Soap (1977-1979) and Benson (1979-1986)
The flip side to Montaigne’s aphorism: No valet ever had to serve a less heroic boss than philandering, swindling, convicted killer Chester Tate. No wonder that Benson (Robert Guillaume) got away with treating Chester with such open contempt during his years on Soap. In a family tree with several branches of crazy, Benson was the moral center, so it was easy to forgive his refusal to answer the door, serve Chester’s meals, or respond to Chester with anything other than surly wisecracks. (At least his affection for Jessica Tate and her children is apparent.) Still, even though he barely does any work, the Tates would fall apart without him. (Or they would have, had the Tates not hired Saunders, played by Roscoe Lee Browne, a butler even haughtier and more sardonic than Benson).
Benson had a lot more to do as the center of his own spinoff (pictured), cleaning up the messes made by the idiot Governor Gatling (James Noble) and sparring with the governor’s cook, Kraus (Inga Swenson). By the end of the series, he was challenging Gatling as a gubernatorial candidate. The show ended with a cliffhanger on election night, but had Benson won, he’d surely have been as capable of cleaning up the messes of his entire state as efficiently as he had in the households of the Tates and the Gatlings.
Next Geoffrey Butler