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Soap aired from September 1977 until April 1981 on ABC.

Soap was undoubtedly the most controversial new series of the 1977-1978 "season of sex." Even before it went on the air, ABC had received over 32,000 letters about the show - all but 9 of them against it. ABC affiliates had been picketed for planning to air it and sponsors had been urged to boycott the show (which a few did). Some ABC affiliates refused to carry it and many who did, ran it late at night.

The object of all this attention was a half-hour comedy which was billed as a satire on soap operas. It had a continuing story line but was populated by a cast that was hardly ever seen on any serious dramatic show.

Stories centered on the wealthy Tates and the blue-collar Campbells. Chester Tate ( Robert Mandan) was a pompous businessman with an affinity for extramarital affairs. No wonder since his wife, Jessica ( Katherine Helmond) , was a spaced-out, fluttery idiot. Of their three children: sexy Corrine ( Diana Canova) was always putting her best attributes forward; Eunice ( Jennifer Salt) was much quieter and more conservative and Billy ( Jimmy Baio) , 14, was a wise-cracking brat. Living with the Tates were Jessica's father, the Major ( Arthur Peterson), who crawled around the floor in his old army uniform, still fighting World War II and Benson ( Robert Guillaume) , the insolent and obnoxious black butler and cook, who commented on the events taking place.

Across town lived Jessica's sister, Mary Campbell ( Cathryn Damon). Her husband, Burt ( Richard Mulligan), was a working class guy whose main problem was dealing with stepsons: Jodie ( Billy Crystal), who was gay, and Danny ( Ted Wass), who was involved with organized crime. Burt also had to deal with his son Chuck ( Jay Johnson) a ventriloquist , who never went anywhere without his dummy Bob and who talked to him like it was a real person. Surreptitious sex was on practically everyone's mind , and formed the basis of many of the stories.

The major development during the first season was the murder of Peter ( Robert Urich), the handsome tennis pro - and Burt's other son, who had been luring most of his female students to bed with him. First Corrine was accused, but then Jessica was arrested and subsequently convicted of the crime. In the last episode of the 1977-1978 season, an off-screen narrator informed viewers that she didn't really do it, and as the following season opened, Chester confessed to the crime.

Chester was sent to prison but soon escaped with Dutch ( Donnelly Rhodes), a convicted murderer. Soon thereafter, Chester lost his memory and wandered out west, where he became a fry cook. Dutch eloped with Eunice, Jessica fell in love with Detective Donahue ( John Byner) - whom she had hired to find Chester. When Chester finally returned, she had to choose between the two. She choose Chester but only for a while. After a fling with South American revolutionary "El Puerco" ( Gregory Sierra) , she and Chester were divorced.

Life was not dull for the rest of the family either. Benson the butler departed for greener pastures - his own TV show, Benson - in 1979, after rescuing Billy from a religious cult, the Sunnies. the new butler was named Saunders ( Roscoe Lee Browne). Daughter Corrine married ex-priest, Timothy Flotsky ( Sal Viscuso), but their union produced a baby possessed by the devil and the Tates had to band together to exorcise the spirit.

Across town, Burt found himself kidnapped and cloned by aliens; at least Mary got a few nights of uninhibited sex from the clone! But who then was the father of the baby that resulted? Jodie, Burt's gay son, decided that women are fun too and sired his own baby by Carol ( Rebecca Balding), but wound up in an ugly custody battle. Then Burt got himself elected sheriff, resulting in a run-in with the racketeer Tibbs and his hooker, Gwen ( Jesse Wells). Danny, who had previously been in love with Elaine ( Dinah Manoff), Millie ( Candace Azzara) and Polly ( Lynne Moody), sort of liked her.

Soap concluded its original run with a typical cliffhanger. The Governor offered Burt a chance to run for Lt. Governor after he successfully broke up the racketeering ring, however Burt still had enemies and they planned to kill him. Danny found out that Chester was his real father after he needed a kidney transplant, after he was shot by an Assassin's bullet. Danny recovered but then fell in love with Annie ( Nancy Doleman) who was Chester's new wife. Chester was angry but he was more concerened with Jessica and "El's relationship and was later challenged to a duel by "El." Meanwhile, Jodie got stuck in a past life and believed he was Julius Kassendorf, a 90-year-old Jewish man.

