Soap: The Complete Third Season US Original Broadcast Date: 1979-1980 Season (Columbia - TriStar) US DVD Release: January 25, 2005 Running Time: Approx. 10:11:00 (22 episodes; 7 chapter stops per ~25 minute episode, 9 chapter stops in the 49-minute season finale) Rating: None Video: 1.33:1 Audio: English DD1.0 Subtitles: None TV-Generated Closed Captions: English Menus: Not animated. Packaging: Fold-out 3-disc digipak with slipcase; 6-page insert with cover art from other Sony TV season sets; 4-page insert with synopses and credits for each episode MSRP: $29.95 Note: This review is based on the first six episodes. THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3/5 Who could have predicted the success of older TV programming on DVD? Shows that haven’t even been seen in syndication in decades are suddenly a hot commodity. What’s especially amazing is that people are gobbling up season sets of 20- and 30-year-old sitcoms when there are 150 channels of digital cable that can be automatically recorded and replayed on a whim thanks to DVR. Perhaps today’s programming is even more of a wasteland than we thought. Or perhaps people are just that nostalgic for the comedy of their youth. In reality, these older programs aren’t inherently any better or worse than their modern-day counterparts. Some are still entertaining, while others are better left to the archives of the Museum Of Television And Radio. Soap, a sitcom that was a bit ahead of its time, has held up pretty well. The premise of Soap is a satire of daytime soap operas. It tells the story of two sisters, Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) and Mary Campbell (Cathryn Damon), and their families. The Tate family is wealthy and eccentric; while the Campbell family is middle-class and, well, slightly insane. They include such wacky characters as the philandering Chester Tate (Robert Mandan) and Chuck Campbell (Jay Johnson), who is never without his dummy Bob. The show also features a very young Billy Crystal and his full head of hair as Jodie Dallas, television comedy’s first openly gay character. The show threads a number of interwoven stories together, just like the soap operas that it spoofs. It jumps among them freely, covering three or four separate plots in each half-hour episode. A lot of the story lines have a rather modern feel to them, with sexual wordplay and innuendo to rival Will And Grace or Friends. This is pretty racy stuff for the ’70s! The one area in which Soap falls a little flat is in attempting to be serious. It suffers from “A Very Special Episode Of”-itis, which didn’t work any better in half-hour comedies of those days than it does today. One generally doesn’t pop in a sitcom episode to see things like a couple deciding to get a divorce and then bursting into heart-rending tears. While all sitcoms eventually get around to this sort of thing, Soap tends to visit this territory about once every other episode. Perhaps the producers felt that they should try to maintain a tighter bond with the daytime soaps they were spoofing, as the comedy doesn’t really have much connection to them (see post #5 below for more information on this). It isn’t necessary, but it isn’t enough to kill the show, either. THE WAY I SEE IT: 1.5/5 The video doesn’t appear to have undergone much, if any, restoration. Colors are OK, if a bit oversaturated, but the transfer is taken from some very low-res source material. This is just a step above VHS quality, if that. This is one case where the picture is inherently so soft, I didn’t really mind the edge enhancement. It’s certainly no Star Trek, but to be honest, we can’t really expect too much work to be done on these older TV shows, or at least not on the ones that don’t have huge cult followings. For what it is, it’s watchable. I wouldn’t really recommend it for 96” front projection systems, though. THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3/5 The Dolby Digital mono audio is perfectly acceptable. Dialogue is almost always clear, and that’s what’s important. The track is showing its age, but not as much as the video. Again, this is 25-year-old videotape that probably hasn’t seen any restoration. THE SWAG: 0.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity) Previews: Three trailers are included for other Sony TV-on-DVD product. One is for Seinfeld, another covers various 1970s sitcoms, and the third previews more recent, short-run material like The Critic and The Tick. Seinfeld (2:58) Classic Comedy TV (1:31) Original Programming TV (2:06) SUMMING IT ALL UP The Way I Feel About It: 3/5 The Way I See It: 1.5/5 The Way I Hear It: 3/5 The Swag: 0.5/5 Fans of Soap will be happy to continue getting season sets of an old favorite. Others, like me, who never saw it in its original run may enjoy discovering an oldie but goodie. The A/V quality is nothing special, and there are no extra features to speak of, but considering the reasonable price, it’s worth a look.