The ‘Soap’ Compilation Episodes


A hearty thanks once again to Jeff Krueger for the Soap care package he sent me. In addition to the wonderful contemporary clippings about the show, he also sent some video goodies, including the “best of,” or compilation, episodes for each season.

I must admit I’d never before seen these, though I’d seen the VHS copies floating around. Now having seen the ones that ran before Seasons 2, 3 and 4 thanks to Jeff’s generosity, I must say they are strangely puzzling.

What They Are

The idea, of course, was to offer a 1-hour-and-15-minute or so “best of” episode that would easily catch viewers up on what happened the previous season. For example, the best known of the compilations — “Jessica’s Wonderful Life” — originally ran before the start of Season 4 to cover everything that happened in Season 3. (This may also explain why Sony chose not to release the compilations on DVD, the rationale being that if people have access to reasonably priced boxed sets, they have no need to be “caught up.”)

A typical compilation episode will begin with a wraparound story, such as Jessica finding herself at the entrance to heaven in the Season 3 compilation that preceded Season 4 (henceforth known as episode 4.0 to avoid further confusion). The characters in the newly-shot wraparound story will then mention things about the Tates and the Campbells that set up the airing of several clips in a row. If Jessica mentions the problems Burt has had in the last season, for example, we are then treated to various over-the-top scenes of Burt doing crazy things.

Why So Puzzling?

Perhaps it’s unfair to judge the compilations by their wraparound stories alone, but that is what I found myself doing when watching them for the first time. Granted, these episodes had to be written and produced extremely quickly, but it’s hard not to feel a little let down by their contents.

2.0 (Season 1 Wrapup). Burt visits Jessica in jail to let her know that he’s still hunting for Peter’s real killer. Together they go through all the Tates and Campbells, eliminating them from the suspect list one by one. More than anything, this episode reveals that as phenomenal actors as Mulligan and Helmond are, they still need decent material to work with, something utterly lacking here. The least interesting of the three compilation episodes.

3.0 (Season 2 Wrapup). Normally the problem with these  compilation episodes is a lack of interesting new material and unimpressive writing for the wraparound story. This time around, we actually have the opposite problem, with our being told here that Benson is going to work at the governor’s mansion. Jessica, putting off the inevitable parting with Benson, asks him to help her rearrange the furniture in the Tate living room. While they’re doing this, they run through what’s been going on during Season 2. To those who missed this episode, and the Benson pilot, it would appear that Benson simply leaves the Tates after the devil baby fiasco with no explanation. The final scene should’ve definitely been included in the regular run of the series. The last few moments between Jessica and Benson and the bittersweet way he comes up with to avoid a long, drawn out goodbye are utterly heartbreaking.

4.0 (Season 3 Wrapup). This, the compilation that had the greatest chance to succeed, utterly fails to deliver. While the first few minutes of seeing Jessica in heaven’s waiting room are worth watching for the fascinatingly simple set and image of various dead souls walking around, you can’t help but spend the 1 hour and 15 minutes mourning what might have been. Whether it’s the weakness of the writing or the possibility that Bea Arthur was miscast as the angel Rosemary, it’s hard to say. The irony is that Soap wrings more laughs out of one line Jessica delivers in episode 4.1 about her heavenly experiences than are present in all of this episode. (“Anyway Mary, when I was in heaven, I saw mother and she told me to tell you you’re wearing too much eyeliner.”)

Thanks again to Jeff for allowing me to see these for myself 🙂

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42 comments on “The ‘Soap’ Compilation Episodes

  1. I can’t believe you have the second SOAP catch up special with Jessica and Benson. I’ve heard about this special for years, and I know people on Soap message boards have been trying to find this treasure for years. You are so lucky!

  2. I agree with Kyle is there a way for you to let us see these specials?

    I confess I bought the FIRST 2 VHS specials a couple of years ago on E-bay for a great price but the other special is the one I’m dying to see now. I also bought the entire series on VHS [Another wonderful E-bay purchase] and let me tell you the rumors about cut scenes are TRUE!

