Soap-The Complete First Season (1977) (NTSC)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 17-Nov-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-America's Sweethearts, Hollywood Homicide
Trailer-TV Action Favorites, TV Comedy Favourites
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 609:33 (Case: 600)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4 Directed By Jay Sandrich
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Katherine Helmond
Cathryn Damon
Robert Mandon
Jimmy Baio
Jennifer Salt
Diana Canova
Arthur Peterson
Robert Guillaume
Richard Mulligan
Ted Wass
Billy Crystal
Robert Urich
Jay Johnson
Case ?
RPI $49.95 Music George Aliceson Tipton


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Soap was unleashed on the American public in 1977. At the time it was a fairly radical idea, a sitcom that was made to send up the soap opera genre. It's not like Soapdish, where the characters are actors in a soap opera (as well as living one). The characters have their own existence, but it is the situations they are in (and the title of the show) that are the main elements in the spoof.

    I was really looking forward to this, because I have fond memories of watching the show as it aired here. I thought it was rather good stuff, and quite funny. Some jokes didn't work, but hey, this is American comedy — that has to be expected. This time around, however, I was a lot less impressed. I think there are a few reasons why:

    Even so, there are still things to enjoy. Of course, it doesn't help that we've been given a lousy transfer (more on that later). The setup of this sit-com is rather complete, and features quite a large cast. Although they are introduced over the episodes, I thought I'd give you a run-down on the major characters. The start of every episode says that this is the story of two sisters, and then expands to include their families. The sisters are Jessica Tate and Mary Campbell, but we'll deal with them with their families. The Tates are apparently rich, and the Campbells less well-off.

    There are a plethora of minor characters, such as Father Tim Flotsky (the priest Corinne turns to after Peter), The Godfather (the head of Danny's part of "the mob" — strange how they start out Italian mobsters, then become Jewish gangsters...), Claire (Chester's secretary and former mistress who blackmails him), and many others. They are fairly easy to keep track of. One to look for is Ingrid Swenson (Inga Swenson) — a part that is an utter travesty of a Swede. Inga Swenson is the only other actor from this show to move to Benson (albeit in a different role). And watch for the brief cameos of Babette the hooker — she is played by creator / writer / producer Susan Harris; an interesting role she gave herself.

    What's the plot? I won't trouble you with a lengthy description. Suffice it to say that lots of melodramatic things happen, but they are not permitted to interfere with the basic sitcom nature of the show. Apparently it was regarded as controversial in its day, but it seems a long way from that today.

    There are ten episodes on each of the first two discs, and five on the third. The last episode ends on a cliff-hanger, so if you hate cliff-hangers you should probably wait until the next series is released (unless, of course, that also ends on a cliff-hanger...)

    Perhaps the best thing I can suggest is to watch it slowly — ration yourself to one, maybe two, episodes a day. That way you may be able to enjoy it in something like the way we did way back then.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    I have been searching for a nice way to describe the transfer. I thought I might write a parody of the discussions that led to the product we're getting, possibly even attempting to reproduce the accents of the marketing drones involved. But what's the point? They don't deserve to be feted. They deserve to (the rest of this sentence has been censored because this is a family web-site).

    The transfer looks like the show was shot on cheap videotape, played a hundred times, then transferred to digital format with loving care to preserve for eternity all of the artefacts.

    This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which is to be expected for a TV series made in the 1970s. It is not 16x9 enhanced. All good so far. It is, however, an NTSC transfer, so please stop now if your display doesn't handle NTSC.

    The image ranges from rather soft to blurry as hell. Shadow detail ranges from kinda OK, through poor, to awful. Film grain isn't an issue, given that this was probably shot on video, but we get the lowered resolution that is usually associated with film grain. Low level noise appears intermittently, but it's not always easy to see it amongst the other artefacts.

    Colour is fairly badly rendered. There are bands of varying colour across the screen, most noticeably on faces — there are bands of yellow that are visible and annoying during many of the episodes. The banding problem is even more visible at 7:03 in the last episode, where there's a red shirt that is shown with bands of red and magenta. Sometimes there's quite a bit of colour bleed, such as at 18:25 in the first episode, and 4:08 in episode 24. Some shots have a band of blue down the left side of screen (it looks quite odd when these are inter-cut with shots that don't have this artefact). And have a look at the streaking of the lights around 20:25 in the second episode — my guess is that that particular shot was captured with a really old video camera with slow response.

    There are no film artefacts, probably because this was shot on video.

    There's no significant aliasing or moirι, mainly because the image is so soft, although stills (such as during the credits) display quite a bit of stair-step jaggedness (making it clear how low the resolution is). There are no major MPEG artefacts, but there are minor MPEG artefacts during the opening credits of episode 9, but this seems to be an isolated problem. Edge enhancement is rather obvious a lot of the time.

    There are no subtitles.

    Two discs are single-sided, dual-layered, while the third is single-layered. The layer change is placed between episodes, so it's not obvious — the discs may be RSDL, but there's a long pause (on some players) between episodes when they change layers, so it's possible that they aren't.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English, Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround-encoded, at 192kbps. It doesn't sound in the least bit stereo — I think this is a 2.0 mono track; if you enable Prologic decoding the sound will collapse into the centre channel. There's a bit of hiss in the sound on occasions, but it's usually quiet.

    The dialogue is normally fairly clear, but the frequency response is somewhat restricted. This is most noticeable on the voice-over at the start and end of each episode. There is no clear mistake in audio sync, at least, probably because they didn't bother doing any ADR. The studio audience usually only provides loud laughter (sounds like it has been mixed fairly loud), but in a couple of episodes we can hear someone in the studio audience speak — the most obvious is in episode 19 when the wrong envelope is given to the messenger.

    The score comes from George Aliceson Tipton. It sounds like a cheap synthesizer, possibly with some real instruments, and is quite repetitive. The theme gets quite annoying when you've heard it more than fifty times.

    The surrounds and subwoofer aren't used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static and silent — it offers just "Play All" and "Episode Selection" on the first two discs.

Trailers

    The last disc includes some trailers, and these are the only extras in the entire set:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this (released in September, about two months before this one)  includes exactly the same discs (I guess we know why we got NTSC now...). So their transfer isn't any better, at least. Looks like you should get it, if you really want it, wherever you can get it for the least money.

Summary

    A TV series that was very popular when it was originally screened. Shame it has been given such a shoddy transfer to DVD.

    The video quality is execrable, even for an NTSC transfer.

    The audio quality is adequate, but only barely so.

    The only extras are the four trailers, two of which are for other TV series.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Terry K

Comments (Add)
Very Funny Stuff -
Soap - Brent R (bio-zet is especially formulated for front loading machines) REPLY POSTED
Cliffhanger? -
Video quality is GREAT -