Sometimes, the craziest ideas are the best ones. In the world of television (and movies as well), there seems to be a constant struggle between playing it safe and gambling on a big return. For instance, when it comes to sitcoms, stories about a family plus one or two outside characters are sure-fire hits. Just look at Family Matters, The King of Queens, The George Lopez Show, Cosby, Frasier and My Wife and Kids. Shows about work, such as Newsradio, Suddenly Susan, Veronica’s Closet, Scrubs and < ...>Working are quite popular as well. As is the case with most things in this world, moderate success can be obtained by sticking with what has worked in the past.
Occasionally, however, the networks will let a show that goes against the formula slip onto the air. Often times, these experiments end in disaster (does anyone remember Cop Rock?), but occasionally the risk pays off, and we get extraordinary shows like Seinfeld, Northern Exposure, Friends, The Soprano’s… and Soap.
Soap is a show with a premise so simple that it’s amazing that it hadn’t been thought of before. Daytime dramas are so unbelievably ridiculous that somebody should make one that is funny on purpose. The result of this thinking is a show that was groundbreaking in its subject matter, shockingly funny, and very popular among the majority of Americans (except the ultra-conservative, who saw the show as a threat to their way of life). It is simply amazing that a half-hour show could successfully juggle this many characters, but the writers succeed greatly. The open-ended storytelling style works extremely well to allow the writers room to tell the stories they want to tell, without having to wrap everything up in just 24 minutes.
Having said all that, this is probably not a show that is going to find a new audience on DVD. Times have changed so drastically that Soap is about as mainstream as an episode of Will and Grace. The controversial content of this show can’t even hold a candle to South Park or The Chappelle Show. Still, many of those shows wouldn’t be around today if it wasn’t for the groundbreaking roles of Robert Guillaume as Benson, or Billy Crystal as the gay younger brother.
Fans, rejoice. Season Two of Soap is now available to own on DVD.
Time has not been kind to this show. The audio track included on this set is simply horrible. The shows have all of the subtlety of a 1978 public school filmstrip, complete with warbling music and muffled, bass-heavy dialog. I half expected to hear that familiar “beep” every 20 seconds or so, so the film projector would know to change scenes. Decibel levels also tend to drift, which means that the viewer may have to watch these shows with their remotes in hand, so they can constantly adjust the volume level. Piercing highs and muddy lows make this a soundtrack to avoid.
As bad as the audio track is on this DVD set, the video is somehow worse. Colors are wildly inconsistent, as a shirt or a dress may be three different shades, depending on where the actor is standing on screen. Other times, the colors “bloom”, which might give certain colors a glowing effect, meaning that they drift off of the objects that they belong on, and onto neighboring objects as well. Also, there are trailers present when a bright object moves across the screen, such as a knife or even a bright colored shirt. The still frames that bookend each episode look simply appalling, as they are blurry, grainy and have no definition whatsoever. Some scenes are badly over-lit, while others cast deep shadows on the actors’ faces.
The bonus pilot episode is especially bad, as in addition to all of the above problems, there are three faint yellow lines that run diagonally across the screen throughout the episode. If you love this show, though, you can get over these problems. At least I hope you can, because it doesn’t look like you have much of a choice.
Unfortunately, it’s the true fans who are getting screwed the most when it comes to the extras on this set. In addition to three previews for other Columbia TriStar TV on DVD products, there is a bonus episode included on this disc. So how are the fans getting the shaft? The bonus episode is the series pilot, which fans already have if they purchased Season One. There is also a 20-minute featurette included in the set, however, that is an interesting look at the casting and the writing of the show, as well as some fairly detailed character profiles, and a discussion of the press reaction to the show. For newcomers to the series, this is a great background piece that really helps to place the program in its proper time frame in American history. I just wish that there was more here for the true fan as well.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of this show. I certainly understand why it holds such an important place in television history, and there are some great laughs here, but I believe than many in my generation have been desensitized to this style of humor. It is hard to put into context how shockingly funny this show was at the time, when so many programs push the envelope of taste and decency today. Fans of this show will undoubtedly be pleased with its release on DVD, but it’s a bit too tame and contrived for many viewers these days.
Special Features List
- Bonus Episode
- The Creators Come Clean Featurette