Here’s What Happened to Howard Hesseman and the Cast of ‘Head of the Class’ Before and After the Show

If you were to take Welcome Back, Kotter and flip it on its head, moving the high school classroom from Brooklyn to one in Manhattan, swap out the juvenile delinquent Sweathogs with a group of genius overachievers, but keep the funny teacher in charge (Gabe Kaplan‘s Mr. Kotter giving way to Howard Hesseman‘s Charlie Moore), you’d have a sense of the premise behind the sitcom Head of the Class.

Robin Givens, before she was the wife of boxing champ Mike Tyson, described the premise of the show to the Santa Cruz Sentinel in 1986, “We’re a group of genius kids who can’t deal with life. The show tackles problems kids really face with a sense of humor: academic competition, socialization and discovering how you fit in. School teaches you about life and if you’re not ready for that stage of life, it can be shocking. I had to deal with kids drinking and partying and I realized that I didn’t know so much after all. I had no social life; you don’t date when you’re 15. You have the academic world in control, but you have to deal with the real world, too. And that’s hard.”

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Originally airing on ABC from 1986 to 1991, it was designed as a show focused on Howard’s character, the actor having recently come off the success of the ensemble comedy WKRP in Cincinnati. However, more and more of the scripts began focusing on the students, moving it further away from its original concept. As a result, following the fourth season, Howard announced that he was leaving the show, being replaced in the fifth and final year by comedian Billy Connolly as new teacher Billy McGregor.

But early on Howard was much more enthusiastic, noting to The Press Democrat about the show’s strong early ratings, “I do feel it grabs two generations and makes both the younger and older viewers feel good. It’s got a lot of what life is like. But then, I don’t know that much about the public’s taste.”

He was also often referred to as a father figure on the set, a description he rejected: “They may think of me that way because I’m twice their age,” he mused. “I don’t give advice. I prefer to think of it as a free and open exchange among fellow professionals.”

To take a quick look at the lives and careers of those professionals, please scroll down.