The Ten Best SOAP Episodes of Season Four

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Today, we’re concluding our coverage on the best episodes from Soap (1977-1981, ABC), perhaps the most controversial sitcom of the ’70s. I’m pleased to announce that the entire series has been released on DVD.

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“This is the story of two sisters, Jessica Tate and Mary Campbell. Jessica lives in a neighborhood known as “rich”. Jessica likes life, the only thing about life she would change if she could, is that she would set it all to music. The Tates have more secrets than they do money. We’re approaching Mary Campbell’s house. Mary, too, likes life. Unfortunately, life doesn’t seem to be too crazy about her. As you can see the Campbell’s don’t have nearly as much money as the Tates. They do, however, have as many secrets.” Soap stars KATHERINE HELMOND as Jessica Tate, CATHRYN DAMON as Mary Campbell, RICHARD MULLIGAN as Burt Campbell, ROBERT MANDAN as Chester Tate, BILLY CRYSTAL as Jodie Dallas, TED WASS as Danny Dallas, JENNIFER SALT as Eunice Tate, ARTHUR PETERSON as The Major, JIMMY BAIO as Billy Tate, JAY JOHNSON as Chuck (and Bob) Tate, ROSCOE LEE BROWNE as Saunders, and DONNELLY RHODES as Dutch Leitner.

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The final season of Soap does not show the series in a favorable light; very little is clicking — from the unexciting story lines, to the distracting new characters (sorry, Gregory Sierra’s El Puerco is not a welcome replacement for Corinne), and even the tired scripting, which pushes harder and comes up with less… Soap is in a creative recession. (And unfortunately, it wasn’t ever given the chance to recover.) Many have speculated as to what exactly went wrong with the series, but as discussed a bit last week, I think the metaphorical scale that measured the balance between satire and substance got a bit wonky. While the second half of last season tried to find comedy in ordinary soap stories, this season seems to be trying to find comedy in wacky soap stories. Meanwhile, the show’s serialization, its trademark, has caused an unfavorable convolution — one that makes us yearn for nothing more than simple conversations, especially between the two sisters (whose relationship is strained by one of the tortuous plots to which I was previously referring).

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With every series delayed by the 1980 Actors’ Strike, Soap only aired 11 episodes before it was pulled from its Wednesday night spot in January and put on a six week hiatus, returning at 10:00 on Monday nights starting March 09, 1981. Because there were still 10 half-hour episodes left to run, ABC made the decision to air them in five hour-long blocks. Surprisingly, the ratings increased (as did the quality of the writing, which seemed to get slightly more focused and laugh-driven). But because of the general decline in ratings over its four year run, and the simple fact that the rates for ad space on the series had never been high (due to the controversy surrounding its premiere), ABC cancelled the series without fair warning. Some cliffhangers have never been resolved. And while I’m less bothered by that than the noticeable decline in creative merit, it wasn’t difficult to pick out the good moments — and, don’t worry, there were plenty. So I have chosen ten episodes that I think exemplify this season’s strongest installments. For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.

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Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Four. (They are in AIRING ORDER.) All episodes this season are directed by J.D. Lobue. Remember that each installment is listed by the number it is given on the DVD set, and original hour-long offerings — whether split or conjoined on disc — are considered two separate entries. (This is not only because they would be split into two during syndication, but also because I do not think it fair to compare episodes of varying lengths.) Also, the clip show special that opened the season (and featured Bea Arthur as an angel) is not considered an installment, although it has been released on VHS.

 

01) Episode 70 (I) (Aired: 11/12/80)

Jessica is revived; Burt and Danny find themselves in a compromising position.

Written by Susan Harris & Stu Silver and Dick Clair & Jenna McMahon

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Like the second season premiere and third season finale, this fourth season opener was produced and broadcast as a single hour-long installment. Although the last half of the prior season was a unanimous disappointment, this year begins with an amusing installment that extends itself from the cliffhangers but more consciously injects comedy. While the blackmail story with Danny and Burt is too shamefully broad for the series, the situation surrounding Mary’s new son, who may or may not be an alien, is deliciously original, and it’s never funnier than it is here, as a black nurse raises her eyebrows when Mary seems relieved to learn that her baby is white.

02) Episode 70 (II) (Aired: 11/12/80)

Eunice wins Dutch; Jodie gets custody of Wendy.

