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It doesn't seem possible, but the second season of Soap is even better than the first. Only the greatest primetime sitcoms achieve triple-threat genius: Casting, writing, and direction reached their zenith as the 1978-79 season began with a resolution to season 1's cliffhanger murder. Chester (Robert Mandan) loses his memory and wander out west while his ditzy wife Jessica (Katherine Helmond) enjoys a fling with the detective (new cast member John Byner) she'd hired to find Chester. Across town, the working-class Campbells have their own melodramas to contend with: Despite being gay, stepson Jodie (Billy Crystal) is an expectant father and moves in with pregnant Carol (Rebecca Balding), and later a lesbian roommate; Mary (Cathryn Damon) suspects Burt (Richard Mulligan) of having an affair; Corrine (Diana Canova) and ex-priest Tim (Sal Viscuso) have a baby that's demonically possessed; and Burt is abducted by aliens! Exorcisms and flying saucers might suggest desperation on the part of writer-creator Susan Harris, but the opposite is true: the controversy that plagued Soap's first season had subsided (thanks to valiant defense by ABC President Fred Silverman), and Harris and Jay Sandrich (who directed 20 of these 22 episodes) were able to push their spoofy plots to even greater heights of absurdity without sacrificing the show's core integrity. Jimmy Baio (as Billy Tate) gets his moment to shine, and Robert Guillaume (as Benson) deservedly won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Most impressively, Soap built its madness upon a solid tragi-comic foundation, with risky shifts of tone and characters invested with surprising depth and compassion. The episodes are consistently full of classic scenes and side-splitting dialogue. Simply put, it doesn't get any better than this.

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CO31029 Soap 2nd Season DVD (1978) $19.95 $17.99