I have really fond but very limited memories of watching the groundbreaking and controversial sitcom Soap, back in the day.
Created by Susan Harris, who also wrote or co-wrote all 85 episodes, the ABC show ran for four seasons between 1977 and 1981 in the US and was initially shown here in the UK in a late-night slot on the ITV network.
Since I was only eight years old when it started, I only got to see it on those rare occasions when, first of all, I was allowed to stay up late and, secondly, when my mum didn’t realise what I was watching (she thought it was a bit crude, you see).
I can’t pretend that I understood half of what was going on in the show or got most of the jokes (and I certainly had no knowledge of the US daytime soap operas it was spoofing) but I just knew that I loved the silly stuff and that it was a real treat when I got to watch an episode.
Later on, when I was older and saw some more of the show, I began to appreciate the more serious issues it (for the time) bravely tackled (albeit often in a humorous way) on prime-time American TV.
But I still loved the stupid stuff the most. And it didn’t get much more stupid, and brilliant, than Chuck and Bob.
Chuck, played by accomplished ventriloquist Jay Johnson, was main character Burt Campbell’s (Richard Mulligan) estranged son from a previous marriage. He is introduced in the show as having a ventriloquist’s act in Hawaii and it soon becomes clear that not only does he never go anywhere without Bob, his dummy, but that he believes Bob is real. Bob, in turn, reflects the dark side of Chuck’s nature – he is nasty, sarcastic and mean, with no consideration for other people’s feelings, and basically voices all the thoughts and opinions that mild-mannered Chuck could never say himself.
The original TV Bob is now in the Smithsonian Institution, incidentally.
Here are a just a few of the pair’s classic scenes (two of which also feature the young Billy Crystal as Jodie Dallas, the role that launched his career):
Meet the families (Chuck and Bob’s first appearance):
The Big Chill: