- Soap (TV series)
Soap Format Sitcom, serial Created by Susan Harris Starring Jimmy Baio
Roscoe Lee Browne
Narrated by Rod Roddy Theme music composer George Aliceson Tipton Composer(s) George Aliceson Tipton Country of origin United States No. of seasons 4 No. of episodes 85 (93 in syndication) (List of episodes) Production Executive producer(s) Paul Junger Witt
Producer(s) Susan Harris Location(s) The Prospect Studios
Running time 30 minutes (77 episodes)
60 minutes (8 episodes)
Production company(s) Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions Distributor Columbia Pictures Television Broadcast Original channel ABC Original run September 13, 1977– April 20, 1981 Chronology Followed by Benson
Soap is an American sitcom that originally ran on ABC from 1977 to 1981.
The show was created as a parody of daytime soap operas, presented as a weekly half-hour prime time comedy. Similar to a soap opera, the show's story was presented in a serial format and included melodramatic plot elements such as amnesia, alien abduction, demonic possession, murder and kidnapping. In 2007 it was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME," and in 2010, the Tates and the Campbells ranked at number 17 in TV Guide's list of "TV's Top Families".
The show was created, written, and produced by Susan Harris. Each returning season was preceded by a 90-minute retrospective of the previous season. Two of these retrospectives were made available on VHS in 1994.
The show aired for four seasons and 85 episodes. The final four episodes of the series aired as one-hour episodes during the original run on ABC. These hour-long episodes were later split in two, yielding 93 half-hour episodes for syndication.
All episodes are currently available on region 1 DVD in four separate box sets. In the past, the series has rerun on local syndicated channels as well as on cable on Comedy Central and TV Land. It currently runs on over the air television, on Antenna TV on Sunday nights
The cast included three former soap opera actors. Robert Mandan (who played Chester Tate) had previously appeared on Search for Tomorrow as a leading man for Mary Stuart, and Donnelly Rhodes (who played Dutch Leitner) had played the first husband of Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless. Arthur Peterson, Jr. ("The Major") played Rev. John Ruthledge in the radio version of Guiding Light.
Soap is set in the fictional town of Dunn's River, Connecticut.
In the opening sequence of the first installment, the announcer says that the Tates live in a wealthy neighborhood. Jessica Tate and her husband, Chester, are hardly models of fidelity, as their various love affairs result in several family mishaps, including the murder of her sister Mary's stepson, Peter Campbell (Robert Urich). Even though everyone tells Jessica about Chester's affairs, she does not believe them until she sees his philandering with her own eyes: while out to lunch with Mary, Jessica spots Chester necking with his secretary. Heartbroken, she sobs in her sister's arms. On later occasions, it becomes clear Jess has always known on some level about Chester's affairs but never allowed herself to process the information.
The wealthy Tate family employs a sarcastic butler, Benson DuBois (Robert Guillaume).
Mary's family, the Campbells, are working class, and as the series begins, her son Danny Dallas, a product of her first marriage to Johnny Dallas, is a junior gangster-in-training. Danny is told to kill his stepfather, Burt Campbell, Mary's current husband, who, Danny is told, murdered his father Johnny. It is later revealed that Danny's father was killed by Burt in self-defense. Danny refuses to kill Burt and goes on the run from the Mob in a variety of disguises. This eventually ends when Elaine Lefkowitz (played by Dinah Manoff in one of her earliest roles), the spoiled daughter of the Mob Boss (played by Sorrell Booke), falls in love with Danny and stops her father, who then tells Danny he will have to marry Elaine or he will kill him. In the fourth season, it is revealed that Chester is, in fact, Danny's true father, the product of a secret affair between him and Mary before his marriage to Jessica.
The first season ends with Jessica convicted of the murder of Peter Campbell. The announcer concludes the season by announcing that Jessica is innocent, and that one of five characters – Burt, Chester, Jodie, Benson or Corinne – killed Peter Campbell. Chester later confesses to Peter's murder and is sent to prison. He is soon released after a successful temporary insanity defense.
