Soap, the complete series



The only problem I have with the “complete series” of “Soap” is that it’s not the complete series. They didn’t include the 90-minute recap episodes that preceded each new season. They were mostly flashbacks, but there was a loose storyline that led into each clip.

Between seasons 1 and 2, it took place in prison following a murder conviction. Between seasons 2 and 3, it took place in the Tate house, with Jessica and Benson re-arranging the furniture. And–the most important one–between seasons 3 and 4, it took place in heaven, with Bea Arthur playing God.

Without those, it’s not truly “complete.”

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That’s true, and that’s not the only material missing from the “complete series” on DVD, I’m afraid. Every version I’ve seen so far features the “syndication” versions of the episodes rather than the broadcast ones - this means that several minutes are missing from many of those episodes. (You can actually pick up the complete episodes AND some of the recap shows on the VHS tapes Columbia House put out several years ago - these go pretty cheap on Amazon.)

Incidentally, while most of the 90-minute recap episodes could be skipped, two of them actually offered plot details not included in the regular ones – Jessica’s famous trip to heaven, and the moment when Benson and Jessica say goodbye - pivotal moments for Soap fans.
-A.S. Berman, author of “Soap! The [Unauthorized] Inside Story of the Sitcom that Broke all the Rules.”


Show creator Susan Harris was a groundbreaker even before then. Her stories in the series “Love, American Style” usually had some weird little approach that other writers either didn’t think of or were too afraid to put on the screen.
Tina Fey’s precursor.


this is the same problem i have with the recent release of the “complete” WKRP. they did their best, but they just couldn’t secure licensing for ALL the music that was used originally. they got most of it, which is fantastic, but it’s not really complete. this is why i’m sticking with my bootleg of the series i bought off ebay years ago. someone smartly had them all as they originally aired saved on VHS, so they just edited out the commercials, transferred them to disc and are now making a nice profit, i’m sure.

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It’s also worth noting that Mill Creek are reissuing the DVDs at the moment. Season 1 & 2 were released in September 2014 (now selling for $7.79 at Amazon). I’d expect Season 3 & 4 no later than September this year.

Y’know, there WAS a parody of Soap (actually, it was a parody of both Soap and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman).

Note: don’t google for it if you’re at work. Rule 34, eh.


Soap was tepid pablum at best. The original, and best daytime soap parody was Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman! For one thing, it actually ran like a soap - no audience providing a laugh track, and broadcast 5 days a week. It was also funnier and more groundbreaking that Soap ever thought to be.

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Were the two related in some way? Or just the same year? You’re right, Mary Hartman was so much subtler. And what about Fernwood Tonight?

Soap. Eh, amusing. But I dare ya, I double dare ya to get really stoned and binge-watch “Mary Hartman!, Mary Hartman!” Just see what that does to your puny brain.

Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman! started in 1976. It ran in syndication 5 days a week, over mostly independent stations. Soap was ABC’s knock-off, which ran in prime time, once a week, and started a year later. They made about 23 episodes a season, compared to around 170 a season for MH2. Soap was shot like an ordinary sit-com, with an audience and laugh track, whereas MH2 was shot like the other soaps of the time, The Soap producers didn’t really understand the genre they were attempting to parody, and thought it would suffice to just make it raunchy (for the time), and add some controversy by tossing in a gay character.

When Louise Lasser left the series, the show continued as Forever Fernwood focusing on the other characters in the show, especially Mary Kay Place’s country singer Loretta Haggers . After that ended, the show morphed into the talk-show parody Fernwood 2-night, in the spirit of the Tomorrow Show, with Martin Mull as the host. As this was still set in the Fernwood universe, and Mull had already played a character, Garth Gimble, who had died, he instead played his twin brother Barth Gimble.

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Martin Mull still mines this terrority, except as a painter. I LOVE his paintings.

Coincidentally, I just rewatched the entire series a few months ago. Still amazing. Katherine Helmond does some genius-level work, as does Richard Mulligan. The rest of the cast is mostly excellent as well, and a lot of the comedy holds up beautifully. Soap really found a line between balls-out funny and a deep well of sadness that permeates the characters.

As others have noted, some material is missing that I actually remember from the original run, such as Helmond’s father (The Major) interacting with his dead, stuffed dog. Only a tiny amount of that remains in the available DVDs. Oh well.

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One of the funniest things is that pretty much all of the ridiculous situations in Soap, up to and including alien abduction, subsequently featured in one or more of the “serious” soaps like Dallas,Dynasty etc.

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Exactly. Probably the most famous example of this was the “Who Shot Peter Campbell” storyline, which predated Dallas’ “Who Shot JR.” According to Soap creator Susan Harris, Soap was never actually meant to be a parody of the genre itself, but only borrowed its model of having continuing stories.

All of the other “out there” Soap plots were actually riffs on movies of the day more than soaps: Close Encounters (the aliens), the Devil Baby (The Omen), Kramer vs. Kramer (Jodie and his ex fighting in court over their baby). Even Chuck and Bob – the ventriloquist and his puppet – were originally modeled after the 1976 novel Magic (later turned into the 1978 horror movie of the same name starring Anthony Hopkins).

To this day… the scene with Chuck and Bob doing a blindfold act while Burt and Danny watch in disbelief is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. For me it is on par with “As god is my witness…” from Mr. Carlson.

I didn’t remember that. We had an independent station in DC, in those days. Remember independent TV? I suppose the internet is bringing it back, in a way.

Here’s that scene - brilliant!


Thanks Aaron… yup, I’ve watched that clip many times over the years and played it for people who have no idea what “Soap” was to share the majesty that is ChuckBobBurtDanny.