What’s YOUR Story?

Soap was not only a ground-breaking series in terms of its writing, cast and subject matter, but also it is one of those programs that has become an important part of American culture.

As a program steeped in controversy, millions grew up being told not to watch it. As a result, millions watched it anyway to see what all the fuss was about. Because of that, millions still cherish it today as their own personal discovery.

Do you remember how you first discovered Soap? If so, I’d really like to hear about it and, with your permission, I would like to include those memories in Soap! The Inside Story of the Sitcom that Broke All the Rules.

Please take a moment and drop me a line at asberman813 (at) gmail.com today, reply to this page in the comments section below, or leave your memories at the book’s Facebook page.

Thanks for sharing 🙂

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48 comments on “What’s YOUR Story?

  1. This is rather lengthy but it needs to be said.

    Mine was one of resistance at first when one of my friends told me about it. But years later when I was at St. Mary’s Hospital in Bayside NY for Asthma Prevention Treatment I looked at the series through different eyes. Of course my friend Frankie from Tampa, Florida who I adopted as my brother, tells a different story and swears up and down that I became a monster due to his prodding me to expand my horizons which he still apologizes for profusely.

    Unlike most parents who didn’t want their kids watching “Racy” material My Mother was a tad more open to it in her own way and years later we sat together and watched The First season DVD together. She laughed her head off.

    I took an immediate liking to Jessica for his gentleness, but she’s no fool by any means. Then Chester, Benson and the others soon followed in succession. They were far from what The Moral Majority made them out to be. The mere fact that both families faced adversity in The Devil said as much. Sure they fought with each other from time to time but when they united to save Corrine’s baby or Jodie’s daughter that said volumes for their loyalty to each other.

    While some fans complained about the storylines being a tad silly such as Burt’s UFO Abduction I knew that outside the serious tender moments they were satirizing the whole Soap Opera Phenomeon. It’s ironic how at the time a lot of The Real Soap Operas began doing the same shtick that Soap did. And it made the genre more interesting and fun to watch as a result.

    I did receive some autograph pictures of some of the cast members including Susan Harris herself but they got lost during many moves to new homes. There IS a framed photo of an autograph photo Richard Mulligan sent me just shy a few years before he passed away. Others such as Robert Mandan were difficult to reach due to their busy schedules. My Mom even tried to call up a Theater he was in at the time just to find out if he got my letter.

    As an inspiring cartoonist and fan fiction writer I showed my devotion to the show by writing and drawing hand drawn comic books featuring some of the characters too. I saw potential in them to be Saturday Morning or Prime Time fare ala The Flintstones, Jetsons and The Simpsons.

    When the show got canceled suffice to say I was crushed as it left things open ended and I hated ABC for a very long time after that. But there was always Benson which could’ve easily brought in many of the cast from Soap to reveal their fates. Jessica was the only one they did.

    Overall Soap is one show I’ll always remember for being so upfront and honest about things really are even if they did exaggerate on it but it was the truth none the less. I’ll always regard Burt, Mary, Jessica, Chester, Dutch and Corrine as the friends that got me through some very rough times.

    • Hi Steven. Wow, thank you so much for sharing your history with Soap with us. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s wondering if you still have the comic books you drew of the show…..

  2. Many television shows, even some of the most successful of all time, took time to find, not only their audience, but also their way. Shows like ‘Seinfeld’ had starts, or even entire early seasons, that lacked the complete package … those things that would ultimately make them great.

    Then there’s a show like ‘Soap’. After perhaps 10 years away from the show, I bought the 1st Season on DVD when first made available, and sat down with great anticipation of getting to my absolute favorite moments of those early episodes.

    With shock, I discovered the moments I remembered most clearly, which could make me laugh to myself even years after seeing an episode, were all there in the Pilot. Chester and Corrine’s stories of animal-disaster on the highway to explain their late nights out. The Major trying to kill the neighbor. Benson, more or less, trying to kill Chester.

    A show’s whose pinnacle episode is also its’ first is a rare and special thing. And a show that knew where it was going from the start.
    To read a 1977 Time article recently which mentioned Susan Harris’s 5-year ‘bible’ of plotlines does make it all a little more clear. And to read ‘juicy’ spoilers of later episode plotlines that the journalist wasn’t certain would ever see the air (Corrine’s corruption of Father Tim and their ‘Exorcist’ baby) makes one wonder of exactly what all we might have missed due to the censors and the untimely 4th season cancellation.

