. John-Boy is the oldest of the children (17 years old in the beginning[4]), who becomes a journalist and novelist. Each episode is narrated at the opening and closing by a middle-aged John Jr. (voiced by author Earl Hamner on whom John-Boy is based). John Sr. manages to eke out a living for his family by operating a lumber mill with his sons’ help as they grow older. The family income is augmented by some small-scale farming, and John occasionally hunts to put meat on the table.

The family shares hospitality with relatives and strangers as they are able. The small community named after their property is also home to folk of various income levels, ranging from the well-to-do Baldwin sisters, two elderly spinsters who distill moonshine that they call “Papa’s recipe”; Ike Godsey, postmaster and owner of the general store with his somewhat snobbish wife Corabeth (a Walton cousin; she calls her husband “Mr. Godsey”); an African-American couple, Verdie and Harley Foster; Maude, a sassy octogenarian artist who paints on wood; Flossie Brimmer, a friendly though somewhat gossipy widow who runs a nearby boarding house; and Yancy Tucker, a good-hearted handyman with big plans but little motivation. Jefferson County sheriff Ep Bridges keeps law and order in Walton’s Mountain. The entire family (except for John) attends a Baptist church, of which Olivia and Grandma Esther are the most regular attendees. The Church the Hamners actually attended is Schuyler Baptist Church, near the Hamner homeplace and is still in operation. The church has helped host several events honoring Earl Hamner, Jr including one in 2014.

In the signature scene that closes almost every episode, the family house is enveloped in darkness, save for one, two or three lights in the upstairs bedroom windows. Through voice-overs, two or more characters make some brief comments related to that episode’s events, and then bid each other goodnight, after which the lights go out.

Goodnight Johnboy:



W is for Wild Kingdom:

I remember watching this show every Sunday evening. Wild Kingdom, sometimes known as Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, is an American television show that features wildlife and nature. It was originally produced from 1963 until 1988, and was revived in 2002. The show’s second incarnation currently airs on Animal Planet in the U.S.

The original Wild Kingdom grew from discussions that started in 1962 between zoologist Marlin Perkins and V. J. Skutt, the chairman and CEO of insurance company Mutual of Omaha. The company had been the sponsor of an earlier animal-related show, Zoo Parade, that Perkins had hosted from 1952 until 1957. Also intimately involved with the creation of Wild Kingdom was Zoo Parade producer Don Meier, who was credited as the series’ creator.Mutual of Omaha sponsored and lent its name to the new program.

Liz and Henk Maartens, from Irene, Pretoria in South Africa won five Emmy Awards for the documentary series Wild Kingdom in 1970. One Emmy Award was for camerawork while the other Emmy Awards were for aspects of production.

Wild Kingdom was first broadcast by NBC. The half-hour show aired on Sundays starting January 6, 1963  and continued until 1971, when the program entered syndication. As a prime-time syndicated program, Wild Kingdom enjoyed great popularity. Although most of the programs aired after 1971 were repeats, new shows continued to be produced until 1987. Several episodes were filmed by cameraman Roy Pinney. Perkins was the host for most of the show’s history until he was forced to retire in 1985 for health reasons. He died of cancer the following year at age 81 and Jim Fowler, Perkins’ long-time assistant and sidekick, became the host.

Wild Kingdom can be credited for increasing ecological and environmental awareness in the United States. Its exciting footage brought the wilds of Africa, the Amazon River and other exotic locales into the living rooms of millions of Americans. It created an interest in commercial nature programming that was a precursor to cable television networks such as the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.

The original series has not been seen since it went off the air. (Mutual of Omaha owns the rights to the series.) However, several episodes have now been released on DVD from BCI Eclipse (under license from Mutual of Omaha). Some episodes are also available on an official YouTube channel.

Intro and Closing Credits:



W is for The White Shadow:

The White Shadow is an American drama television series that ran on the CBS network from November 27, 1978 to March 16, 1981.

Thematically similar to Welcome Back, Kotter, but more dramatic than comedic, The White Shadow starred Ken Howard as Ken Reeves, a white professional basketball player who retires from the Chicago Bulls of the NBA after a severe knee injury. Upon his retirement, Reeves takes a job as a basketball coach at Carver High School, a mostly black and Hispanic urban high school in South Central Los Angeles. Carver’s principal is former college classmate Jim Willis (Jason Bernard in the pilot, and Ed Bernard for seasons 1 and 2). Sybil Buchanan, played by Joan Pringle, is the vice principal who was against Reeves’ hiring and clashed with Reeves in the areas of discipline and education on more than a few occasions. In season 3, Willis is promoted to a position with the Oakland Board of Education and Buchanan becomes principal of Carver.