Written by Susan Harris & Stu Silver and Dick Clair & Jenna McMahon

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Shockingly, both parts of the opening installment are superior enough to make today’s list, as the comedy quotient continues throughout the year’s whole premiere hour. Highlights from this half include Eunice and Corinne drawing cards to see which one of them gets Dutch. (Eunice wins, as Diana Canova was leaving Soap to star as the lead in her own Witt-Thomas-Harris series, I’m A Big Girl Now, which co-starred Danny Thomas, Martin Short, and Sheree North, and lasted a year.) And the scene between Mary and Jessica, where the latter talks about how she visited their mother in heaven, is on a short list of the pair’s best scenes of this season.

03) Episode 74 (Aired: 12/10/80)

Billy sets out to rescue Jessica; Jodie hires a detective to help him find Wendy.

Written by Susan Harris & Stu Silver and Dick Clair & Jenna McMahon

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Barbara Rhoades, a familiar face to all TV lovers of the era, makes her first appearance as Maggie, the fast talking private detective whom Jodie hires to help him track down Carol and Wendy. Rhoades is a jolt of energy for the series, and although their storyline will get a little gratuitously strange as it progresses, she shares good chemistry with Crystal and their scenes together are a highlight. While the scene of Jessica moseying through the jungles of Malaguay is fun (because, though outrageous, it’s in character), the best stuff here occurs in the scene in which Jodie introduces Maggie to his crazy family, which includes several big and well earned laughs.

04) Episode 79 (Aired: 01/21/81)

Jessica and Chester’s divorce is final; Leslie makes another attempt on Billy’s life.

Story by Susan Harris & Stu Silver and Dick Clair & Jenna McMahon | Teleplay by Susan Harris & Stu Silver and Dick Clair & Jenna McMahon and Barry Vigon & Danny Jacobson

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While there aren’t a lot of truly memorable moments in this particular offering, it is one of the most consistently rendered, with laughs and character beats that seem reminiscent of Soap in its halcyon days. There are too many characters in the series at this point, but this episode does find ways to allow all of them to be served. As for the plot developments, Chestier and Annie announce their engagement following the finalization of his divorce from Jessica, and Danny gets shot by Leslie at a party that Jessica has thrown for El Puerco, setting up the storyline that will change the course of the series — which most fans believe was NOT for the better!

05) Episode 81 (Aired: 03/09/81)

Burt goes after Tibbs; Mary tells Chester that he’s Danny’s real father.

Story by Susan Harris & Stu Silver and Dick Clair & Jenna McMahon | Teleplay by Susan Harris & Stu Silver and Dick Clair & Jenna McMahon and Barry Vigon & Danny Jacobson

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This is the first part of the hour-long show that followed a six week hiatus and the “Who’s Danny’s father?” cliffhanger, and it wastes no time in revealing his identity: Chester. But this storyline doesn’t produce much of the comedy. This episode gets most of its laughs from the scene in which Burt, with a baseball bat in tow, goes after Tibbs, who’s at a dinner party that gives the writers carte blanche to parody The Godfather. Other scenes of note include the conversation between Jessica and El Puerco on premarital sex (and the two types of women) after she catches him with a prostitute, and the scene where Mary tells her gynecologist that Scottie may be an alien.

06) Episode 83 (Aired: 03/16/81)

Jodie proposes to Maggie while waiting for execution; Mary relives the past.

Story by Susan Harris & Stu Silver and Dick Clair & Jenna McMahon | Teleplay by Susan Harris & Stu Silver and Dick Clair & Jenna McMahon and Barry Vigon & Danny Jacobson

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A funny installment, this was first half of the hour-long block in which it originally aired. In addition to some hilarious scenes between Eunice and Dutch in which the pair try to spice up their sex life by role playing (the From Here To Eternity one, with the Major’s intrusion, is of particular note), this episode boasts the show’s only original flashback, as Mary remembers the events surrounding Chester’s decision to marry Jessica. The whole thing is camp fun, as the actors and writers leave their metaphorical tongues in their cheeks with regard to the authenticity of the time and look that Mary is recalling. It’s a bit gimmicky, but the laughs don’t feel cheap.

07) Episode 86 (Aired: 03/23/81)

El Puerco and Jessica spend the night together; Chester and Annie announce their marriage.

