‘Soap’ Reunion on The Hallmark Channel

benson_reunion(Click photo for TV segment link)

While it’s great to see Jay Johnson’s photos from today’s honoring of Robert Guillaume on Hallmark’s Home and Family show, Jay’s thoughts on it all are exactly what we’ve come to expect from his Internet soap (Soap?) box: an honest reflection on whatever subject he’s decided to turn his mind to.

I’ve frequently said here (and in the Soap book) that Jay Johnson gives the impression of being the smartest guy in the room, and his post here only underscores that. There’s a certain tension that exists when you have someone who is both self-aware and aware of the ridiculousness of his surroundings, and that person has a career in Hollywood.

Honestly, the only other person I can think of who had these qualities was Douglas Adams. His Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy might’ve told us “Don’t Panic”; I think Jay would probably say “You probably should panic, but really, what’s the point?”

‘Soap’ Reunion Turns 25

reunion_museumThanks to Soap super fan Jeff K. for pointing out that the insightful Soap reunion sponsored by the Museum of Broadcasting took place March 22, 1990 – 25 years ago yesterday.

It’s been a quarter of a century today (March 22nd) since the gang came together and filming it became one of my treasures. I’ve just watched it for the anniversary. Diana Canova’s “6 year old son” is in his 30’s, older than I was when I filmed it. R. I. P. Caroline McWilliams, Arthur Peterson & Richard Mulligan (I guess a pretty good average for 25 years).

This is also probably a good time to remind people that Jeff went to considerable trouble to transcribe the Soap reunion that he attended (and taped) back in 1990. You can find the complete transcript right here.

It occurs to me today that all I did was write one book about this influential series – it’s Jeff and people like him who did the really valuable work of preserving these bits and pieces over the years. Thanks to one and all who have done us all that great service.

A Year Ago…

Soap the Inside Story of the Sitcom that broke all the rules…well, a year ago yesterday was the day Soap: The [Unauthorized[ Inside Story of the Sitcom that Broke all the Rules had its official debut at Book Soup in Los Angeles.

Such a wonderful few days Pamela and I spent there meeting people I already felt I knew, both from Soap itself and from the fan community.

A year on I’m still very grateful to Book Soup’s Amelia Cone, super fan Jeff K. and everyone who came out to the launch, as well as Soap‘s Sal Viscuso, Marsha Posner Williams, Jay Johnson, Robert Mandan, Jay Sandrich and Katherine Helmond for their help, hospitality, and kind words and deeds. (More on the original event here.)

Happy Birthday, Robert Mandan

mandan_largeHead on over to Jay Johnson’s blog for his warm birthday tribute to the actor behind Chester Tate, and the man who’s been in “a gillion” films. As for Jay’s sign-off:

“Happy Birthday, Mr. Mandan. We shall celebrate with a bottle of “HOOP DE HAH”

Soap fans will recall that Hoop De Hah was the brand of booze Hobo Chester was drinking while suffering from amnesia following his suicide attempt. (Don’t you miss those great Soap storylines?)

If memory serves, Jay actually designed a label for the hootch and gave Bob Mandan a bottle that he still had the last time we spoke. They really were (and are) a wonderful family.

Edward Herrmann Interview Download

herrmann_intHi all. With last week’s passing of beloved actor Edward Herrmann, I put together the complete interview I conducted with him for The Gilmore Girls Companion back in 2009. (He graciously wrote the foreword to that book.)

It occurred to me that many Soap lovers might also be fans of his work considering the wide range of programs and films he appeared in over the years.

When I went back through my notes I discovered that the interview ran to 40 typed pages in all, so it seemed best to make it available as a PDF rather than online.

I apologize for the design quality of the document itself; Pamela is up to her eyeballs in deadlines right now so I had a go at putting it together myself. She’s the designer, I’m the writer, and unfortunately I’m afraid that shows.

That said, I wanted to get this text out there sooner rather than later.

A word here on the process: I sent him a few sample questions before we actually spoke by phone for the first time. I recorded the conversation, transcribed it, and sent the transcript to him to make any corrections or clarifications he deemed fit. That corrected text is what you’ll find in this PDF.

More than anything else, I really wanted people who never had the opportunity to meet him to see how he spoke and his thought process.

He was a rare individual, and greatly missed.


PS – As a fellow old-time radio fan, I wanted to include a few quick links to the shows and personalities Mr. Herrmann references in the interview. For those interested in hearing the programs first hand, there are many free podcasts available – just search for “old time radio” or “otr” in your favorite podcatcher or in iTunes.

Fred Allen

Jack Benny

Bob & Ray

Sal Viscuso TV Interview

sal_wcco_2Sal Viscuso (Soap’s Father Tim) is finally getting some long overdue recognition for his dramatic work in the gripping two-hander A Steady Rain. Currently being staged at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theatre until Nov. 2, the production is technically touring, so could pop up in your town soon. If it does, don’t miss it. Here he is chatting with Minneapolis’ local CBS affiliate yesterday. A force of nature is our Sal.

‘Soap’ Book Reviews

Hi gang. I know it’s been a while, but I wanted to thank a couple of folks for the kind words they’ve written about the Soap book. I really do appreciate all the love that’s been sent its way, and I’m chuffed to bits when I come across such reviews.

  • Rod Lott over at the aptly-named site Bookgasm is very kind indeed – had to smile at his description of another of my books: “the criminally under-read The New Horror Handbook.”If only that was a criminal offense, Rod ;-)
  • Pavan’s writeup on SitcomsOnline.com was a great surprise as well, timed as it was to coincide with Soap’s (pause as Aaron tries to do the math) anniversary.

Thank you so much, guys – all greatly appreciated.


A Poignant Jay Johnson Story

In the age of social media there’s a new instinct that attends the passing of any great public figure, particularly those we’ve always looked upon fondly – a bracing for a tidal wave of the banal, empty-headed wittering of the masses. Many simply mourn the deceased with a few kind words and some nostalgic recollections; many others use the opportunity to badmouth the person and their works.

Which was why it was so lovely to read Jay Johnson’s story about his (near) encounter with Robin Williams; that it is also a tale about his audition for Soap is merely icing on the cake. If like many you’re looking for a little smile to temper the grief over the great man’s passing, spare a few minutes to read Jay’s story here.