The White Shadow was the first ensemble drama on prime-time television with a predominantly African-American cast. With 54 episodes, it is the third-longest running drama with a predominantly African-American cast in the history of American prime-time television. Only Soul Food and The Wire have had more episodes.

The show’s title is derived from a comment by player Morris Thorpe (Kevin Hooks) in response to a statement by Reeves in the final scene of the pilot episode. Reeves told the members of the team that he would support them and be right behind them, every step of the way, to which Thorpe replied, “Yeah. Like a white shadow.”

In October 2011, ESPN Classic began re-airing all 54 episodes of The White Shadow. Reruns aired on Nick at Nite and TV Land in the 1990s with other MTM Enterprises series.



W is for Walker, Texas Ranger:

Later than most of my other shows but I’m posting it because I’ve always liked the show and I enjoy seeing the reruns even now.

Walker, Texas Ranger is an American television series created by Leslie Greif and Paul Haggis. It was inspired by the film Lone Wolf McQuade, with both this series and that film starring Chuck Norris as a member of the Texas Ranger Division. The show aired on CBS in the spring of 1993, with the first season consisting of three pilot episodes. Eight full seasons followed with new episodes airing from September 25, 1993, to May 19, 2001, and reruns continuing on CBS until July 28, 2001. It has been broadcast in over 100 countries and has since spawned a 2005 made-for-television movie entitled Trial By Fire. The movie ended on a cliffhanger, which was never resolved. DVD sets of all seasons have been released (with the three pilots packaged with the first regular season). At various times since 1997, reruns of the show have aired, in syndication, on the USA Network and Action in Canada. Reruns can currently be seen on WGN America and INSP.

The series was noted for its moralistic style. The characters refrained from the use of drugs, and they participated in community service. Martial arts were displayed prominently as the primary tool of law enforcement and occasionally as a tool for Walker and company to reach out to the community.

Judson Mills, left, Chuck Norris, center, and Clarence Gilyard star on WALKER, TEXAS RANGER. Photo: Tony Esparza/CBS

Judson Mills, left, Chuck Norris, center, and Clarence Gilyard star on WALKER, TEXAS RANGER.
Photo: Tony Esparza/CBS

The show is centered on Sergeant Cordell Walker (Norris), a Dallas–Fort Worth–based member of the Texas Rangers, a state-level bureau of investigation. Walker was raised by his paternal uncle, a Native American named Ray Firewalker (Floyd Red Crow Westerman, pilot episode, Season 1; Apesanahkwat, Season 2). The surname being, possibly, a nod to the 1986 Norris film, Firewalker. Cordell, prior to joining the Rangers, served in the Marines’ elite recon unit during the Vietnam War. Both Cordell and Uncle Ray share the values characteristic of Wild West sheriffs.

His partner and best friend is James “Jimmy” Trivette (Clarence Gilyard), a former Dallas Cowboys player, “Go Long T”, who takes a more modern approach. Walker’s young partner grew up in Baltimore and used football as his ticket to college education. He was dropped from the team after he tore up his shoulder in a major game, which led to his career in the Rangers (often making references to watching the Lone Ranger and how C.D. Parker mentored him as a Rookie Officer). Trivette also works inside the office using computers and cellular phones to collate information of the people who have been taken into custody.

Walker also works closely (and shares a mutual attraction) with Alexandra “Alex” Cahill (Sheree J. Wilson), a Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney, who on occasion puts up a frown if Walker does not obtain results in time. He also gets advice on cases from C.D. Parker (Gailard Sartain, pilot season; Noble Willingham, Seasons 1–7), a veteran Ranger (later inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame) who worked with Walker (and is the only character on the show to address Walker by his first name Cordell on a regular basis) until retiring to operate a small restaurant and bar called “CD’s Bar and Grill”, a restaurant widely known in the series for its chili. In Season 7, two rookie Texas Rangers, Sydney Cooke (Nia Peeples), and Francis Gage (Judson Mills), are assigned under Walker and Trivette’s command.