Written by Susan Harris & Stu Silver

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Airing as the second part of the hour long block in which it was broadcast, this is unbeatably the funniest episode of the year, with every scene giving its characters big laughs. Jessica and El Puerco share their best scene, which occurs following their first night together when she answers honestly his question about his performance. Meanwhile, Mary and Burt are driven apart by his rising snobbery and her increasing dependency on booze, and Eunice is riding Dutch ragged in their role playing attempts. (There’s a Wizard Of Oz joke.) But the best scene is certainly the last one, in which Jodie is hypnotized into believing he’s a 90-year-old Jewish man named Julius Kassendorf. It’s the funniest story of the season, and helps give the last few episodes most of its finest moments.

08) Episode 87 (Aired: 04/13/81)

Danny bonds with Annie; Burt is offered a job by the Governor.

Written by Susan Harris & Stu Silver

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Following the strength of the previous episode, this installment, which aired first in its original hour block, continues the recaptured trend of consistent and humorous storytelling. Almost every scene is a winner, with the golf course scene between Burt, the Governor, and Gene as a great showcase for the two new characters. Also, we get a couple of amusing conversations — one between Dutch and Chester, where they discuss the latter’s lingering feelings for Jessica and another between Danny and Annie, who are clearly being prepped for a romantic liaison (that follows shortly). And then, Julius is brought home to meet the Campbell family… Hilarity.

09) Episode 88 (Aired: 04/13/81)

Danny and Annie fall in bed together; Maggie meets Julius.

Written by Susan Harris & Stu Silver

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After spending most of this season embroiled in a story-driven plot with El Puerco, this episode, which aired second in its original hour block, gives us a taste of classic Jessica, as her conversation with Burt about his marital problems is a flighty delight, filled with jokes about Phil and Marlo (sister of producer Tony Thomas). But the rest of the scenes pretty much deliver too, with Danny and Annie’s affair the most memorable, and Maggie’s first encounter with Julius (her last scene on the series) as the funniest. Also, there’s a great Burt scene, in which he addresses a panel of senators, that deserves the distinction of being his best of these final ten offerings.

10) Episode 89 (Aired: 04/20/81)

Jessica is taken hostage; Julius comforts Mary.

Written by Susan Harris & Stu Silver

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As the penultimate episode of the entire series, this installment aired as the first part of the hour long broadcast — the show’s last original showing. As with the final few episodes, Billy Crystal’s performance as Julius Kassendorf is probably the most amusing and original, but there are a couple of other memorable bits, particularly in the scene where Jessica is unknowingly kidnapped by El Puerco’s opposition and the following scene in which the family reads the ransom note for her that they left behind. Unlike the final half hour of the series, this episode has more time to be funny, and doesn’t have to be so story heavy (and cliffhanger geared).

 

Other notable episodes that narrowly missed the list above include: Episode 73 (Aired: 12/03/80), in which Eunice and Dutch marry, Annie moves in with Chester, and the photos of Burt and Danny show up in the newspaper, Episode 75 (Aired: 12/17/80), which features a hilarious (and not PC by today’s standards) scene in which Burt and Danny don disguises and infiltrate one of Elmore Tibbs’ brothels, where Danny meets Gwen, and Episode 76 (Aired: 12/31/80), in which Chester tries to have an estate sale of household furnishings to raise some much needed cash. All three have fine moments, but are generally not as consistently produced.

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*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Four of Soap goes to…..

Episode 86

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Come back next Tuesday for the best from the first season of Taxi! And tune in tomorrow for a new Wildcard Wednesday post!

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19 thoughts on “The Ten Best SOAP Episodes of Season Four

  1. Tbh, when Susan Harris added all those writing partners for the show, it lost its edge imo. Also those of nowhere storylines like El Puerto, Chester is Sannys father, Burt putting his job first, Mary became an alcoholic, wasnt necessary.

    Orher than that cant wait til you cover Taxi

    • Hi, Track! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      TAXI coming up — stay tuned! I’m looking forward to it; for the first time since I LOVE LUCY and THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, making my choices was difficult because there were too many worth mentioning!