    Well, Mr Berman, I suppose that’s where you come in? :o)
    The ‘fan involvement’ aspects of your book don’t interest me too much … but I’d love to know the behind-the-scenes details that go more to the show’s making, struggles and undoing, rather than those who-may-have-been-sleeping-with-whom type stories.

    From one writer/researcher to another: Good luck on your writing … I look forward to some day soon buying my own copy of your ‘Soap’ story.

    • Hi Ken. You make a lot of good points there. Soap certainly had one of the most well-thought-out pilot episodes, especially if you take the first two episodes as a single pilot (which is how it was originally intended). And no worries about the “who may have been sleeping with whom type stories” — that’s never been something I’ve had any interest in writing about. The Soap book is all about the creative process that made the series possible.

      In addition, this book was always planned to be one that not only explained how the show was put together, but also placed it in the context of the events of the day – to me this is the only way to appreciate how incongruous the pressure-group backlash was compared with the social upheaval the rest of the world was experiencing at the time. (In other words, people were upset about the admission on television that human beings have sex; meanwhile, we had just seen the end of Vietnam, terrorist groups were going nuts throughout Europe, the economy was in the toilet, etc.)

      Perhaps the only place we may disagree is on the inclusion of fan stories. To me, this is simply the last component necessary for understanding the significance of the series. Granted, these won’t make up a huge portion of the book, but they do “complete the picture,” I believe. There are many people out there on whom Soap had a profound impact.

  3. Hi! I found mention of your book on You Tube and it’ll be a great present for my parents who are on a “Soap”-kick and trying to get all DVD episodes ever aired, and to get them unedited. Perhaps you could address this in your book? Apparently the VHS episodes are all unedited, but the DVD episodes were cut slightly (including cutting part of an episode in which Jodie dances), and an episode that aired in the summer isn’t on the DVDs. Why do the studios do this, cutting episodes for DVD?! Could you elaborate on your book as to whether the series ever made money and why its ratings declined? Everyone I’ve ever talked to just “loved” Soap, and I’m glad you’re doing it justice. Hopefully your book will answer “these questions, and many more….” 😉

    Many thanks.

    Glenn A.
    NJ

    • Hi Glenn. Your concerns over the editing of the DVDs is one I’ve heard a lot about. Just to be clear, can you describe the summer episode you mentioned that never received a DVD release? My first thought was that it was the “best of” episode in which Jessica goes to heaven and meets God (Bea Arthur), but I wasn’t sure.

      The question about Soap’s profitability and ratings toward the end of its life really address two separate matters, which seems odd today when a show with strong ratings usually means it’s profitable. I must admit I haven’t looked at the 4th season ratings yet, but my understanding is that they had little to do with cancellation of the show. The pressure that activists placed on Soap and its advertisers was so great, ABC was forced to sell ad time at drastically discounted prices, which was a problem from Day One. While Soap fans are still understandably miffed by the show’s cancellation, it bears mentioning that the fact that ABC was willing to carry it for four years, making only a fraction of the money they otherwise would have, is pretty remarkable. Much of the credit for that is often given to ABC head Fred Silverman.

  4. Pingback: Do You Remember the ’70s? « Soap! The Sitcom that Broke all the Rules

  5. I was nine years old when Soap premiered. We loved the Tuesday night comedies on ABC: Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Three’s Company. I usually had to go to sleep at 8:30, so I don’t know if I ever saw the first season of Soap. Or maybe my parents didn’t want to watch a topical show. But I definitely saw it in season two on Thursday, which is weird since I wasn’t a fan of the shows on that night! We must have had two TVs by then, because I remember watching the show alone.

    What drew me in to Soap was the intrigue of all the continuing stories. I specifically remember the ‘Corrine’s baby is possessed’ story, as well as Burt’s blackmail by Sally, Danny and Elaine (heartbreaking), and Chester’s amnesia. I couldn’t wait for the next episode and was pulled in every week.

    One thing that always hooks me into a sitcom is when you can hear the studio audience laughing. If a show has more real laughs than fake, it’s usually a great show. Soap’s first three seasons sure had that! But I was also a fan of Soap’s dramatic moments, the touching dialogue between characters. Especially, Jodie being left at the altar, Jessica and Mary discussing infidelity, and Danny and Elaine (again!). Soap was really the first sitcom to combine zaniness with poignancy, something a show like Scrubs later did successfully. Soap had hilarity mixed with heart, superb acting, and amazingly funny writing.