Major plots of later seasons
Other plot lines include Jessica's adopted daughter Corinne courting Father Tim Flotsky, who ended up leaving the priesthood, and the two eventually marrying and having a child who is possessed by the Devil; Chester being imprisoned for Peter's murder, escaping with his prison roommate Dutch, and being afflicted with amnesia after a failed operation; Jessica's other daughter, Eunice, sleeps with a married congressman, and then falls in love with Dutch; Mary's stepson Chuck, a ventriloquist whose hostilities are expressed through his alter ego, a quick-witted dummy named Bob; Jessica's love affairs with several men, including Donahue, a private investigator hired to find the missing presumed-dead Chester, her psychiatrist, and a Latin American revolutionary known as "El Puerco" ("The Pig"; his friends just call him "El"); Billy Tate's confinement by a cult called the "Sunnies" (a parody of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Movement, called the "Moonies" by its critics), and then his affair with his school teacher who becomes unhinged; Danny and his romantic trials with the daughter of a mobster, a black woman, a prostitute, and Chester's second wife, Annie; and Burt's confinement to a mental institution, his abduction by aliens while being replaced with an oversexed alien look-a-like on Earth, and getting blackmailed by the Mob after becoming sheriff of their small town.
At the beginning of each episode, off-camera announcer Rod Roddy gives a brief description of the convoluted storyline and remarks, "Confused? You won't be, after this week's episode of...Soap". At the end of each episode, he asks a series of life-or-death questions in a deliberately deadpan style—"Will Jessica discover Chester's affair...? Will Benson discover Chester's affair? Will Benson care?" and concludes each episode with the trademark line, "These questions—and many others—will be answered in the next episode of...Soap."
Writer Susan Harris developed a story arc for five seasons of Soap, but the series was canceled after its fourth season, due to declining ratings. Therefore the final episode, which originally aired on April 20, 1981, did not serve as a series finale and instead ended with several unresolved cliffhangers. These involve a suicidal Chester preparing to kill Danny and Annie after catching them in bed, Burt preparing to walk into an ambush orchestrated by his political enemies, and Jessica about to be executed by a Communist firing squad.
A 1983 episode of Benson mentions Jessica's disappearance, noting the Tate family is seeking to have her declared legally dead. In the episode, Jessica appears as an apparition whom only Benson can see or hear and reveals to him that she is not dead, but in a coma somewhere in South America. No other incidents from the final episode of Soap are mentioned.
Characters and actors
- Main characters:
- Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond)—The sister of Mary Campbell and one of the two main characters of the show. She is married to Chester Tate but divorces him in the later episodes. Sweet natured and somewhat daffy, she is in denial of her husband's infidelities throughout the first season.
- Chester Tate (Robert Mandan)—A wealthy stock broker and Jessica's philandering husband. Chester and Jessica separate in season three and divorce in season four, although Chester still loves Jessica enough to duel for her honor.
- Billy Tate (Jimmy Baio)—The youngest child and only son of Jessica and Chester. He gets caught up in a cult, and later has an affair with his very young teacher. After he breaks off the affair, she makes multiple attempts to kill him and/or his family.
- Corinne Tate Flotsky (Diana Canova)—Jessica and Chester's daughter, who acknowledges she slept with most of the male population of Dunns River. It is later revealed that she is adopted and is really the daughter of Jessica's long lost brother Randolph Gatling and family maid Ingrid Svenson. Corrine gives birth to a baby named Timmy who turns out to be demon possessed, and leaves home to raise her child after Dutch chooses Eunice.
- Father Timothy Flotsky (Sal Viscuso)—A former Catholic priest who leaves the priesthood to marry Corinne Tate then later leaves Corrine.
- Eunice Tate-Leitner (Jennifer Salt)—Jessica and Chester's daughter. A spoiled social climber, Eunice dated a married Congressman in season one and then falls in love with convicted murderer Dutch Leitner and ultimately marries him.
- Dutch Leitner (Donnelly Rhodes)—an escaped convict who hides out at the Tates' after helping Chester break out of prison. He eventually marries Chester's daughter Eunice.
- The Major (Arthur Peterson, Jr.)—The father of Jessica Tate and Mary Campbell. The Major suffers from dementia and believes he is in the midst of fighting World War II.