  3. The cut scenes have to do with a mix up at Sony — apparently they got hold of syndicated episodes rather than the originals.

    Letting people “see” the specials is an obvious problem because of rights issues, but again, let me see what we can come up with.

  4. It is details such as this that make many out there (including some involved in the show’s making) feel as though Soap has been treated rather shabbily over the years, unfortunately.

    • That’s really interesting, Becky. This is the first time I’ve heard of that first recap show. This is what that posting says, everybody:

      “The first “lost” episode occurred mid-way through Soap’s first season after Peter Campbell (Robert Urich) was murdered. In this one-hour special, Jessica (Katherine Helmond) and Benson (Robert Guillaume) recapped all the murder suspects among the Tate and Campbell families using clips from the first 13 episodes.”

      Anybody else heard of this one?

    • Not at all, Becky — I must have put it badly. What I meant was the way that Soap has been sliced and diced over the years has made some fans and a few of the people who made it feel that it hasn’t been treated with the respect that it deserves by the companies that have released it on video.

  5. That second special is the rarest of the rare…I always wondered why they skipped it on VHS. Is the goodbye between Jessica and Benson very different from the one after he rescues Billy?

  6. And so another quest begins….

    The goodbye in the recap is mostly notable because Jessica actually says right off to Benson “I mean running the governor’s mansion – that’s a wonderful opportunity for you. And they need you. I mean they are a bunch of loons.”

    Unless I’ve forgotten something, I don’t believe we ever hear where Benson is going in the series proper, just that he’s leaving. This is a crucial piece of information because otherwise we assume the devil-baby incident pretty much drove him away. (Oddly, the recap doesn’t mention that the governor in question is related to Jessica.)

  7. In the subsequent regular episode goodbye scene, Benson refers to “taking that job at the governor’s mansion” and Jessica says “that side of the family” has real problems.

    Between the recap special, the regular episode, and the early Benson episode featuring Katherine Helmond, the two of them sure said a lot of goodbyes in the fall of 1979!

  8. Ah yes, in 3.3:

    “Benson: Um, you know, I didn’t take that job at the governor’s mansion because I’m unhappy here.

    Jessica: Oh Benson, I know that. I mean my goodness, running the governor’s mansion is a wonderful opportunity for you, and they need you. I mean this side of the family has a minor snafu once in a while, but they have problems.

    Benson: I’m glad you understand.

    Jessica: That always was the screwy side of the family, the Gatlins. Very screwy and very rich. You know my great great great grandfather? He made a killing in haberdashery. He invented those tall hats that the pilgrims wore.”
    ————————————————————————————————————-

    For the record, here’s Benson’s goodbye from the recap show:

    “Benson: We both know how much we love each other so we don’t have to say it and start crying. What we’re going to do instead is play a game.

    Jessica: A game?

    Benson: Hide and seek. Remember hide and go seek?

    Jessica: Oh yes that was my favorite game.

    Benson: Well that’s what we’re going to do. You go around and sit down and close your eyes and count to a hundred. While you’re counting to a hundred, I’ll go. The only difference is when you open your eyes I won’t be hiding, I’ll be gone.

    Jessica: Benson, I—

    Benson: Mrs. Tate, please…

    Jessica: OK. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – goodbye Benson – 8, 9, 10, 11-

    Benson: Goodbye, Mrs. Tate.

    Jessica: 12, 13, 14… [opens her eyes, looks miserably at the door he’s just closed behind him, then continues counting].”