    Of course, I was aware of the “adult” situations and dialogue, even though I was a kid. I didn’t really pay too much attention to them. I comprehended that sex was a part of adults’ lives and didn’t get hung up on it, because that was just one facet of the show. In comparison, Three’s Company was a lot racier, and the sex jokes stood out more. On Soap, the mature themes blended in better with the whole of the show.

    I saw the show in reruns as well, which made getting the VHS tapes of Soap a big treat. There were so many scenes I didn’t remember because they had been cut for commercials in syndication!

    All in all, the characters on Soap seemed real to me and I cared about them.

    • Some great memories there, Kyle. And a good point about Three’s Company. I think a lot of people forget that these were pretty much contemporaries, though Three’s Company did have its fair share of critics, too.

  6. I watched it with my sister in the late 70s on ITV (UK channel) and as I was a young 7-8 year old I never got the naughty stuff…….I never knew wat infidelity was or homosexuality, or sexuality at all….but the cmedy was tummy aching funny, and 30 mins seemed like 5mins. We used to try and tune into Yorkshire TV as they were a week ahead so we could watch 2 eps sometimes. After series 4 I assumed series 5 never got shown here so when it was repeated in 1986 on channel 4 in the UK I was stunned to find out that was really how it ended. I was gutted…….I never knew it was so controversial eaher, my parents thought it was like kids TV! How funny is that. I loved that show, and still do. And I miss it……..can’t they make some more anyway…..ha ha.

    • Ha! That’s because your parents were used to TV that didn’t shove the wide gamut of human experience into an adults-only box, Brian. Certainly you had Mary Whitehouse and her like, but she didn’t run the networks the way our version of private censors seemed to in the 1970s.

  7. Being only 28 I never had a chance to see SOAP when it originally aired. However, my parents introduced me to my favorite program when it aired on Comedy Central. I always loved the concept of “To Be Continued…” TV shows so SOAP instantly became one of my favorite shows. I was only 10 when I first watched it so I didn’t fully understand all the jokes at the time but as I grew older and re-watched the show, I gained new appreciation.

    Every night we would sit down and watch SOAP on comedy central. I remember having to wait a full weekend to find out who murdered Peter. I can’t imagine waiting an entire summer! The wackier the show got the more time I invested in it. From aliens to amnesia, I think SOAP hit every odd and controversial storyline possible.

    The only thing I wish was that one day, somebody from the show could tell us how they would have resolved the final episode! I guess those questions and many others, won’t be answered.

    • You youngster you 🙂 But a great recollection you favor us with, Adam. And your last line, particularly poignant. Often I wonder if the fact that we don’t know how it ends is part of what keeps us discussing it to this day.

  8. Hi there. I just saw, on Canadian TV, a circa-1981 SOAP episode featuring El Puerco. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure what particular episode this was. Anyway, at one point in this episode, Chester (I think) mentioned a name that sounded like ‘Sander van Oaken’ or ‘Sander van Aken.’ However, I certainly am not aware of any historical figures with such a name, nor am I aware of any characters from SOAP or other movies, TV shows, etc,. named that. Unless, of course, its just a humorous name that would never actually exist in real-life. I wonder if someone could please answer my question here.

  9. I stumbled across this site a couple of weeks ago and am eagerly awaiting the release of the book. What a great idea, and a long time coming!

    I absolutely loved this show and have for more than 34 years. I was able to catch several episodes during its original run in the 70’s (I was 11 when it premiered) when my parents would let me stay up – most of the show flew over my head at that time but I remembered loving Chuck and Bob and the physical comedy of Burt. When I was in the 5th Grade, I convinced our English/Theater teacher that our 5th Grade Play should be an “original” episode of Soap and that my best friend and I would write it. I was the tallest kid in the glass, and my best friend (another Soap fan at age 12) was the shortest. Of course, I was Chuck and he was Bob and I’d carry him all around stage while reciting lines. I wish I still had the script….we cooked up some bizarre story lines and had all of the Soap regulars represented. It ran about 40 minutes, and we did three shows (2 for the school, 1 for the parents). Looking back, I can’t believe they let a bunch of 12 year olds do a semi-parody of an adult, controversial sitcom. My how times have changed!

