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“Soap,” The Story of an All American Dysfunctional Family

Entertainment | January 16, 2018

Hollywood: In the second episode of Soap to be aired Sept. 20, Chester Tate (Robert Mandan) and Burt Campbell (Richard Mulligan) engage in a food-throwing fiasco. (Getty Images)

There is no denying that every family in the world, no matter what economic, religious or ethnic background, has that “one” relative. You know the one! That special relative is the one everyone can usually count on to do or say the wrong thing at the wrong time; at times causing huge problems and/or embarrassment. No matter though, because you love them just the same. Let’s face it, you can’t pick your family.

The family on the sitcom, Soap, was quite possibly an exception to this rule. Not because they didn’t have that, “one” relative, but because they were ALL that relative. If you have ever watched this show and remember the family dynamic, you probably felt much better about your own. The family unit, itself, was the epitome of dysfunctional but so were all of their other relationships; including with their friends/acquaintances and in-laws.

Soap was intended to be a spoof on popular daytime soap operas. Traditional soap operas are programs that center around a certain group of people, usually families. Without fail, there is always some tragedy and ongoing drama playing out. It would be unnatural for a soap opera episode not to end in a cliffhanger. That is how people get hooked. Curiosity kept audiences coming back for more because they just have to know what is going to happen.  

Soap was no different. Week after week, audiences tuned in to see what crazy thing would happen next.  The Tate and the Campbell families never disappointed. The program first aired in 1977 and was an instant hit. It was awesome, and viewers delighted in watching the family muddle through their privileged but tormented lives. That, and it was just hilarious! 

Writers continued to outdo themselves keeping the drama going. Just when you thought it couldn’t have gotten any crazier… it did! Jessica Tate and Mary Campbell were sisters, which is what brought the families together. That is quite possibly the only thing that might be considered normal about the entire show.

The show ran the gamut of unfortunate and bizarre characters and situations and nothing was even remotely foreseeable. Scenarios in Soap included murder, alien abduction, mobsters in training, permanent guilt induced impotence, amnesia, an openly gay son dating a secretly gay quarterback, an adopted daughter dating a Catholic Priest, overseas imprisonment, a ventriloquist son who lashes out at the family using his “dummy”, Bob, and the list goes on and on. A simple extramarital affair may have been a welcome change of pace for the family.  

The writers of Soap were extremely talented but couldn’t have pulled it off without the stellar cast. They played off each other and never missed a beat. They almost had us believing that all of these terrible afflictions could have plagued this poor family. Also, each character, flaws and all, was lovable. Although some of the characters were just plain terrible people, it was so hard to hate them!

Each episode began with a narrator recounting a brief description of the last episode and the question/statement, “Confused? You won’t be after this week’s episode of, Soap”. Each episode ended with a series of questions about what had just taken place. Next, the narrator would say, “These questions, and many others will be answered in the next episode of, Soap”.

The cast of Soap included Robert Urich, Ted Wass, Richard Mulligan, Robert Guillaume, Robert Mandan, Jimmy Baio, Diana Canova, Arthur Peterson, Jr., Billy Crystal, Cathryn Damon, Katherine Helmond and Jennifer Salt.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.