As the series ended El's enemies broke in and took Jessica hostage and left for Souh America. They left instructions that "El" was to turn himself over to them or Jessica would be killed. Burt received a tip on a big drug transaction, not knowing it was a trap. Later after making love, Danny and Annie were confronted by Chester who snapped and planned to kill them both, then kill himself before "El" could kill him in the duel. Burt walked into the hood's trap and was about to be ambushed. Jessica made her peace with God before she was brought to the firing squad and shot. That was how the series ended but several years later on Soap's spin-off series Benson, it was revealed that Jessica survived being shot and was lying in a coma, somewhere in South America.

Soap attracted a large and loyal audience and the controversy over it was confined mostly to the first season. ABC maintained that the program represented a major breakthrough in TV comedy and claimed that "through the Campbells and the Tates, many of today's social concerns will be dealt with in a comic manner." Others, however, considered Soap nothing more than an extended dirty joke being broadcast into America's living rooms. Much of the opposition to the program was led by religious groups (sound like ABC & Ellen?), including the National Council of Churches. Reverend Everett Parker, a long-time critic of TV, called Soap "a deliberate effort to break down any resistance to whatever the industry wants to put into prime time.... Who else besides the the churches is going to stand against the effort of television to tear down our moral values and make all of us into mere consumers?"

An Article from Time Magazine

Viewpoint: Soap, Betty & Rafferty
Monday, Sep. 12, 1977

Mary Hartman without heart

Although the premiere is not until Sept. 13 (9:30 p.m. E.D.T.), Soap is already assured of its place in television history. This ABC sitcom, a bubble-headed parody of daytime soap operas, will always be remembered as the show that broke the TV sex barrier by spilling uninhibited promiscuity into the allegedly sacrosanct hours of prime time. Other prime-time shows trade in sex, of course, but Soap is the first to flaunt its carnal knowledge directly for the viewer. Even without the enfilade fire that has preceded its arrival, this series would still be the one sure hit of the new TV season.

The noisy debate over Soap has largely been fueled by religious groups, whose strenuous letter-writing campaigns have now driven 15 ABC affiliates (out of 195) and some sponsors to drop the series. Soap's detractors seem to feel the show will sully the innocent minds of children in the TV audience, but a young TV viewer's mind really does not stay unclouded for long. Any child who regularly watches leering sitcoms like Three's Company, action series like Charlie's Angels or even daytime soap operas has already been exposed to more sex than can possibly be packed into a half-hour of Soap. Indeed, double-entendre gags are standard fare on almost every TV show aired after 8 p.m. Since Soap contains neither nudity nor four-letter words nor heavy petting, it is no more salacious than most other series but it has committed the sin of being open about its preoccupations. Soap doesn't disguise itself as a crime adventure or family comedy. Perhaps that is why the show has become the tardy symbol of a TV sexual revolution that has long since been accomplished.

It is possible though unlikely that public pressure could yet squelch Soap, but even if that happens, the networks are not now going to go clean. It can also be argued that sex, like any other reality, deserves a role in TV entertainments that purport to portray contemporary life. The real trouble with Soap, a series in which characters exchange sexual partners almost as often as they do wisecracks, is that sex is used only for cheap gags. Television, which routinely trivializes so much of experience, should not be permitted to take the fun out of intimacy.

Soap aspires to be a network Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and one only wishes that it were. Susan Harris, Soap's creator, producer and writer, centers the action on two related Connecticut families, the rich Tates and working-class Campbells, whose flaky members collectively include philandering and impotent husbands, bored and batty housewives, nymphomaniac children, a senile grandfather and so on. Most of these types have counterparts in Mary Hartman's Fernwood, Ohio, but Soap's characters are flimsy replicas of the originals.

The blame belongs to Harris, not the show's talented cast. For all the trouble this writer has taken to reproduce Mary Hartman's formula, she has left out its essential ingredient compassion. Mary Hartman presented its admittedly loony characters with such affection that audiences cared about them and even identified with their failings. Soap contemptuously presents its people as either stupid or conniving or cruel or some hybrid thereof. With so many unpleasant cartoon figures on the screen, Soap's potentially affecting sexual shenanigans devolve into mean-spirited locker-room jokes. It is not Soap's desire to lather on the sex that lands the series in hot water but its insistence on isolating sex from humanity that makes it look dirty.

