Burt and Burt: One of Soap’s Best Scenes

One of the joys of revisiting Soap for this book is finding those gems that really make the series as memorable as it is.

I don’t think it would be completely out of line to say that Season 3 came out of the gate struggling a fair amount. Yet with 3.8 the season finally found its feet again and came back swinging; it would contribute one of the finest scenes of the series.

Starting at the 3:56 time code in the clip above, we get Burt explaining to his alien double why he desperately wants his life back. It remains one of the most powerful scenes not just in Soap history, but in the history of American television.

(Compare Burt’s key line with the transcription below to see how crucial both the words and Richard Mulligan’s acting were to the success of this scene.)

Burt: Wait a minute here, wait, you don’t understand. You don’t know what it’s like here. But you see you spend most of your life here struggling to make money, to get along with people, to fall in love and make it good, to give your kids the best you can, and years go by while you do this pally, years! Then one day you wake up and you realize whoah, I’ve arrived. Business is good. My wife and I still love each other. The kids are alive and not on drugs. Now you can enjoy it all, no more struggle. Except then you realize you haven’t gotta lot of time. Well now I’ve been through the struggle and I don’t know how much time I’ve got left, but I do know one thing: I didn’t come this far to give up. Now give me back my life. I’m entitled!



13 comments on “Burt and Burt: One of Soap’s Best Scenes

  1. Great scene showcasing how the series impeccably straddled the comical and the dramatic. How could Alien Burt do anything but give in after hearing that?

  2. CLASSIC! Richard Mulligan was wonderful in this scene no wonder he won 2 EMMY’s!

    I have a question about the book. I was re-watching SOAP again and remembered that Season #4 aka The FINAL season the show wasn’t “Taped before a studio audience.” Will you cover why this happened? I can’t wait for this book!

    • Hi Becky. To the best of my knowledge, all four seasons were taped in front of an audience (technically two audiences per episode), but I will double check with some of the folks.

  3. My favorite Soap moment of all. He is, no pun intended, stellar in both parts and the speech is so powerful. Do you know which episode he submitted for the Emmys that year? I always assumed it was this one that got it for him.

    I’ll be interested to hear more when I read the book, as I didn’t think the third season showed signs of fatigue until the end.

    • Hi Lee. Certainly these things come down to personal tastes, etc., but to me the season was something of a roller coaster of lesser and greater episodes, and may have simply been down to what was going on behind the scenes. Longtime director Jay Sandrich was preparing to leave, and Susan Harris and Stu Silver were still finding their legs as a writing partnership. That said, I think that once it hit its stride again, we received some of the best Soap scenes of the series.

  4. Hello, Aaron. I checked a Season #4 episode of SOAP recently. I looked through the credits.

    Rod Roddy didn’t say “SOAP was filmed before a studio audience.” like it was usually done with previous episodes.I also checked to see if just like Season #1 it was listed at the very end of the credits BEFORE the Columbia [Now Sony] logo[s] it wasn’t there. The only I did see was that SOAP was filmed at one of ABC’s studios.

    Thank You for taking the time to read my posts. I can’t wait to read your book. Do you have an idea of when it will be coming out?

    • Most likely, the absence of the “taped before a live audience” tag shouldn’t be taken to mean that this was not the case for a particular episode or season; rather, they probably just decided to drop the reference altogether. It helps to understand the taping process for Soap.

      Each episode was taped on a Friday. From 5-6 pm they did their dress rehearsal, which was taped in front of a studio audience. From 6:30-7:30 the cast, writers and producers would go to dinner, where the producers gave the players notes on what worked, what didn’t, and often rewrote dialogue to get bigger laughs. The cast would then have to learn these new lines and make these adjustments for the second performance at 8. That performance would then be taped before a different studio audience. At the end, the video editor, director and one of the producers would edit the episode, pulling the best performances from the two tapings. (In other words, if a scene in the dress rehearsal worked better or got a better laugh, they would use that scene.)

      Hope that sheds some light on the process 🙂

  5. I agree that some of the third season was not as strong as the best of the series. The show failed to garner an Emmy nod for Outstanding Comedy Series in its second season, but then got bods for seasons three and four.

  6. And unless I’m very much mistaken, I believe that Richard Mulligan and Cathryn Damon didn’t even get to collect their Emmys in person because it was during the SAG boycott of the awards.

  7. Typos seemingly follow me wherever I post- of course, I meant “nods” and not “bods.” 🙂

    Lee, I recall Richard’s speech; I don’t think it’s online though, as a refresher, dangit.

    • I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect of her being a wonderful partner and then holding the award toward heaven and calling her “Toots” one last time.

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