      • One more thing on Soap, do you think that the show had an influence on sitcoms like MArried With Children and Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia due to the incorporation of wacky farce

        And me too my dude. Imo prob the best written sitcom of the 70s next to The Mary Tyler Moore Show

        • You know, I don’t really consider either of the two shows you mentioned as embodying wacky farce — at least not in the same manner as SOAP. But I think you could pinpoint similarities in broadness and the frank sexuality attributed to Harris’ work. In fact, I believe that SOAP’s impact is traceable in the growing explicitness of sex on TV and the expanding standards of permissibility. Lothario Sam Malone, for instance, likely could not have existed in the same exaggerated comedic vein, had their been no SOAP to make his Don Juan tendencies not seem overly predatorial. Meanwhile, the show’s serialization, towards which I am more critically drawn (due to my feelings about its function), I think had less of an effect on situation comedy, for although the genre has become more frequently serialized in the past few decades, this seems to have had more to do with the rise of the primetime drama and the increasing importance of sweeps in securing ad rates. However in cases of both sex and serialization, I think a little of each goes a long way, and SOAP seldom worked when it indulged either one too much, especially without an aim to satirize. Unless there’s a true master at the wheel, things can get sloppy (and more importantly: unfunny). We’ve seen a lot of that lately in our entertainment.

  2. I liked reading your response to Track here. I think you’re right about Susan Harris being one of the major TV writers to push the envelope –even as far back as the infamous Maude abortion episode. I’m looking forward to THE GOLDEN GIRLS later this year. I think you can see a lot of similarities in that show to SOAP.

  3. Oh and I wanted to add that agree with your posts about the way SOAP generally peaked and then declined. Happens to too many good shows, and this one didn’t even run that long. Think it was the serialization?

    • Hi, Elaine! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Hmm, I don’t think the serialization led directly to the show’s decline in quality (which began in the middle of Season Three) because this structure was always a part of the show’s fabric, but I do think writing the series with several weekly stories threatened the show’s longevity. In fact, one of the reasons that having multiple stories per week ultimately ends up as a detriment to sitcoms is that the writers have to come up with three different ideas per script, essentially taking what they could maximize into three separate episodes and mashing all that material into one. So at the end of a season, they’ll have used 70+ stories instead of 24, and an argument could be made that SOAP became harder and harder to write because they’d already covered a lot of ground. (But that’s how this show was designed to exist, and more often than not, they met the accompanying challenges.)

      Actually, I think SOAP’s biggest problem always had to do with the difficulty in balancing humor and pathos within the confines of a 24-minute situation comedy. Harris never intended her series to be a satire of daytime serials, even though the majority of the public viewed it as such, and when she stopped letting the show naturally parody soaps for laughs, instead attempting to play dramatic arcs for emotional substance, the delicate line on which the series was always walking (regarding its tone) was altered. The show wanted to be a bit of everything, but that required a balance that became increasingly more difficult to achieve as the show explored darker arcs.

      I think Harris realized this, for after the heaviness of Season Three’s second half, Season Four went for storytelling lunacy (although the show couldn’t ever lose Harris’ desire to go for earnest drama — even with insubstantial material that highlighted the absence of comedy being employed as a result). However, by then, the stories had become so large and convoluted, losing sight of the simple relationships on which the first season was founded, and like most daytime serials, the show would have needed to return to its roots if it wanted to recapture some of its former excellence. Unfortunately, ABC never gave it the chance.

  4. I only just discovered your fantastic blog yesterday and have already spent far too many hours trying to catch up on your truly wonderful, well-written and insightful posts about sitcoms. So many points of discussion that I could spend paragraphs going on and on about in every one of your pieces I’ve read (literally dozens in the past 24 hours), but I’m finally motivated to leave a comment here on your post about the very weak final season of “Soap”, one of my all time favorite shows.

    You referred to the back of half of season four airing as hour long blocks, and while that’s true, I think you may be unaware that these blocks were actually NOT two half hour shows shown back to back, but rather a series of 60 minute episodes.

    Back in the late 1990s, being as huge a fan of “Soap” as I was, with the show having been out of reruns for years, I spent around $400 buying the complete series on VHS tape from Columbia House (this was long before the days when buying TV series became commonplace– TV series on home video was an expensive and narrow market!) I never liked the 4th season much despite it still having some decided highlights, and I tend like many others to attribute the decline above all else to the dilution of Susan Harris’s writing contributions (a pretty non controversial opinion). I can think of no other TV comedy that was so much the product of one individual writer’s vision as to have every single one of its scripts for three full years written or co-written by one person. When you see a list of as many as EIGHT writers credited for individual shows in the final season, it’s no surprise the show the episodes were vastly inferior.