- Mary Campbell (Cathryn Damon)—The sister of Jessica Tate and one of the two main characters of the show. At the start of the series she is married to her second husband Burt Campbell. Her first husband, Johnny Dallas, was a mobster who was killed by Burt in self-defense. Eventually, she has a baby with "alien" Burt, and by the series' end has slowly become an alcoholic, as no one else sees the baby manifesting alien-esque qualities, such as being able to fly.
- Burt Campbell (Richard Mulligan)—Burt is the second husband of Mary Campbell. Burt is a contractor who later becomes sheriff and is under consideration for a run as lieutenant governor. In Season one Burt suffers from mental illness and believes he can make himself invisible. He is also at one point abducted by aliens and replaced with X-23, an alien Burt lookalike (also played by Mulligan). At the end of season three, Burt becomes sheriff and gets involved in politics, leading him to ignore his family.
- Chuck and Bob Campbell (Jay Johnson)—Chuck is Burt Campbell's son by his first marriage. A ventriloquist, he is always accompanied by Bob, his dummy and alter ego and the pair are always referred to as "Chuck and Bob". While Chuck is mild mannered, and polite, Bob is rude and abrasive. All of the main characters with the exception of Benson and Saunders find themselves conversing with Bob as a real person multiple times, even in the face of fierce determination not to.
- Danny Dallas (Ted Wass)—Mary Campbell's hotheaded and somewhat dimwitted eldest son. It is widely assumed that he is the son of Mary's first husband Johnny Dallas but in later episodes it is revealed that his real father is Chester Tate. He is very protective of his younger half-brother Jodie, but is initially in denial about Jodie's homosexuality. Is forced to marry Elaine, a mob bosses' daughter who would be kidnapped and murdered. Danny later gets involved in a series of failed relationships, including a girlfriend of one of Elaine's kidnappers, an African American woman, a prostitute and Chester's new wife. He later becomes Burt's deputy sheriff.
- Jodie Dallas (Billy Crystal)—The son of Mary Campbell and her first husband Johnny Dallas. An openly gay man, he later fathers a daughter (Wendy) when Carol, an attorney at Aunt Jessica's murder trial, seduces him. After Carol runs off to join the rodeo, Wendy is left with Jody, triggering a custody battle and a kidnapping.The series ends with him believing himself to be an old Jewish man named Julius Kassendorf due to a failed hypnotherapy session.
- Peter Campbell (Robert Urich)—Burt Campbell's tennis pro son by his first marriage, he is carrying affairs with both Jessica and Corinne, as well as numerous other women around town. His murder in season one leads to the first season cliffhanger: the question of who killed Peter Campbell.
- Benson (Robert Guillaume)—The Tates' wisecracking butler in the early seasons, who showed utter contempt for Chester, but had a soft spot for Jessica, Corrine, and the youngest son Billy. In 1979, Benson leaves to be the head of household affairs for Jessica's cousin, Governor Eugene Gatling in the spin-off, Benson.
- Saunders (Roscoe Lee Browne)—Benson's replacement as the Tates' butler, with an attitude similar to Benson's, although with a bit more of a military background.
- Harold Gould—Barney Gerber--elderly hospital patient who shares a room with Jody in season one, and whose story gives Jody the inspiration to continue living after a suicide attempt.
- John Byner—Detective Donahue--hired by Jessica to find the missing amnesiac Chester in season two, he falls for Jessica, forcing her to choose between the two when Chester returns home.
- Bob Seagren—Dennis Phillips--A quarterback who is secretly dating Jody in season one and presumably more openly dating Jody in early season two.
- Inga Swenson—Ingrid Svenson--Corinne's biological mother, who attempts to carry out revenge upon the Tate/Campbell family by sleeping with the judge in Jessica's trial and blackmailing Sally into trying to break up Burt and Mary
- Eugene Roche—E. Ronald Mallu, Esq.--attorney who defends Jessica in her murder trial. Mallu returns in season three to represent Jody's custody case, and attempts to date the newly separated Jessica as well.