The Walker, Texas Ranger theme song is sung by Chuck Norris himself. It’s entitled “The Eyes of a Ranger.” This is a widely recognized theme song for sure.


W is for What’s Happening!!:

What’s Happening!! is an American television sitcom that aired on ABC from August 5, 1976 to April 28, 1979. The show premiered as a summer series. With good ratings and reviews, and after the failure of several other shows on the network, What’s Happening!! returned in November 1976 as a weekly series. It remained a regular show until 1979; ratings were modest. What’s Happening!! was loosely based on the Eric Monte-penned film Cooley High. From 1985-88, a sequel series called What’s Happening Now!! aired in first-run syndication, with most of the major cast members reprising their roles.

What’s Happening!! follows the lives of three working-class African-American teens living in the South Los Angeles section of Los Angeles. The show stars Ernest Thomas as Roger “Rog” Thomas, Haywood Nelson as Dwayne Nelson, and Fred Berry as Freddy “Rerun” Stubbs. Co-starring are Danielle Spencer as Roger’s younger sister Dee; Mabel King as Roger and Dee’s mother Mabel; and Shirley Hemphill as Shirley Wilson, a waitress at Rob’s Place, the neighborhood restaurant where the boys are regular patrons. Recurring characters include Rob (Earl Billings), owner of Rob’s Place; and Miss Collins (Fritzi Burr), a sarcastic history teacher and the sponsor of the school newspaper.

Unlike Good Times, a contemporary show that also had an African-American cast (and was also produced by Eric Monte), What’s Happening!! only rarely and mildly ventured into social commentary. Most episodes focused on the goals of teenage males: meeting girls, finding afterschool jobs, and planning for the future.


Have you watched any of these shows? What other W shows could be here? What are your favorite TV shows, past and present? 




41 thoughts on “W is for Welcome Back Kotter, the Waltons, Wild Kingdom, the White Shadow, Walker: Texas Ranger and What’s Happening! #atozchallenge

    • I forgot about Wonder Woman because I never watched it. I do remember it being on though.
      The Waltons is the epitome of a wholesome show.
      I hear ya about Chuck Norris. Sometimes it’s a shame that celebrities ruin their fan following by grandstanding their politics. It’s a risk, I think, when celebrities do that, no matter what side of politics they fall on. The same thing happened with Clint Eastwood in some respects. That old adage sure holds true: refrain from talking politics or religion … or venture there at your own risk…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry ’bout the theme song being stuck in your head! Ha. Yesterday I did Robin’s Word of the Day (Valley) and I chose Harper Valley PTA: that song has been in my head for 2 days now! 🙂


  1. Some great shows here. I remember the White Shadow and I loved What’s Happening. One of these days I like to stumble upon the series airing in a rerun. I’d probably watch it again. My friends always told me that Roger was the black Jeffrey Scott.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Know which one we both omitted? Who’s the Boss. Remember that one? Alyssa Milano and Tony Danza? I always expected the series finale to be Tony Danza’s character revealed to be a serial killer or something. The theme literally used the psycho theme music in the background.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, we sure did. I didn’t really watch the show though. I saw it a few times but wasn’t crazy about it. That’s funny that you thought Tony Danza would end up being a serial killer! Great imagination there…
          I never noticed the Psycho theme music. I’ll have to go check that out…


  2. Hi, Michele!

    I didn’t watch Kotter but, in 2014, I posted a recording made by one of the cast members, Marcia Strassman (Julie Kotter):


    I am also one of the few people in the world who didn’t get into The Waltons (or Little House on the Prairie). I watched mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom faithfully and learned a lot about animals from Marlin Perkins. The TV station where I worked in the 70s carried Wild Kingdom in syndication and I often voiced promos for the series. As you might recall, one of Johnny Carson’s running gags on the Tonight Show was poking fun at Marlin Perkins, same as he did with Raymond Burr (Ironside) for many years. The TV station where I worked also carried the W series The White Shadow. I was not and am not a fan of Chuck Norris or his Walker, Texas Ranger series, nor did I watch What’s Happening.

    Other W shows that come to mind are Wagon Train and Wide World of Sports.

    Thank you very much, dear friend Michele!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Shady. At last, we freed your comment which ended up in my Spam folder for some stupid reason — I think you may be right: it might’ve had to do with the link you provided. (btw, I just went to the post you directed me to and commented there). I didn’t know that Marcia Strassman was a singer! She was good. Very sad that she succumbed to breast cancer at such a young age.

