Soap's first season was as brave and controversial as it was cheeky. The serial's Second Season continues its soap opera spoof ridiculousness and takes it to a whole new level. If television audiences thought prime time's first openly gay character was shocking, then this season's possessed baby, mafia kidnapping, and alien abduction might surprise. And yet Soap, the Complete Second Season remains timely and poignant.
Soap, as its intro so eloquently tells you each episode, is the story of two sisters. Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) is married to a wealthy philanderer, Chester (Robert Mandan), and has two grown daughters, Corrine (Diana Canova) and Eunice (Jennifer Salt) and a teenage son, Billy (Jimmy Baio). They also have a sarcastic black butler, Benson (Robert Guillaume). Jessica's sister, Mary Campbell (Cathryn Damon), decidedly lower income, is recently remarried to Burt Campbell (Richard Mulligan). She has two sons, Jody (Billy Crystal) and Danny (Ted Wass) from her previous marriage and Burt has one (remaining) son, Chuck (Jay Johnson), who is never without his caustic ventriloquist dummy Bob. And Soap is a show driven by character, and this crazy stew of personalities makes for a spicy meal. Ant yet, despite all their inane interactions and extreme personas, the actors are adept at drawing you in and manipulating your emotions.
This season Danny learns about real love and loss. Jodie gets more women than many straight men. Chester loses his marbles (they went with the tumor) and is presumed dead. Corrine spawns the devil, while Billy is enveloped by a cult, and Eunice falls for a killer. Jessica falls for a bumbling detective and Mary and Burt are besotted by more marital troubles. The end of each episode promises that your confusion will be over with the next episode of Soap but in reality you will only be lead down continually stranger paths. Another first that Soap can claim is that of season finale cliffhanger. Though each episode will leave you with questions, the last is the worst. Because each episode ends in the middle of every story, they all have silly recaps that regale the previous week's shenanigans by repeating certain words. While the complex plotlines would surely have needed this in its original airing, it becomes quite annoying as a marathon watch.
I was somewhat surprised to find that the colors here are pretty good. They do appear rather obviously enhanced, because they really pop, despite any 70s drabness. As almost all of Soap could be filmed in a studio the clean up job was fairly tidy, but also more obviously unreal. For a melodrama like Soap it totally works.
Besides a studio audience guffaw or two that seemed pretty genuine, every sound is clearly canned, from the roof falling in, to gunshots, to UFO noises. So there isn't much a remastering could do for it. It didn't bother me one bit. A weirdo comedy like this wouldn't be improved with fancy sound. What did bother me was that horrible theme song that will stay in your head for weeks after hearing it 44 times (twice a show). Unfortunately, remastering can't help that either.
The encore presentation of the pilot feels like a cop-out in terms of extras, but it's not a bad refresher for such a complicated show. What would have been better would have been the 90 minute season recap, wherein Burt visits Jessica in prison and the audience is caught up on season One via flashbacks. The next two seasons have similar recap shows but I have little faith that they will appear on subsequent DVD releases. This makes me less inclined to buy the DVD in comparison to watching either the VHS or reruns on Comedy Central. They do actually have some short interviews with the creators but the featurette (it's short enough to receive a French feminine ending) spends too much time introducing the characters' various traits, even though we've just spent two seasons getting to know them. The previews are completely superfluous.
Soap was a great show with an amazing cast. There is a vast range of comedic styles, from Benson's dry wit to Burt's physically wacky moves and wildly expressive face. It's an offbeat comedy that was way ahead of its time. Did the DVD release do anything to enhance its greatness? Not really. But it's worth watching wherever you can catch it. Because the storyline never stops, despite summer vacation, the best way to own Soap will come when you can get your hands on all four seasons at once, or better yet, if they come altogether. But beware, even when it ends, it doesn't really.