- Richard Libertini—The Godfather--orders Danny to kill Burt (the killer of Danny's father) in season one
- Gordon Jump—Chief of Police Tinkler (Routinely misidentifies himself as 'Piece of Cholief' Tinkler): Responsible for the investigation of the murder of Peter Campbell, Tinkler always seems to arrive at the Tate house in time to share their dinner. Apparently also serves as the court bailiff in Dunn's River.
- Edward Winter—Congressman Walter McCallum--secretly sees Eunice until his wife blackmails him into ending the relationship
- Charles Lane—Judge Anthony Petrillo--the judge presiding over Jessica's murder trial
- Kathryn Reynolds—Claire--Chester's secretary and mistress in season one. Chester dumps and fires her to support Jessica during the trial.
- Caroline McWilliams—Sally—Burt's secretary who attempts to seduce Burt, then lies to Mary about sleeping with him, all of which was due to blackmail pressure from Inga Swenson.
- Lynne Moody—Polly Dawson--An African American woman who is in a relationship with Danny in season three
- Marla Pennington—Leslie Walker: A school teacher who falls for Billy, but becomes suicidal and then homicidal after he breaks it off
- Candice Azzara—Millie: girlfriend of one of Elaine's kidnappers, she rescues Danny, and comes home with him, but cannot deal with the Campbell family and thus leaves.
- Jesse Welles—Gwen--a prostitute who falls for Danny in season four, but leaves him to protect them both from a death threat.
- Dinah Manoff—Elaine Lefkowitz--daughter of a mob-boss, her annoying personality makes a coerced marriage painful for Danny at first. After they fall in love, Elaine is kidnapped and killed, which fuels Danny's quest for revenge.
- Sorrell Booke—Charles Lefkowitz--Elaine's mob-boss father who threatens Danny into marrying Elaine, then cuts her off and refuses to pay the ransom
- Allan Miller—Dr. Alan Posner--Jessica's psychiatrist in season three, he briefly dates her once she is separated from Chester.
- Gregory Sierra—El Puerco (translation: The Pig)--an anti-communist revolutionary who initially kidnaps Jessica, but later falls in love with her.
- Howard Hesseman—Mr. Franklin--the prosecuting attorney in Jessica's murder trial
- Peggy Pope—Mrs. Lurleen David--Carol's mother, who takes care of Jody and Carol's baby when Carol runs away to join the rodeo. She leaves the baby with Jody, but then becomes part of the custody battle, initially lying for her daughter on the witness stand, but eventually telling the truth.
- Michael Durrell—F. Peter Haversham: ruthless attorney who represents Carol in the custody battle
- Randee Heller—Alice--a lesbian who lives with Jody in Season two, but leaves after finding out Mrs. David's reluctance to leave Jody's child with a lesbian as well as a homosexual.
- Joe Mantegna—Juan One: The second in command to El Puerco
- Rebecca Balding—Carol David, attorney & mother of Jodie's child, who leaves Jody at the altar, then leaves their baby with the mother. Carol fights for custody in season three, then is responsible for kidnapping the baby when she loses the custody case.
- Nancy Dolman—Annie Selig Tate--Former friend of Eunice, Annie becomes Chester's second wife, and soon has an affair with Danny
- Barbara Rhoades—Maggie Chandler--A private investigator who helps Jody search for his daughter and then has a relationship with him.
- Rae Allen—Judge Betty Small--presides over the Carol David/Jody Dallas custody case.
- Judith-Marie Bergan—Marilyn McCallum--Walter's wife, who blackmails Walter into ending the relationship with Eunice
- Granville Van Dusen—Dr. Hill--the doctor who diagnosis Jessica with a fatal disease at the end of season three, he falls in love with her
- Jack Gilford—Saul--thousand plus year old man who helps Burt escape from the aliens in season three
- Doris Roberts—Flo Flotsky--Tim's mother, who curses her son for leaving the priesthood to marry Corrine, then dies on their wedding night.
