Everybody loves a good “opposites attract” story, and CBS knew it. Taking that premise to a political extreme, the network trotted out Major Dad, a half-hour sitcom about two polar opposites: liberal reporter/widow Polly Cooper and straight-arrow Marine officer Major John D. “Mac” MacGillis. After free-spirit-she interviewed spit-and-polish-him for a local paper, the two fell in love and got married, placing disciplined Mac in the uncomfortable position of having to deal not only with his free-thinking wife, but also with his three brand-new stepdaughters. This trio of very non-military sass consisted of thirteen year-old Elizabeth, eleven year-old Robin, and six year-old Casey.
The show divided its time between Mac’s home and Camp Singleton, the San Diego, California base where he worked. The homebodies you’ve already met, and the characters at the base included perky secretary Merilee Gunderson and two assistants, Lt. Holowachuk and Sgt. James. In the second season, Mac got a transfer to Camp Hollister in Virginia to work as the staff secretary for General Marcus Craig. Mac was given a new assistant, “Gunny” Bricker, and Holowachuck followed along to be his aide. Meanwhile, Polly continued her career as the feature editor of The Bulldog, the Camp Hollister newspaper.
The episode plotlines usually focused on the clash between Mac’s conservative attitudes and Polly’s liberal beliefs, as well as the ongoing lessons Mac received from his daughters in the art of being a father. However, there was more to the show than domestic issues: in the 1990-91 season, the real-life tensions going on in Kuwait and Iraq became part of the show as Mac pondered a transfer to Saudi Arabia to fight in the Gulf War. Also, the issue of cutbacks in military funding was reflected in the show when Camp Hollister was threatened with being shut down.
Major Dad was notable for providing a unique, realistic insight into the issues that military families face. It was telecast for four seasons, lasting through September of 1993. Star Gerald McRaney, who had previously played one half of the duo Simon and Simon, would go on to appear in another family-themed show, Promised Land.
USA / CBS – SSB Prod – Spanish Trail Prod / 96×25 minute episodes / Broadcast 18 September 1989 – 13 September 1993
Producer: Will MacKenzie
Gerald McRaney as John MacGillis
Shanna Reed as Polly Cooper
Marisa Ryan as Elizabeth Cooper
Nicole Dubuc as Robin Cooper
Chelsea Hertford as Casey Cooper
Jon Cypher as General Marcus Craig
Beverly Archer as Alva Lou “Gunny” Bricker
Whitney Kershaw as Merilee Gunderson
Matt Mulhern as Lt. Eugene Holowachuk