    But what I didn’t realize until I bought those VHS tapes– and which is not apparent from the butchered DVD release of the 4th season– is that those last 5 or 6 episodes were hour long shows, and that they’re significantly superior in their original form. It doesn’t hurt either that several of them were written by Susan Harris solo again, after a long period of farmed out writing to folks who clearly didn’t fully grasp the characters or the show’s tone.

    I’m not making any grandiose claim that the show “returned to form” by any stretch, but there’s a huge uptick in quality in the back half of the season in these hour long shows, and the botch job done to make these into 22 minute shows for syndication really masks the improvement. Not only did chopping these into two half hours require more material than usual to be edited out– disastrous on a show like “Soap”, where the plot-oriented material HAD to take precedence over the comedy when pruning shows down for reruns– but they were forced to rejigger the order of some scenes completely. Some scenes appear in different *episodes* than they did originally. The most glaring mistake in this editing that I can recall (bearing in mind that I haven’t seen the butchered shows for quite a while) was that the hilarious scene of Mary visiting her OB/GYN to talk about her alien baby– one of the funniest scenes of the whole final year– was placed *immediately* after the treacly melodrama of Mary telling Danny that Chester was really his father. We see Mary shattered, exiting his hospital room upon Danny ordering her out, and boom, immediately, the next scene is pure farce, with THE SAME CHARACTER. The jarring mood shift, which would seem to be lazy writing, is actually the result of bad editing for syndication!

    It’s also worth noting, I think, that for some totally unfathomable reason, the DVDs for the 4th season strip out the opening recaps by Rod Roddy. I can’t conceive of a single even SEMI-rational reason why this was done. The openings were intact in syndication, so even if they were using edited syndication prints (which, by and large, they *weren’t*), the openings should have been intact. What this means is that the DVD producers intentionally removed all this material, a hallmark of the show, to the further detriment of an already disappointing season that doesn’t need any additional strikes against it.

    I made transfers of the 4th season VHS tapes before I got rid of the tapes– I only wish I’d had the foresight to transfer the earlier years, too, to cover the (mostly) minor edits done for the DVDs of the first 3 seasons (in the early TV-on-home-video era, they NEVER butchered shows the way they do routinely now.) I once even had a copy– from its original airing, since it was never rerun– of the second season retrospective where Benson left the series, which I somehow lost over the years and have never, ever found a lead on how to get another copy. The real shame of this is that, while the 1st and 3rd retrospectives made their way to VHS, the second season one didn’t, and it was by far the best, with the wrap around segments not only well done, but important to the history of the series in a way the other two specials never were. They gave Benson a second send off in the 3rd season proper after his brief return to rescue Billy, a great scene played beautifully by Helmond and Guillaume, but it was nowhere near as powerful as their “real” goodbye in the special preceding the 3rd season debut.

    If you have any interest in seeing the 4th season as it was aired originally, via these transfers I made to DVD of the VHS tapes, I’d be happy to send you copies. You might end up reconsidering your opinion a bit– at least a bit*. :) I can also help you with Burns and Allen, which you mentioned wanting to cover– I’ve spent about 10 years off an on restoring the series as close as possible to the way it originally aired, with scenes spliced back in that are edited out of the current reruns for almost all the shows. I also have a handful more of the live episodes from the first two years than are in common circulation– including a pilot episode that no one knew existed till I posted i to YouTube a couple of years ago. I’m always happy to share this sort of stuff with folks like you who are really love it– and my goodness, your love of sitcoms is undeniable from the evidence of your writing on this blog! Feel free to get in touch if you’re interested!

    The epic length of this comment, which was originally intended only to point out the edits on the 4th season DVDs, is why I don’t comment on blogs more often than I do! I start off trying to make one simple point, and look what happens. But that’s a direct result of reading a blog post that really stimulates my brain, so thank you for that! Wonderful, wonderful work you’re doing here.