- Nita Talbot—Mrs. Fine--housewife who has an affair with Peter Campbell and provides crucial testimony against Jessica in the season one murder trial
- Byron Webster—Dr. Medlow--psychiatrist for Burt Campbell in season one, he attempts to assist Burt with his impotence and then his perceived invisibility
Notable one-off characters
- William Daniels—Heinrich Himmel: private investigator hired by Ingrid to investigate the murder of Peter Campbell, although he seems more interested in verbally abusing the Tates and the Campbells than in solving the murder.
- John Hillerman--Minister: serves as a marriage counselor to the Tates in season three, who spends a good part of the session discussing American Indians
- Robert Englund--Brainwasher: follower working in the Rev. Sun cult attempting to brainwash Billy
The show was controversial during its time, often generating criticism for its relatively frank depictions of homosexuals, racial and ethnic minorities, the mentally ill as well as its treatment of other taboo topics such as social class, marital infidelity, impotence, incest, sexual harassment, rape, student-teacher sexual relationships, kidnapping, organized crime, and new age cults.
Much of the criticism focused on the openly gay character of Jodie Dallas (Billy Crystal). Soap was among the earliest American prime time series to include an openly gay character who was a major part of the series. Social conservatives opposed the character on religious grounds, while some gay rights activists were also upset with the character of Jodie, arguing that certain story developments reinforced negative stereotypes, i.e. his desire to have a sex change operation, or represented a desire to change or downplay his sexual orientation.
A number of organizations then mobilized against Soap, including the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the International Union of Gay Athletes, and the National Gay Task Force. Also mobilized were the National Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, and the National Council of Catholic Bishops, although they asked the members of their 138,000 collective churches to watch the show first, and then inform ABC of their feelings about it. Nonetheless, the network reportedly received 32,000 letters of complaint before the show's premiere, and eight out of 195 ABC affiliates refused to air the show.
Much of Soap's controversy, among liberals and conservatives alike, ironically actually helped to sell the series. In June of 1977, a Newsweek review of the show's pilot by Harry F. Waters panned the show while mischaracterizing some of its basic plot elements and offering exaggerated reports of its sexual content. Waters also stated:
- Soap promises to be the most controversial network series of the coming season, a show so saturated with sex that it could replace violence as the PTA's Video Enemy No. 1."
Whether Waters' errors and misrepresentations were intentional or accidental is unresolved.
On Tuesday, September 13, 1977, Soap premiered to an audience of 19 million homes (39% of the national audience). Executives at ABC described initial public reaction as "mild."
Vlasic Foods pulled their sponsorship of the program shortly after the episode aired.
Harry F. Waters' 1977 review proved prescient of conservative reaction when the following year, the National PTA declared Soap one of "ten worst" shows in television. In spite of this designation, Soap went on to garner positive critical reviews and high ratings over its four year run.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released all four seasons of Soap on DVD in Region 1. Season 1 has been released on DVD in Region 2 in Norway (as Forviklingar), in Sweden (as Lödder) and in Spain (as Enredo). Season 1 has also been released in the UK, while season 1 and 2 have been released in Australia (Region 4).
DVD Name Ep # Region 1 Region 2 (Norway, Sweden, Spain) The Complete First Season 25 September 16, 2003 February 25, 2009 The Complete Second Season 23 July 20, 2004 The Complete Third Season 22 January 25, 2005 The Complete Fourth Season 25 October 11, 2005 The Complete Series 95 June 10, 2008
- ^ "Golden Girls' Creator Adds Shows". LA Times. September 10, 1991. http://articles.latimes.com/1991-09-10/entertainment/ca-2286_1_golden-girls. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
- ^ Poniewozik, James (2007). "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME". Time (Time.com). http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1651341_1659192_1652529,00.html. Retrieved March 4, 2010.
- ^ amazon.com
- '^ Jay Sharbutt, AP Television Writer, ABC Slipping on 'Soap Ocala Star-Banner—Jul 18, 1977
- ^ 10 Sexual Controversies That Changed TV : p.2 (Item 4: Soap).
- ^ Dennis Ayers (October 12, 2007). "Billy Crystal's place in gay pop culture history". AfterElton.com.
- ^ Harry F. Waters (June 13, 1977). "99 and 44/100% Impure". Newsweek 90 (3): 92.
- Main characters:
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