    By the time I got into high school in the mid-80’s, Soap was syndicated and airing on local TV stations….since it was a serialized storyline, all the episodes ran in order and the local stations would get two or three complete runs done in a year. It was around then that our family got our first VCR, and I managed to record the entire series in order….I was in heaven. A year or so later, I got a second VCR and re-duped my original BETA cassettes to VHS and edited out all the commercials. I literally had Soap running in my room every day whether I was directly watching it or not….it served as my background noise to doing homework, cleaning, etc. etc. After a couple years, I could recite just about any line of dialog from the 4 season history of the show. I watched those tapes for YEARS.

    I picked up the DVDs many years ago but never got around to watching them. Then while building a Movie/TV media server for our family room a couple years ago, I thought about Soap again and ripped the DVDs to individual files and put them in my media server database. I spot checked the files to make sure everything was in sync, then promptly forgot about them again.

    Then about 2 months ago, I got a hankering to watch Soap again in its entirety so I put them on my iPad to take with me as I traveled for business. What a wickedly pleasant surprise….these episodes are the entire ORIGINAL episodes as they originally aired whereas my brain and memory was hardwired to the chopped up and edited syndicated versions of those shows that I had watched for years. Each episode has anywhere from 1 to 4 minutes of extra dialog (often complete conversations or even mini-scenes) that I’d not seen before. And in this new context, it makes some of the seemingly abrupt editing in the syndicated episodes of the show make more sense! I’m enjoying Soap at a whole new level with the “new” dialog/scene additions.

    Looking forward to the book!
    Kris

    • Wow, Kris — I think you’ve just taken the lead in “Soap” fandom here. (Sorry gang — anyone else have Soap playing in their room all the time?)

      I’m going to post this on the front page of the blog — I don’t want anyone to miss the Chuck & Bob school play story 😉 Thanks for sharing!

  10. Hi there. I just saw the episode where Chester was undergoing an operation to provide Deputy Danny with one of his kidneys after Danny was shot in the line of duty. At one point, they mention a female doctor who apparently appeared as a guest on the TODAY SHOW then. Her first name was Aileen but I don’t know her surname. I hope that someone can please help me identify this individual.

  11. The “Soap” joke that’s been coming to my mind is from tightrope walker Nik Wallenda being in the news lately (Niagra Falls, etc.). When Burt looks at Mary’s sex book and says, “The Flying Wallendas at the height of their career couldn’t get through a position like that!” (Nik is from the Flying Wallendas family).

  12. A “dim recollection”? That’s not good if you’re writing a book about “Soap”. : )
    The only person I remember dying in Season 1 is Peter. And Arnold the rat in Season 2.

  13. Oh we are amusing, Mr. K., aren’t we 😉 The Wallenda in question died OFFscreen, thank you — and dim recollections is all one’s likely to have after 4 years and 400+pages…..

  14. “Landed right on the turtle.” That was another season #2 right? Chester passing out on the turtle Billy got him for his Birthday.

  15. Hey Aaron! I love that this community and exchange exist. I am curious if you have an ETA on when the book will be published? Apologies, as I’m sure this is a question you’ve fielded before. Thank you!

    • Hi Chase. No need to apologize – it has been THE question that’s clung to this book since Day One, and I am forever grateful that people care enough to ask. Rest assured that once we have a firm release date, we will be shouting it from every mountaintop, virtual and otherwise 🙂

  16. Hi there. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question about Dr. Art Ulene.
    I know that I asked that about 4 months ago now, but I had completely forgotten about it until I was reminded of it today! (I’m too young to have watched SOAP when it originally aired.)

    • That’s what I love about the “Soap” community — they’re like one big brain when it comes to these questions 🙂

  17. one of my best friends had old found old vhs tapes of the first 6 episodes of season 1 of SOAP that his mother had in storage from her childhood. We both were big into comedy and comedy shows and were completely caught off guard by how a show from so long ago was funnier and edgier than anything current (1997 at the time. however.. its still funnier and edgier than stuff in 2013). When they announced the dvd releases years later we both got all 4 seasons to be able to see them all. I hate that there has never been info on what season 5 wouldve brought to the table, and how the story lines would have come to a close. I also think it’s pretty safe to say that no shows on tv right now have as talented a cast as this show had. What the hell happened to tv… and im only 30!!

