Sunday, January 23, 2011
Netflix, the Cast of Soap and Old Age
It's pretty nifty. You set up Netflix on your computer, load up movies on their web page, and poof! they appear in your Blue-ray player like magic! I'm sure in five or ten years, the process will be even slicker, and probably taken for granted. But for now, it's very cool. But right away, I discovered a built-in limitation. After just a few searches, I realized that much of Netflix's library is "DVD Only," which means you have to sign up for the $2-per-month extra service where they mail the DVD to you. $2 isn't much, but it's not nearly as convenient, and I can't imagine it is very cost effective. I predict that eventually, Netflix (or its successor) will be 100% online.
Anyway, the service is really pretty awesome, but has the potential to become just one more time waster. I got my feet wet watching episodes of the brilliant but cancelled Better Off Ted. And then somehow, I got trapped in an all-day marathon of the 70s sitcom, Soap. In two days, I think I'm up to episode 15. Of course, that's at 22 minutes a pop, so it's not all that bad. The show holds up remarkably well, retaining every bit of the humor it always had. It is of course not as risque as we remember (the Moral Majority would pass out from today's HBO and FX shows). And the 70s fashions and decor dates the show. Just think of it as That REAL 70s Show, and get past it. There's comedy gold here.
The show of course featured Billy Crystal as TVs first regular out gay character, though they weren't 100% accurate in dealing with it. Baby steps, right? It was still groundbreaking. The cast was absolutely stellar, particularly the older people in the cast (as opposed to the unevenly talented younger ones). Katherine Helmond as daffy Jessica Tate, Cathryn Damon as sensible Mary Campbell, Robert Mandan as philandering Chester Tate, Richard Mulligan as loopy Burt Campbell, and Robert Guillaume as sardonic butler Benson was a cast any show would envy. The other standouts for me were Ted Wass as sexy but dumb Danny and Jay Johnson as Chuck (and Bob the dummy) Campbell.
But the most stunning thing for me (besides the amount of time I spent watching it) was the age of the principal cast. This show originally aired when I was eleven years old. While I didn't completely get it then, I absolutely loved the show in its original run. And to me, Jessica, Mary, Benson, Burt and especially Chester weren't just older. They were old. Of course, my mother was 29 at the time, more in line with Jennifer Salt or Diana Canova (the Tate daughters). So the others were practically the age of my grandparents.
Today, I am 44 years old, and The Other Half is 49. We both have birthdays within the next 5 months, so both of us will reach milestones of a sort. And both of us will bracket each Soap cast member in the photo above! Now, neither of us is anywhere near as youthful looking as we were when we met in 1998. But neither of us looks old enough to be any of those people! I'm going to be the same age as Chester Tate??? Sorry, Mr. Mandan. I know you're still out there, and got to have a career where you basically looked the same age for thirty years, so I'm really not knocking you. But wow. This life thing is really starting to speed up!