While it's true the once-brilliant "Soap" suffers major, terminal creative problems in its fourth and final season (why is Burt suddenly the sanest member of the family?), it bests practically every comedy on the air today with its daring mix of comedy, drama, romance, suspense, and pathos. Season Four offers up plenty of memorable TV moments, if fewer than the previous three seasons, including Burt's crisis of faith, El Puerco and his Juans' hilarious introduction to the family, Chester's touching and too-late realization that he loves Jessica, Dutch and Eunice's tacky wedding, and Mary's struggle to maintain her sanity amidst some veritable insanity. No show today even comes close to "Soap" even in this, its weakest season.
What Sony has done to the fourth season is appalling and a mystery. While its presentations of Seasons One through Three were technically unremarkable, much of that due to so-so source materials, at least the episodes remained intact and were presented as they were originally on ABC and on the VHS release of the series by Columbia House in the 1990s. For some reason, Sony has opted here to edit the fourth season of "Soap" by lopping off most of the pre-episode recaps ("In the last episode of 'Soap' . . ."), some of which were quite clever and none of which consumed more than 40 or so seconds of time. Worse, Sony has edited the final five, one-hour episodes of the season into ten half-hours, omitting entire scenes and essentially including heavily-edited syndicated versions of the show's home stretch. (I do not know if these are indeed the syndicated versions of these episodes, but they are significantly different than the episodes as they appeared on the Columbia House tapes, which offered uncut episodes as they appeared on ABC in 1981.) Given Sony's thorough and whole releases of "Soap" Seasons 1-3, this shoddy, incomplete packaging of Season 4 is a puzzle, a disappointment, and of value only to fans who just have to have the entire series on DVD. Otherwise, true fans of the unabridged, unedited series should hold on to--or find--the final year of "Soap" on VHS and suffer the inferior quality until Sony rights this wrong.