  9. I think only Episode 16 and 17 of Season 1 are the syndicated rerun versions (2 minutes shorter) on the DVDs. Season 2 and 3 are complete. Season 4, they are the complete scenes. Basically, the last 10 episodes of Season 4 were shown in the hour format, and when they used the hour format they had less commercial time than in half hour. So those hour versions (which are on the Columbia House VHS sets) have a different scene arrangement. Plus there’s an extra “lost” scene in every hour (which I guess would be 5 lost scenes?) So the Season 4 DVDs are not as they were originally broadcast but they are the full scenes.
    As far as cut “songs”, that is only on the first season DVD set as well. In Episode 2 Jodie begins the scene where he’s in the dress singing, “There’s nothing like a dame”. Also in that episode, the steam room scene ends with the Godfather singing. And in Episode 16 the scene with the German detective at the Campbells starts with Bob singing “I Talk to the Trees” (so Episode 16 gets it the worst; it’s both a syndicated rerun version and they cut Bob’s song). But overall, the DVD sets are not as cut up as people think.

    • I meant to say, those songs I listed were cut from the DVDs. But they did keep a lot of singing too (Jodie singing, “Oh what a beautiful morning” in the first ep; Chester singing as Marlene Dietrich; Jessica singing in the tape recorder at the end of Season 3). I guess it’s just the wacky world of song rights.

    • Thank you for committing these changes to the blog, Jeff. Considering how Season 4 was taped (scenes were shot out of order), I would suggest that there really isn’t a proper way for them to be arranged, though I know many would prefer to see them as originally broadcast.

      I find the fact that they cut “I Talk to the Trees” from the episode funny because The Smothers Brothers do a wonderful send up of that song. (My understanding is that you don’t need the rights if you’re going to do a parody of a song.)

  10. I have the season 1 and 3 recap episodes (via the VHS releases). Aaron, it would be great if you could figure out a way for us to see the Season 2 recap (Benson/Jessica). 🙂

    I enjoyed the Jessica/Bea Arthur exchanges, but I agree that the material wasn’t the greatest for the first recap show (Burt/Jessica- I never saw the midseason recap one)..

    (BTW- in the 3.0 paragraph, you wrote: “they run through what’s been going on during Season 3”- make that Season 2. 🙂

    • We’ll see what we can come up with. We might have to consider going back to the old days of video and saying send us something to record it on and the postage and we’ll send it to you, but honestly I think that will have to wait until after this book has gone to press, as every spare moment is taken right now trying to complete it. (Unless someone wants to volunteer to do the honors.) I must admit that I missed out on the old VHS trading days myself, but every time it comes up, I always hear nostalgic stories about them.

      And oops, you’re right on that sentence — will change now. Thanks for catching that 🙂

  11. Jeff K, everything you posted about Season #1 was in the article I posted. However, you left out the fact that Season #1 episode #19 didn’t have the SOAP recap at the beginning of the episode.

    I checked my VHS and DVD copies and it’s missing. Season #4 didn’t have OPENING recaps either after the Season Premiere episode[s]. I checked on that too and it was also stated in some DVD reviews at Amazon.com.

    • By the way, Becky, can you shoot me an email at asberman813 (at) gmail.com? I think I may have an answer about the recap show you said you wanted to see.

  12. Fascinating facts! The first 90 minute recap special is odd in another way. The season finale ends with Jessica being taken out of the courtroom, and the season 2 premiere starts with the whole family entering the Tate mansion. So there wasn’t any time for Burt to visit Jessica in jail! Also, Danny’s hairdo changes 🙂

  13. Admittedly these specials play holy heck with continuity. But how wonderful that we’re even having conversations about continuity regarding a sitcom 🙂

    • I think the continuity issue arose from having to create moments that could fit between the previous season finale and the new season premiere, while also being completely expendable for syndication purposes. (No need to run lengthy clip shows to catch people up from yesterday.)

      It’s interesting to note that current series are so often serialized, dramas especially but also comedies, and yet none of them bother with recap specials. It may be another reason ratings have eroded; if you don’t catch a series from the beginning, it’s very hard to catch up with what happened.

      • Regarding continuity, what’s interesting in one of the clip shows — I believe it’s the one where Jessica and Benson are rearranging furniture — is that at a couple of points Roddy chimes in with “what Jessica and Benson don’t know is,” followed by a scene (eg, Billy being imprisoned by Rev. Sun) that we’ve seen but those two are unaware of.