If Soap had other comic concerns besides sex, its nastiness wouldn't be so pervasive. Unfortunately, Harris has none of Norman Lear's redeeming flair for witty social satire unless one counts the tired reverse-racist jokes she lavishes on the character of a sassy black butler (Robert Guillaume). The flatness of the conventional comic scenes can be painful; when two characters engage in a lengthy and unfunny food fight, a third appears to suggest lamely that "this is like having breakfast with the Marx brothers." Good jokes never announce themselves.

Even so, Soap is not without its virtues. Jimmy Baio, as an oversexed 14-year-old, and Billy Crystal, as an out-of-the-closet (but preoperative) transsexual, are sharp young comedians. The series' hellzapoppin plot, whose chaos recalls the '30s farces of Kaufman and Hart, exerts a strong narrative pull. With care, these elements could yet form the basis for entertainment that is both notorious and decent. Soap will surely make enough money to buy itself a heart.

Two other prime-time contenders:

The Betty White Show (premiere: Sept. 12, 9 p.m. E.D.T. on CBS). One of the major inspirations of the Mary Tyler Moore Show was to cast sweet, motherly Betty White against type as a two-faced bitch. In this promising new sitcom from MTM Enterprises, White is as bitchy as ever and on-screen almost all the time. It might be too much of a good thing.

The series is set in the Hollywood television industry a milieu that could prove to be as durable as the Minneapolis TV newsroom of MTM. White plays Joyce Whitman, a veteran TV actress who stars in a fictional network cop show called Undercover Woman. Joyce's ex-husband, a self-described "cold fish" played with slimy charm by John Hillerman, is also her director, and for much of the first episode, the two ex-spouses rekindle their marital acrimony by trading insults on the Undercover Woman set. Occasionally and gratuitously Joyce's roommate (Georgia Engel, another MTM refugee) pops up to referee.

White and Hillerman are superb foils for each other, but a little insult humor, however dryly delivered, goes a long way. Phyllis, another MTM effort, failed precisely because Cloris Leachman's strident putdowns tuckered out the audience. The Betty White Show can avoid Phyllis' fate if its creators capitalize on the satirical possibilities of their TV industry setting. Betty White, not to mention her viewers, simply must have more room to breathe.

Rafferty (premiere: Sept. 5, 10 p.m. E.D.T. on CBS). In this expendable doctor series, Patrick McGoohan stars as an ex-Army medic with a gruff exterior and a heart as big as an ambulance. Surrounding him are cliches culled from most other doctor series of recent vintage. Though Dr. Rafferty's patients all survive to the final credits, the show itself is dead on arrival.

Frank Rich

An Article from Time Magazine

If the Eye Offend Thee
Monday, Sep. 26, 1977

Sex is only one of the targets in church attacks on TV

With rhetoric once reserved for the likes of prostitution and child labor, America's often divided churches have united to assault a new public vice. "Television dumps into our homes a steady stream of illicit sex, casual violence, alcohol promotion, materialism, vulgarity," declared a resolution passed by 15,000 members attending the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The tough words are being backed by action, with the Baptists, and others, launching long-range educational programs and citizens' campaigns to clean up TV.

A remarkably broad group of religious agencies zeroed in on ABC-TV's sex-saturated series Soap well before the public had even seen the show. The ensuing fuss helped make last week's Soap premiere (TIME, Sept. 12) into something like a national event. And the campaign has only begun. Church strategists who have had a bootlegged look at future and, they contend, far sleazier episodes of Soap expect public antagonism to build steadily.

Officials of the National Council of Churches and two of its member denominations have asked church leaders to organize community anti-Soap action groups in 174 cities. The U.S. Catholic Conference considers the show unfit for prime time, when 18 million youngsters are in the potential audience, and is lobbying to have it scheduled at a later evening hour. A militant "no Soap" coalition formed by the Southern Baptists and nine other religious and civic organizations has been pressuring local stations and sponsors to boycott the program. As of last week, 17 of ABC's outlets did not run Soap. In addition, 47 stations in the South and Midwest ran the show an hour later than the network.

The churches realize that explicit sexual material has been creeping into network programs for several years. But Soap is regarded as a key test case. The Rev. Everett Parker, media watchdog of the liberal United Church of Christ, calls the program "a deliberate effort to break down any resistance to whatever the industry wants to put into prime time." Says Wall Street Media Analyst Anthony Hoffman: "Soap is a stalking horse. If it is a success, everyone will want one."

