Synopsis of TV Show

“You want me to get that?”

The butler named Benson wasn’t exactly the most eager of door-openers…this being his patent response when the doorbell rang out. But neglecting butlerian duties was just the tip of the iceberg. Soap touched on impotence, transsexuality, homosexuality, racism, extramarital affairs, single parenting, organized crime, aliens, and religion. And this was a late 70’s sitcom.

Well, a late 70’s sitcom designed to satirize cheesy daytime soap operas—which accounts for that girth of “issues.” Soap operas rarely let plausibility or shock value get in the way of their plotlines, and so neither did Soap. Created by Susan Harris (later of shows like Benson, The Golden Girls and Empty Nest), Soap garnered a load of problematic publicity before it ever saw any airtime, thanks to a misleading Newsweek article that promised when the show did debut, goings-on would include the seduction of a Catholic priest in a confessional. This was all a bevy of religious groups needed to set some fervent boycotts in motion, and some believe the show never quite recovered from the preemptive witch-hunt. It was aired after the traditional “family hour” in less-watched time shots, and early on, it carried a parental discretion notice with it. But past all the headlines and boycotts and advertisers with cold feet was a trailblazing sitcom, with a unique eye for inter-family outrageousness that would be heartily emulated on television in years to come.

Sisters Jessica Tate and Mary Campbell lived in Dunn’s River, Connecticut. The Tate family was loaded, the Campbells were middle class, and both clans were downright nuts. Jessica was married to the loyally disloyal and always short-on-ethics stockbroker Chester. Jessica’s kids were Billy, who would be abducted by a religious cult, and daughters Corrine and Eunice, who was having an extramarital affair with a Senator. And Jessica’s butler was Benson, played by Robert Guillaume, who would later star in the spin-off sitcom named after this wisest of wiseacre butlers.

But the Tates weren’t the only family with a monopoly on (at the time) taboo family traits. Mary was married to the impotent and always double-taking Burt. Her sons were the gay Jodie (played by Billy Crystal) and Danny, a small time mobster. Burt’s ventriloquist son Bob moved in later, always on hand with a sarcastic comment spoken through his hand puppet named Chuck. But despite all of this supposed anti-normality—and herein was the neat trick of the show—there were still family values, and there were still unassailable familial bonds. The show was notorious for shifting tones instantaneously, from outrageous comedy to heartfelt drama in the space of just a line or two.

Like any soap opera, many of the episodes were “to be continued” in nature, and when the curtain finally fell on the show after four seasons, it fell with a cliffhanger that left plenty of unanswered questions (though a few would be answered a few years later on Benson). Soap was anything but typical, from its reception to its plotlines to its legacy—this is a show that stands, albeit a little off-kilter, distinctly on its own.

Release History of Prime Time Show

9/13/77 - 4/20/81 ABC

TV Sub Categories


Television Network


Television Studio


TV Cast

Chester Tate Robert Mandan
Jessica Gatling Tate Katherine Helmond
Corinne Tate Flotsky (1977-80) Diana Canova
Eunice Tate Jennifer Salt
Billy Tate Jimmy Baio
Benson (1977-79) Robert Guillaume
The Major Arthur Peterson
Mary Gatling Dallas Campbell Cathryn Damon
Burt Campbell Richard Mulligan
Jodie Dallas Billy Crystal
Danny Dallas Ted Wass
Chuck/Bob Campbell Jay Johnson
Peter Campbell (1977) Robert Urich
Claire (1977-78) Kathryn Reynolds
The Godfather (1977-78) Richard Libertini
Dennis Phillips (1978) Bob Seagren
Father Timothy Flotsky (1977-79) Sal Viscuso
Carol David (1978-80) Rebecca Balding
Elaine Lefkowitz (1978-79) Dinah Manoff
Dutch (1978-81) Donnelly Rhodes
Sally (1978-79) Caroline McWilliams
Detective Donahue (1978-80) John Byner
Alice (1979) Randee Heller
Mrs. David (1979-81) Peggy Pope
Millie (1979) Candy Azzara
Leslie Walker (1979-81) Marla Pennington
Polly Dawson (1979-81) Lynne Moody
Saunders (1980-81) Roscoe Lee Browne
Dr. Alan Posner (1980-81) Allan Miller
Attorney E. Ronald Mallu (1978-81) Eugene Roche
Carlos "El Puerco" Valdez (1980-81) Gregory Sierra
Maggie Chandler (1980-81) Barbara Rhoades
Annie Selig Tate (1980-81) Nancy Dolman
Gwen (1980-81)  Jesse Welles
Juan One (1980-81) Joe Mantegna
Announcer Rod Roddy

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