        I think the reason they don’t do recaps with shows today is because of the prevalence of DVD and online releases and reruns. At this point I must admit that I haven’t watched a new TV show in many years, but at least with show such as Gilmore Girls, they would have a 10-second or so recap at the beginning of episodes showing previous scenes that set up what happens in that episode. Do they not still do this?

      • They do; in fact, they are often as long as a full minute or even two for some more complexly plotted shows. But no ninety-minute retrospective clip shows anymore. You’re probably right about online showings and DVDs, as well as easily available plot summaries. I still like the Soap ones, though.

  14. Yes, Lee, perhaps part of the appeal of those recap shows is the nostalgia factor. Maybe not a simpler time, but it does hold some nice memories.

  15. To be honest, I think the “Soap” clip shows were unique. I can’t think of another show that would start each season with a special recapping the previous season. Shows have had clip shows but nothing like that. I remember I was more excited about the clip shows then the regular episodes because it was the best stuff all in one sitting (and 90 minutes instead of a half hour). Back in the days when the only way to watch something was when it was broadcast.

  16. Kyle, your offer is much appreciated. I think it’s time to make a separate blog post on this and brainstorm a bit. There are some obvious copyright issues involved here, and I’m sure the last thing that any of us wants to do is violate those. There are, however, some reasonable “fair use” solutions to this. Let me have a think on it, and watch this blog over the next few days.

    • Just to be clear, the one you’ve been looking for is the one that is a wrapup of Season 2? (Jessica and Benson saying their goodbyes?)

  17. I guess I missed this when it was first posted. I’ve also been looking for the season two recap special for a very long time. Wow. I’d love to see a copy as well.

    By the way, I have heard of the first recap show. It was aired after the first 13 episodes and served as recap between Benson and Jessica, chronologically taking place after Chief of Tinkler finished his “interrogation” of the family. It was broadcast on Tuesday, 12/20/77 from 9-10pm, following a Christmas episode of Fish.

    • Thank you for clearing that up, Trevor. By the way, would you mind sharing where you go for broadcast dates? I know IMDB isn’t as reliable as we’d like it to be.

  18. I use a number of sources just because places like IMDB can be unreliable (and are often put together with less info than we have). The best source is probably old TV Guides (I have some) with second best being TV listings in old newspapers.

    In terms of the recap special we’re talking about, I read a brief mention of it somewhere and then went to my homemade episode guide and noticed there was a date gap between episode 13 &14. I did some searching and found a paragraph describing it in the El Paso Herald Post, calling it the night’s “Best Bet.”

    BEST BET — SOAP has an hour-long show which is a marvelous chance to catch up on this wildly funny, and sometimes moving, series. Because Peter (Robert Urich) has been murdered, a couple of the family, trying to figure who might have committed the crime (and they all have motives), go back over past episodes. Well worth watching, even if you have been viewing right along. 9-10pm (Channel 13).

    I know your book is in the final stages but I just realized I have a couple items that might have been of interest. I have 7 original scripts (eps 9, 10, 15, 55, 58, 61, & 75). In looking through them, it’s interesting to see how various scenes in one script ended up in different episodes. The script for ep 10 ends with the Barney Gerber 3 page monologue and then has the Chester/Billy scene from episode 4. I’m guessing the latter was being reshot or perhaps they found they needed some filler when assembling episode 4. Hard to tell but interesting.

    I also have a Soap Tshirt that was I believe given to cast/crew and a slate that’s signed by the cast as a “get well soon” to a friend or relative of Diana Conova on 7/20/79.

    I know it’s probably too late but if they would be of use, let me know. Can’t wait to read your book.

  19. Wow, that all sounds fantastic. If it isn’t too inconvenient, you might take a photo of those items. One of the things I would really like to do is create an online archive for Soap (once the book’s gone to press) to preserve a lot of the things that, for one reason or another, can’t be included in the book (old magazine scans, interview transcripts, etc.). BTW, I’m dropping you an email in a few minutes. Stay tuned!

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