One concern of the churches is that television will use sex to replace violence as an attention getter. Violence has been de-emphasized, partly as a result of protests last season from the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Medical Association and, especially, Parent-Teacher Associations all over the U.S. Churches played a strong role in this campaign too. An alliance of Protestant and Catholic agencies threatened stockholder resolutions. Representatives met quietly with officials of eight corporations listed as sponsors of the most violent programs by the National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting. All but one (Schlitz) have since agreed not to advertise their products on programs with "excessive" violence.

Several denominations are trying to teach people how to keep watch on TV. The Southern Baptists' Christian Life Commission has mailed "Help for Television Viewers" kits to 35,000 pastors and 15,000 lay leaders. The $1.50 kit includes a checklist so viewers can log incidents of violence, profanity and alcohol and sexual abuse. A more sophisticated project is "Television Awareness Training," a 16-hour course sponsored by the United Methodist Church, American Lutheran Church and Church of the Brethren. T.A.T. has trained more than 100 instructors so far, and they will begin offering classes for church and civic groups in 50 cities this month.

T.A.T.'s impact is heightened by documentary films that splice together bits of prime-time material broadcast last year. A film section on violence, for instance, moves rapidly through 19 scenes of mass murder, bludgeoning, bombing and miscellaneous mayhem. In the film on sexuality, compassionate treatment of sex is viewed favorably, but many scenes are criticized for mechanizing and dehumanizing sex. Among the more eye-stopping examples: Gabriel Kaplan joking about gang rape; a crazed rapist on Baretta telling his victim, "I've broken a lot of necks in my time. I'm glad you know it. It will make it better." On advertising, T.A.T. presents the classic (though now changed) commercial in which David Janssen mumbles that doctors' studies favor Excedrin for "pain other than headache" and later concludes, "the next time you have a headache, try Excedrin."

The 304-page textbook that accompanies the course contains thoughtful assessments of unstated TV-show presumptions and subtle moral issues often ignored in the sex and violence v. censorship debates. In one essay, the Rev. William Fore, communications director of the National Council of Churches, discusses messages directly or subliminally being transmitted to masses of TV viewers. Among them: the good are usually weak; power is good, even if you have to be evil to get it; happiness consists of limitless material acquisition. None of these views are new or wholly inaccurate, but pervasive repetition of materialism and situation ethics, churchmen argue, can be overwhelming.

Church efforts to encourage viewers to be more discriminating in their TV habits can have the same result as that of the action recommended by TV executives who defend today's programming. Says Thomas Dargan, manager of the ABC station in Portland, Ore., who has been barraged with complaints about Soap "There is excellent alternative programming available including the off button." To commercial TV's complaints about religious censorship, Parker responds, "You have a perfect right to say you don't want this coming into your living room. It's a matter of the public interest. Who else besides the churches is going to stand against the effort of television to tear down our moral values and make all of us into mere consumers?"


Here is Cathryn Damon's Obituary


Published: May 7, 1987

Cathryn Damon, a stage and television actress who won an Emmy for her role on the popular television spoof ''Soap,'' died of cancer Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She was 56 years old.

Miss Damon was best known to millions of fans as Mary Campbell, the loyal wife of Burt Campbell, on the zany satire of daytime soap operas that ran on ABC from 1977-81.

The series had a loosely structured plot line that sometimes startled viewers with references to incest, adultery and homosexuality.

Miss Damon's character had to deal with a television husband who once was cloned by aliens from outer space. Both Miss Damon and Richard Mulligan, who played Burt, won Emmys in 1980 for their performances in the show. The problem-plagued television family also consisted of a son who became involved in organized crime and another son who was bisexual.

The series was so controversial that it brought 32,000 letters of protest even before ABC put it on the air. But ''Soap'' attracted a large and loyal following and ABC contended the program represented a major revolution in television comedy.

Miss Damon worked until shortly before her illness incapacitated her. Acted on Broadway

On television she was seen in the ''Matlock,'' ''Mike Hammer'' and ''Murder, She Wrote'' series. Earlier she was a neighbor on ''Webster'' and was featured in a television movie ''Not in Front of the Children.''

