Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein on the mid-1970's TV series Welcome Back, Kotter, is dead. The mean streets of New York City were already a cliché when the show came out in 1975. (The audience had been primed by such cultural landmarks as the 1961 Oscar-winning film, West Side Story, and 1965's best-selling Up the Down Staircase, about the trials of an inner-city schoolteacher.)
"Kotter" depicted in broad strokes how the lower-class kids of Brooklyn came together under the tutelage of wise schoolteacher Gabe Kotter, played by Gabe Kaplan. Robert Hegyes' Juan Epstein was the "Puerto Rican Jew," a strange-sounding hybrid that is still funny 30 years later. WBK wasn't a top-flight comedy in the class of "All in the Family" or "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", but its ensemble cast was worth a half-hour of our time 35 years ago.
The "debate" from episode 1 is more worthwhile than some of the debates we've been watching lately.