Recently I watched Soap Season 1 on DVD while working on a big LEGO project. This show debuted 30 years ago with much controversy over Billy Crystal's character Jodie, the first out gay character in a sitcom. When I originally watched the show in the 80s in syndication I didn't think that was a big deal. Three's Company had tons of gay jokes, even though Jack was a fake homo, and that debuted six months earlier. All the dialog around Jodie's character was about his character being gay. This must have been quite a big deal 30 years ago. Sadly as the series progressed he became more and more straight. By the end of the first season, he has sex with a women (eww!) Carol, who he met at his Aunt Jessica's murder trial. His big cliffhanger for season one was the return his ex-boyfriend Dennis the Quarterback. In a funny note, the actor who played the gay athlete was a real life "pole vault" Olympic Gold Medalist. At the end, Jodie is supposed to be struggling with the choice of returning to a hunky pro-football player or his bitchy and deceitful new girlfriend. Who do you think the network made him choose?
The clear breakaway character is Benson. As the dialog with and about Jodie was all gay, Benson being the only black character had lots of racially related jokes. He and Jodie were considered suspects in the murder of Spencer for Hire because they were black and gay, and no other reason, pointing out the absurdity in racial profiling long before that was even a word. After two seasons on Soap, Benson went onto to his own show for seven seasons.