On Broadway and Off Broadway Miss Damon appeared in ''Flora, the Red Menace,'' ''Prisoner of Second Avenue,'' ''The Last of the Red Hot Lovers,'' ''Sweet Bird of Youth,'' ''The Boys From Syracuse'' and ''Passion.''

Survivors include her mother, M. Cathryn Springer, and a sister, June Ferol Damon.

Richard Mulligan
Brilliant comic actor behind crazy star of TV cult series, Soap

Thu 5 Oct 2000 20.57 EDT

The tall and rubber-faced Richard Mulligan, who has died aged 67, portrayed Burt Campell, the craziest of all the crazy characters in the spoof American TV soap opera, Soap, with brilliant comic timing and an ability to make his subject both real and sympathetic despite the circumstances. It was Mulligan's most celebrated role in an acting career that stretched from the late 1950s until only a few years ago, as he struggled against the cancer to which he finally succumbed.

Chronicling the lives of two very different families - the wealthy Tates and the struggling Campbells - made Soap a huge hit with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic from 1977 to 1981. In it, the bewildered, blue-collar Campbell tried to adjust to his new life as the second husband of bubble-headed Mary, with her two sons, one a mobster, the other a gay ventriloquist. At one point in the series, he was accused of his own son's murder, and was kidnapped and cloned by aliens.

Although he appeared in more than a dozen feature films, Mulligan found his true home in above-average TV sitcoms, such as Soap and the more conventional Empty Nest (1988-1995), for both of which he won Emmy awards. In the latter, he played Dr Henry Weston, a paediatrician widower living with three adult daughters and a large dog called Dreyfuss as confidant.

"He's certainly different from my role on Soap," Mulligan once remarked. "This guy's a good doctor who cares deeply about his patients. He's a good fellow trying to take care of his daughters. His wife died 18 months ago and he still can't take the ring off."

Mulligan himself was married and divorced four times, having had a son by his first wife. His second wife was the actress Joan Hackett, opposite whom he played a weak husband in The Group (1966), Sidney Lumet's uneasy cross between satire and soap opera. His last marriage (in 1992) to Serina Robinson, a 32-year-old former porn star, lasted only 10 months and ended bitterly, with Mulligan suing Robinson over her account of the break-up in a tabloid.

Born in the Bronx, the son of a New York Irish-Catholic policeman, Mulligan served in the US navy before studying to become a playwright at Columbia University. One day, while delivering a play to a community theatre, he was asked by the director to audition for the role of Andrew Mayo, a husky, down-to-earth farmer's son in the Eugene O'Neill drama, Beyond the Horizon.

"I thought, if I'm going to write for actors, maybe I should know better what it is that actors do," Mulligan explained later. "So I decided to do the audition. And I hated it. But they called, and told me that I was the guy. So I did the part again, in pursuit of knowing what it is actors do, and eventually got bit by the acting bug."

Mulligan got his first Broadway opportunity in 1960, in the Arthur Penn production of All the Way Home, going on a few times for Arthur Hill in the lead. Ten years later, Penn asked him to play a psychotic General Custer, demystifying the legend in his revisionist western, Little Big Man. Mulligan, who was superb in the part, had made his feature film debut in a small dramatic role in Love With The Proper Stranger (1963), directed by his seven-year-older brother, Robert Mulligan.

He seldom had a chance to be serious in films again. In the disaster spoof motive, The Big Bus (1976), he was a husband celebrating his divorce with his ex-wife, and in Teachers (1984), he played a nutty professor who dresses up as Custer and George Washington during history lessons, and turns out to be an escaped mental patient.

Mulligan was also in four of his friend Blake Edwards's strained farces, the best being the bile-filled satire S.O.B. (1981), where he bravely played a film director turning a disastrous family musical into a hit porn movie. In order to pull it off, he needs to convince his female lead and wife (Julie Andrews, Edwards's wife) to defy her wholesome squeaky-clean public image by baring her breasts.

Mulligan, who had just finished in Soap, thus consolidated his reputation for playing odd-ball characters.

Richard Mulligan, actor, born November 13 1932; died September 26 2000

Here is Roscoe Lee Browne's Obituary from The New York Times

Roscoe Lee Browne, 81, Actor of Stage and Screen, Dies

Published: April 12, 2007

Roscoe Lee Browne, a stage, film and television actor known for his rich voice, died early yesterday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 81 and lived in Los Angeles.

