SOAP (ABC, 1977-1980)

(fubu/tubi/Vudu) Following in the footsteps of MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN was this gonzo satire of soap operas created by Susan Harris (an already established writer from LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE, and who would go one to create THE GOLDEN GIRLS). Difference was, this was explicitly comedic, and weekly. The cast was stacked: Katherine Helmond, Richard Mulligan, Robert Guillaume, a young Billy Crystal (a rare recurring gay character*), and more.

Far more screwball than practically anything else on the air at the time, the show aimed for laughs but still pushed the envelope far more than they needed to, and they pulled in loads of eyeballs! That’s why it was so shocking that, at the end of the third season, which features a jaw-dropping cliffhanger, the show was cancelled.

That didn’t stop ABC from producing spin-offs, though. If you’re a child of the 80s, you probably never realized that BENSON was born from SOAP.

If you’re a fan of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, you owe yourself to trace your television heritage back and watch this. (Mitch Hurwitz cut his teeth on GOLDEN GIRLS, and no doubt, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT would not exist if it weren’t for SOAP.) It was well-ahead of its time, and it’s a crime that it’s mostly forgotten.

  • It’s worth noting that MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN had one of the first gay storylines on TV, but it didn’t last that long, whereas Crystal’s character did. Whether Crystal’s performance was a good thing is another question all together.