      That’s cool that you did promos for Wild Kingdom. Didn’t that air on Sunday evenings? That was such a great show and I wonder if my love of animals started there?? Now that I think about it, it probably started with Lassie…

      I didn’t really appreciate the Waltons as much when they were airing but my parents watched it all the time so I saw a great many episodes. But I can appreciate the series now. It was a well-done show with a great cast. One of the few real wholesome shows (which I’m not always into… 🙂 )

      I always liked Walker, Texas Ranger. I like it more now ever since I took a crminal justice class a few years back from an instructor who was/is a Texas Ranger. He sure worked on a lot of high profile cases and I found his stories riveting.

      Thanks, as always, for stopping by and taking the time to read my posts and leaving great comments!


    • Hi Aneeta. No embarrassment necessary. You were probably doing much more important things than watching TV like so many of us did! 🙂


    • I always liked little Elizabeth. She was so darn cute! She often had something funny to say during the Good Night signoffs.
      And when I was in college, someone swore that I was the actress who played Mary Ellen. I happened to meet Richard Thomas (John Boy) one day in a Washington DC Safeway (grocery store) and told him about that. He agreed that there was some resemblance. Ha!
      Thanks for stopping by Kathleen.


  3. Vinny Barberino, Horschak, Juan Epstein! I loved Welcome Back Kotter. 😀 What a fun show. It was so cool at the time that John Travolta became a household name because of Saturday Night Fever, too. The other shows are also familiar, but Kotter really brings back memories. Another great post, Michele!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Debbie! That was John Travolta’s breakout role. “Up your nose with a rubber hose”…. So many sayings that floated around the school halls. Glad my post brought back memories for you. Mary (from Jingle Jangle Jungle) said she’s got the Welcome Back Kotter theme song stuck in her head now… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wild Kingdom… The Discovery Channel of our generation 😀 Aside from that one, though, none of the others were familiar. What a shame… I think I would’ve loved The Waltons.

    Loving your A2Z, Michele! And thanks (yes, again) for the guest post over at Life In Dogs today… It’s a gorgeous story, and I’m honored to host its telling 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Now you have my favorite show: The Waltons. Earl Hamner died about a month ago at age 92. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Michael Learned in a dinner-theater production of Driving Miss Daisy. I remember sometimes watching Wild Kingdom, and I saw the first and maybe the second season of White Shadow. I didn’t see the other shows, although I was aware of Welcome Back, Kotter because of John Travolta’s popularity. Another excellent post, Michele.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Janie! I appreciate that.
      How very cool that you saw Michael Learned in a play. I love going to plays! Thanks for the reminder: we have several cool little playhouses here in Austin. I need to get my butt to a play. I’m due!


  6. You need another comment because you have so few. LOL

    Watched The Waltons and Walker Texas Ranger. Remember Ricky Bobby’s boys Walker and Texas Ranger in Talledega Nights? Oh my word! Own that movie! Prayer scene is the best!

    Love the Chuck Norris jokes too. The boogie man checks his closet for Chuck Norris. On and on they go!

    You’ve make this challenge so fun Michele! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol Daniel!! Thank you!

      Talledega Nights: what a movie! I don’t know if this will post but is this the prayer scene you’re talking about? Will Farrell is excellent in this. And ya gotta love Walker and Texas Ranger!!! Thanks for the reminder. I’ll have to see this again.

      I hadn’t heard that Chuck Norris joke. That’s funny!
      Great to see you here Daniel!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Walker, Texas Ranger was one of my mom’s favorite shows. Richard liked it too! I watched an episode recently and found it to be quite ‘cheesy’ I used to adore The Waltons. I wonder if I would find it ‘cheesy’ too! Night, John Boy!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember a time when I thought all Waltons episodes were cheesy and frankly, some of them were. But it sure was darn good television. LOVED Granny and Grandpa! OMG, they were hilarious.


  8. While Jim goes and wrestles an alligator, I’m in the tent having a glass of wine telling you about his adventures…love Wild Kingdom! I found The Waltons so boring and still do. My hubby loves the show. I watched Kotter as well and funny that Travolta is the big star

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha, re: your Wild Kingdom comment! Lol.
      Yeah, it’s funny that as popular as Welcome Back Kotter was, none of those other actors really went anywhere, did they? I don’t remember seeing them in anything else, do you?


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