The cause was cancer, said Alan Nierob, a spokesman.

Mr. Browne came to acting somewhat late, after gaining fame as a track star in the early 1950s. But he soon became part of a vanguard of leading black actors in the traditionally white New York theater world. He began as a fixture of New York Shakespeare Festival productions and then in 1961 joined James Earl Jones in the original cast of a long running Off Broadway production of The Blacks by Jean Genet.

But he broke out with his portrayal of the mutinous slave Babu in a 1964 production of Benito Cereno, a one-act that was part of Robert Lowell's trilogy The Old Glory.

Mr. Browne found more success off than on Broadway, where he performed in several short-lived plays in the 1960s, including Edward Albee's adaptation of Carson McCuller's Ballad of the Sad Cafe, in which he played the role of the Narrator, and A Hand Is on the Gate: An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music, which he also directed.

He would not be in a successful Broadway show until 1983, as the Right Rev. J. D. Montgomery in Tommy Tune's production of My One and Only. His last appearance on Broadway, in the 1992 production of August Wilson's Two Trains Running, earned him a Tony nomination.

By that time he had become a recognizable face and voice in film and television, starting with the film The Connection (1962), a realistic portrayal of drug addicts. He went on to appear in Hitchcock's Topaz (1969); The Liberation of L. B. Jones (1970); and The Mambo Kings (1992).

On television, Mr. Browne often played high-brow characters because of his distinctive voice and stately bearing. He twice appeared on All in the Family, much to the bigoted Archie Bunker's dismay, and played a recurring role on Soap. In 1986 he won an Emmy Award for an episode of The Cosby Show and continued to appear regularly on television series, including A Different World and Law and Order.

His voice was also well employed, narrating the movie Babe and several documentaries, and participating in spoken-word works with the Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and other orchestras.

Roscoe Lee Browne was born on May 2, 1925, in Woodbury, N.J., the son of a Baptist preacher. After graduating in 1946 from Lincoln University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania, Mr. Browne pursued a postgraduate degree at Middlebury College.

He returned to Lincoln to teach French and comparative literature, but at the same time was becoming an international track star, competing internationally. In 1951 he won the world championship in the 800-yard dash.

Capitalizing on that recognition he was hired by Schenley Import Corporation, a wine and liquor importer, where he worked as a sales representative until 1956. One night he decided, during dinner with friends, that he would become an actor. The next day he auditioned for, and won, a role in a production at the New York Shakespeare Festival, which was still in its infancy.

I remember when I chose acting, he said in a 1989 interview with The Los Angeles Times. I thought, This is it for the time being. I didn't think I was finished yet. I still don't. I keep thinking about what I should be doing.

Robert Guillaume, Groundbreaking Emmy Winner In 'Soap,' 'Benson,' Dies

October 24, 20175:45 PM ET

Actor Robert Guillaume, who became the first black actor to win comedy Emmys for playing sharp-tongued butler turned lieutenant governor Benson DuBois on Soap and its spinoff, Benson, died Tuesday at age 89.

Guillaume was born Robert Peter Williams and was raised in a St. Louis slum. He adopted his last name for its sophisticated French sound. He told Tavis Smiley in 2004 about the impact his career had had on him.

"I found out who I was, Robert Guillaume, Robert Williams, whatever. I found out who I was through acting, and through being Robert Guillaume, I found out how to act. And it was something that satisfied me, and I don't think one ever gets enough of that. I'm sort of addicted to the notion that I have something to say."

He started as a stage actor, in Purlie and an all-black revival of Guys And Dolls, and returned to the stage often in his career. But playing the refined DuBois for nine years starting in 1977 made him a TV star and a symbol of hard-won success, says NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.

The part won him Emmys for best supporting actor in a comedy in 1979 and best actor in a comedy in 1985; he was the first African-American to win either. Guillaume told Smiley in a 2002 interview that he wasn't sure about the part when he first took it.

"I had some misgivings and trepidation that perhaps taking the role of a butler was not the greatest thing I could do. But I'd been in the business for 17 or 18 years, and not a hell of lot had happened. So I said, 'I'd better get on this train.' "

Guillaume also portrayed abolitionist Frederick Douglass in the 1985 pre-Civil War miniseries North and South and managing editor Isaac Jaffe on the Aaron Sorkin-created TV show Sports Night. The Robert Guillaume Show, a sitcom he helped launch in 1989, broke ground in its single season by focusing on a growing romantic relationship between a black man and a white woman.