    • Hi, WGaryW! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I believe we’re friends on Facebook — I’m a big fan of your YouTube channel and am so grateful for your posted collection of Jack Benny radio programs, many of which I’ll be using when I adjudicate the series for discussion here (starting in August). I’ve also been monitoring the internet for the past several years in search of new episodes of BURNS & ALLEN. My intention is to cover the TV series in full, but I’ll likely have to begin with the third season. I have copies of all the filmed episodes, most from AntennaTV, except for “George Trying To Keep Doctor’s Appointment.” Meanwhile, I’ve got 31/52 of the live shows, and screened an additional non-circulating installment at UCLA. Most of the live shows haven’t proven to be among my favorites so far, but I’m utterly fascinated by live television of the ’50s, and my research has led me to believe that some of the shows we’re still missing may actually constitute the best of the first two seasons (like a Season Two installment that culminates in a pie fight). I’d be grateful for anything that I may not have, as I’m very much looking forward to discussing the series before we close up shop here!

      As for SOAP, I completely agree with your assessment about the final episodes being stronger than the majority of what came before in Season Four. I was aware that the last 10 episodes were run in five hourlong installments, and I see “back-to-back” (now edited) may not have been the appropriate description for how these episodes were originally seen, even though my understanding is that the decision to join two fully formed episodes together was ABC’s. As a result, one thing I’ve always wanted to know is if the hourlong broadcasts weren’t what Harris and company originally intended, how accurate are the split versions and why didn’t the show take the opportunity to go back to what was delivered before the network intervened? I actually have not seen these episodes the way they initially aired, but I’ve spoken with others who agree with you about the choppy editing when split. In fact, I’ve been told that some scenes were cut entirely, and (I believe) at least one scene was used in two separate hours. I would be delighted to see the original broadcasts, if only for the material not seen since that original airing.

      Regarding the recap specials, I have the two released on VHS, but the 1979 Benson/Jessica one has remained elusive. I know it’s out there, as the author of the recent SOAP book discussed it at length. I’m not sure, however, about the existence of the December 1977 retrospective, which many seem to have forgotten. Also, you’ll be happy to know that the Mill Creek re-release of SOAP has the fourth season recaps restored, along with several edits from the first season’s initial release!

      Thanks again for commenting — there’ll be more Susan Harris here soon with full coverage of THE GOLDEN GIRLS! Stay tuned…

      • I had a very strong feeling that our paths *must* have crossed before now, given how huge an overlap there is in what we love! Now the only question is, since we’re probably already Facebook friends as you said– how do I figure out who you are??? :) You may very well have specified somewhere on the blog what your name is, but I’m unable to find it. Since you already know who I am, please feel free to send me a message on Facebook any time!

        And believe me, your site is bookmarked and I will be returning to it regularly from now on, which is an extremely rare thing for me to say given how much time I already spend online. But this is a fantastic blog, truly.

      • Actually, you can disregard my last comment– I’ve since figured out where the “About” info for the blog was, so now that I know your name, I sent you a message on Facebook. :)

        • Got it. Thanks again for your kind words — looking forward to many great discussions ahead! Also, something particularly rare and wonderful is coming up in several weeks that I think you’ll enjoy. I can barely contain my own excitement!

  5. I’ve always wondered how Dick Clair & Jenna McMahon wound up as writer-producers on SOAP in Season 4. While I admire their talents as sketch writers (CAROL BURNETT) and freelance contributors (MARY TYLER MOORE), they had no experience, as far as I know, as staff writers on a sitcom as of 1980. I know they received co-creator credit (with Stu Silver) on Witt/Thomas’ 1980 sitcom, IT’S A LIVING, which they had little to do with after its premiere. Clearly there existed a relationship — or at least a deal — of some sort that brought them onto SOAP, which needed help while Susan Harris devoted time to I’M A BIG GIRL NOW that same fall. It may be unfair, but I have always laid blame for some of Season 4’s weaknesses at the feet of Clair & McMahon. Funny writers, wrong show. Once their names dropped off the written-by credits and Harris & Silver were working alone again, the show picked up in quality, albeit too late to do much good.

    • Hi, Red Herring! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      While I do think the pair was a wrong fit for SOAP (as were most of the writers they attempted to add on staff), I don’t consider Clair and McMahon at all responsible for some of the series’ difficulties in its final season, particularly as the show had its biggest fall from grace, as far as I’m concerned, in the middle of the third year, and could trace its errors back to foundational decisions made by Harris, who was always the sculptor of the ongoing narratives, even when she tried relinquishing day-to-day control.

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