Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Classic TV (?): Soap (1977)

Soap operas were ripe for parody long before Soap hit the air in 1977. While ABC courted controversy from the go because of the content, such that a number of affiliates refused to air the series, those narrow-minded folks, especially in the South, could be accused of practicing hypocrisy, since they weren't complaining about daytime soaps, which this sitcom was parodying.

As it was, Soap lasted 5 seasons as part of ABC's powerhouse Tuesday sitcom block, and helped create a number of new stars, including Billy Crystal, who'd starred in the movie, "Rabbit Test", ventriloquist Jay Johnson, Katherine Helmond, Ted Wass, and, most importantly, Robert Guillaume, whose Benson was so popular, he was spun off into his own series after the first 2 seasons, resulting in veteran character actor Roscoe Lee Browne being brought in after Benson hit the air.

Johnson, meanwhile, moonlighted during season 3 as host of the short-lived game show, Celebrity Charades, which raised his profile. Post-Soap, Johnson landed one more series gig, in the crime drama, Broken Badges. Helmond moved on to another hit, Who's The Boss?, and, well, as for Billy Crystal, he moved on to Saturday Night Live, where he introduced viewers to a self-serving talk show host named Fernando, and, then, a string of hit movies, including "Running Scared", "City Slickers", "When Harry Met Sally", and "Analyze This".

Announcer Rod Roddy nearly didn't land the gig. The story is that the producers approached radio icon Casey Kasem, who turned them down after seeing a script. I guess the content offended him. Listen to Roddy's narration, and you can picture Casey reading those same lines with almost the same inflection. Roddy would go on to work a number of game shows, including Price Is Right, and even dabbled in cartoons (Disney's House of Mouse) before he passed away a few years back.

Here's a sample open:

Rating: B-.


magicdog said...

Technically I can understand the Southern affiliates being upset - much of the shenanigans on Soap were occurring in primetime, aka The Family Hour. Soaps at least were broadcast during the day while the kiddies were in school.

I caught most of the Soap episodes when it hit syndication - and it was pretty darn funny! Billy Crystal became a household name with this show and he never looked back!

Jay Johnson I also remember - how could one not remember dummy, Bob?? I remember he hosted a game show but it was called, "So You Think YOU Have Troubles?". Essentially real people would go on the show needing advice for a unique problem of one sort or other. Jay and Bob would make jokes and take advice from the audience voting I think.

Never knew Kasem was offered the role of introductory narrator! Don't know why he turned it down, but Rod Roddy was perfect.

hobbyfan said...

"So You Think YOU Have Troubles?"? I will have to look that up. I remember Jay & Squeaky (Bob's real name) on Celebrity Charades, but I don't remember "Troubles".

The only soap I watched when I was in high school was, of course, General Hospital, during the Luke & Laura peak era. Not that I wanted to, but for a while, we only had 1 set in the house.