Guillaume's lengthy on-screen career tapered off after a mild stroke in 1999, but his role as the eccentric mandrill Rafiki in The Lion King — you may remember him hoisting a certain lion cub to present him to the rest of the animals — helped provide him with a busy career as a voice actor in later years.

Robert Mandan, the Womanizing Chester Tate on 'Soap,' Dies at 86

6:21 PM PDT 6/3/2018 by Mike Barnes

He played white-collar types on other shows including 'Three's Company,' 'Private Benjamin' and 'The Facts of Life.'

Robert Mandan, the veteran television actor who starred as Chester Tate, the philandering husband of Katherine Helmond's character, on the ABC daytime-serial spoof Soap, has died. He was 86.

Mandan died April 29 in Los Angeles after a long illness, his friend, playwright and screenwriter Gary Goldstein, told The Hollywood Reporter. Mandan starred in Goldstein's first play, Just Men, at the Stella Adler Theater in Hollywood in 1996.

Mandan, who often played suits and white-collar types during his long career, also portrayed the wealthy investment banker James Bradford at the end of ABC's Three's Company and on its 1984-85 spinoff, Three's a Crowd.

Mandan also was the bombastic Col. Lawrence Fielding on the CBS adaptation of Private Benjamin, and his doctor character married Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) on NBC's The Facts of Life and whisked her away to the Peace Corps.

Mandan had worked on such soap operas as The Edge of Night, From These Roots and Search for Tomorrow when he was hired to play Chester, a conniving Wall Street stock broker, on Soap.

Susan Harris created the sitcom, which aired for four seasons, from 1977-81, and spawned the Robert Guillaume-starring Benson. The show, always a critical darling, was a top 10 hit in its first season but suffered in the ratings as it was moved around the schedule.

Mandan and Helmond reunited for two episodes of her next series, Who's the Boss?, and for a 2002 production of A Twilight Romance at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank. He also returned to the soap opera world with gigs on Santa Barbara, Days of Our Lives and General Hospital.

His other notable TV work included playing an unctuous attorney on All in the Family and a homosexual friend of Bea Arthur's character on Maude, and he appeared on Sanford and Son, Barney Miller, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Married … With Children as well.

A native of Clever, Missouri, Mandan grew up in Southern California and majored in theater at Pomona College. He got a big break when veteran actor Edward Arnold pushed for him to star alongside him in a production of All My Sons in Palm Springs.

Mandan made his Broadway debut in 1956 in Speaking of Murder, directed by Delbert Mann, and he worked with Lauren Bacall in the original 1970 production of the Betty Comden-Adolph Green musical Applause.

On the big screen, Mandan played a senator in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) and appeared in other films including Hickey & Boggs (1972), MacArthur (1977) and, as a principal, in Zapped! (1982).

He did lots of local theater late in his career, Goldstein noted.

Survivors include his wife, Sherry.

For more on Soap go to

For a Soap Episode Guide go to

For some Soap-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to

For two reviews of Soap go to and

To watch the opening credits go to
Date: Thu February 5, 2004 � Filesize: 36.3kb � Dimensions: 296 x 450 �
Keywords: Soap


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  • This photo gallery contains pictures for sitcoms of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and today. We also have photo galleries for dramas, soaps, reality shows, animated series/cartoons, game shows, variety shows, talk shows and late night tv photo galleries. Visit Sitcoms Online for sitcom news, message boards, links, theme songs, and more.

  • To upload photos, please choose the appropriate category and login with your existing message board username and password. If you are new, you will need to register before uploading any photos. Please upload only sitcom and tv related photos.

  • If you have any questions, comments, requests for new categories, etc. - please contact us.

  • To request any photos be removed, please use the "Report Photo" link that is the bottom of every photo if you are registered and logged in. This is the quickest and easiest method. You can also send an e-mail with the url(s) of the photo(s). We will also gladly credit or link to any site that is the original source of any photos.

  • User uploaded photos are used for promotional, informational and educational purposes. All images, logos, and other materials are copyright their respective owners. No rights are given or implied.

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