    • A cool story, Zak. And you have my condolences — entering your 30s is a lot like being thrown in the dungeon full of fighters Jodie and Maggie find themselves in. Courage.:-)

  18. I became a professional ventriloquist because of Soap, well more so because of Jay Johnson and his character Chuck with Bob. I was spell bound as a child watching Jay with Bob. Of course I knew what Bob was, but all the more so I wanted to have that skill and I guess (I was only a kid back then) the companionship lol.

    So years later I am now a performing ventriloquist in Australia. I now have Jay’s autograph (signed to both myself and MJ) framed proudly and I still watch the episodes from time to time.

  19. I have so many memories. I was just a toddler, but images and plots from the show will stay with me forever. Jay and Bob were my favorite characters. At that age, I didn’t get Jessica’s humor, and she and the Tate house made me uneasy. I now appreciate Katherine’s exemplary comedic skills. The exorcism scared me a lot, as did Bert’s visit with the aliens. Mary Campbell is now my favorite character. Cathryn Damon was a tour de force. Several events in the show touched me, but none more than Jessica’s coma. At that young age, I didn’t know what a coma was. SOAP taught me what it was in a heartbreaking way. The show will always be a fond part of my childhood.

  20. you all must get a copy of this book Aaron has done. I love it and wish I could go to his book sighning. I loved soap. I must know the scripts off by heart now and its about time someone wrote a book, thank God Aaron did one. I love the book tons, but wish I was at the sighning and if Jay and Bob go….Ill be well peeved I was unable to go.

  21. Soap fan since 5 years old — caught the show on syndication and was instantly hooked. I currently work in the film industry as a writer and I can see the profound influence Susan Harris has had on my work.

    I have a neat little story to share. I recently had a close encounter with one of the cast from the show!

    This past May I was in Washington D.C. for work and was invited to the National Archives museum for a private tour of their film memorabilia collection. These were items and props that were sitting in their storage closets, currently off display. Inside these closets were dresses, costumes, jewelry, some of the most famous artifacts from classic films.

    Closet after closet, drawer after drawer, it was fascinating but exhausting. Then a moment happened that made my jaw drop. The tour guide pulls open a drawer and……BOB is staring right at me!!!! He was lying on his back wearing his “Hawaii” shirt from Season 2. I was awestruck, BY A DOLL! The glee and excitement I had was like being a child all over again. I live in Hollywood, I’ve met several celebrities, but meeting BOB was something even more special.

    Just thought I’d dork out. Thanks for your book and website!

  22. Soap was one of my favourite shows when I was a boy living in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I had seen a few scenes here and there as I wasn’t allowed to stay up late enough to see it usually. Every summer we used to go to Ayr in Scotland on holiday and stay in a guest house with two old ladies. One Sunday night about 1980 I sat up watching the tv in their living room after everyone else had went to bed and saw the episode of Jessica’s trial. At this time in the United Kingdom all the different regions on ITV showed Soap on different nights and at a different pace so I was leaping forward in the storyline from the bits I had seen previously. Jessica was found guilty and I was shocked to the core. So much so that I was nearly in tears and I couldn’t quite get my young head around the injustice of it. I had a very bad nifght’s sleep as the show had such an impact on me. It gave me a new found respect for honesty and justice and I was a fan from that moment on.

    But my parents didn’t understand. I got to see it during school holidays but on school nights I used to stage a series of reasons to get out of bed just as it was starting and they soon caught on. Eventually I couldn’t sleep when I knew it was on and I would have to lie in bed miserable as I wasn’t allowed downstairs. The compromise came when my dad said if I went to sleep he would tape the sound of some of the episodes on an old cassette for me…sometimes. The things you had to plead for in the days before videotapes! I never knew until the next morning if he had bothered to do it or not and if he had I tried to sneak in a few mins of the tape before heading to school. I must have listened to each episode I had taped over 100 times, I knew every word, nuance, pause and comic timing and could recite each episode off my heart. I still have them! Even today when I rewatch episodes I still know the next line and the tone in which its about to be delivered before I hear it.

    Soap is the one show that had the biggest impact on me and changed my life. It taught me that justice is important (Jessica’s trial), that death hurts (Elaine) and that I didn’t ever want people to leave for good (Corinne). It made me think about issues such as love, homosexuality, fidelity, hypnosis, abortion and what I would do if I met an alien duplicate. It also taught me that theme tunes played as sad incidental music make me teary and most importantly of all…that life should be set to (happy) music.

    Thanks to everyone involved in making Soap…you shaped me into the person I am today – I got morals, opinions and a wacky side from this show.

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