Indulge me for a moment on two subjects: Mama's Family and Welcome Back, Kotter.
Mama's Family had its roots in a classic series of poignant but amusing skits on the popular and long-lasting Carol Burnett Show. When cancelled on its original network, it pioneered by switching to national, first-run syndication (which many people erroneously think was first done by Baywatch). It starred a gifted comedian who was also a talented singer (Vicki Lawrence had a number one hit with That's the Night that the Lights Went Out in Georgia). Her co-stars included Rue McClanahan (as her sister Fran) and Betty White (as her daughter Ellen), who left the show to become enormously famous in the Golden Girls. The show won an Emmy for costume design. 117 epsisodes; 7 years.
Welcome Back, Kotter, on the other hand, starred an unknown, mumbling stand-up comedian with virtually no resume and a handful of unknowns. It's shining light was "Mr. Woodman", the maniacally cynical Vice Principal played by John Sylvester White ("I went away for awhile, but now I'm back...."), whose last acting job before he died, by the way, was on Mama's Family, playing Mr. Vogleman of the Raytown Travel Agency ("It's good day at the Raytown Travel Agency, how may I help you?").
Its principal gas was overused catchphrases and a trunk full of dusty Borsch Belt vaudevillian jokes. Even its "star" barely appeared in half of the episodes in the final season (of which there were only four, with a total of only 47 episodes). And Allan "Bubba" Kayser (left) was and is fifteen times hotter than John "Barbarino" Travolta (right).
Yet Kotter remains (comparatively) well-known; it spawned lunchboxes, comic books, novels, and even boardgame. Ice-Cube is set to star in the movie version next year (let that sink in).
Mama's Family? Nearly forgotten.
Why? Actually, my real question isn't, "Why Kotter, not Mama's Family?" And I'm certainly not trying to make the case that one (or either) is a great comedy (or even a good one). But, on paper, it would look as though Mama would have great long-term influence than Kotter; but it doesn't.
My real question is, What causes similar inequities in any medium?
There was (until recently) only one story with the god-like Lady Cop; god-awful Azrael's series lasted 100 issues. The original Firestorm had only 5 issues, but he's become nearly iconic; Impulse had 75 (mostly) marvelous issues and look what they did to him. The Martian Manhunter never got beyond 36 issues. Jimmy Olsen? 222 issues. Tomahawk had an astonishingly 140 issue and almost no one even remembers him.
Why do some series last and others not? Why do some with scads of issues have almost no impact, while some short-live series resonate still today?