Major Dad (“Pilot”)

Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: September 17, 1989 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 15.5/24 in Households

I saw this show offered on one of my websites I frequent when I am looking for things to watch, and I knew of the show’s existence by going through the 1989 Nielsen ratings at one point. Both things added up enough for this wall of text to exist after I have finished watching the pilot episode, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. MAJOR DAD has been something of a solid sitcom success for CBS on their Monday sitcom block, but I wasn’t expecting for it to be a good-enough sitcom to even make me laugh once or twice, let alone being a sitcom that could stand the test of time. Yes, it’s television from 1989, with characters that have the mind of 1980s television writers, but a few fixes here and there and you could transform the story and the dialogue, and even the jokes, to a twenty-first century audience. Broadcast networks have been interested in reviving sitcoms these days, and streamers were starting to think about rebooting other sitcoms, so why would MAJOR DAD not be one of the prospected projects that could go through a remake for a season or two? After all, the show is not at all known in today’s television mind, so if news comes around of a sitcom titled “Major Dad” being ordered to series, most of the internet won’t even know at first that the show existed before. Others won’t even get to watch the original, because it’s barely available anywhere, either on DVD or on a streaming network. Hell, I found this show on the NBC website once, and it aired on CBS. Granted, it’s a show produced by Universal, so it would naturally be with NBC now, but still…

Meet your new daughters!

I loved the notion that this is a true and honest multicamera sitcom. Right after the opening credits finished, a voiceover advertised that MAJOR DAD was filmed before a live studio audience, and this is one of the episodes during which you immediately notice that fact. There was no laughter coming from a can, and you could believe that every laughing noise you heard coming from behind the cameras were truly captured by microphones all around the soundstages, whether it’s during the scene in which Major is being eyed by Casey while they were waiting for dinner to become ready, or during the romantic moments Major and Polly shared for the first time in the kitchen at the end of the episode. There was excitement going on in the studio and the audience believed that it was happening and they were into it — you normally don’t get that kind of excitement from a live studio audience serving the laughter noises in a sitcom television show, but MAJOR DAD made the live studio audience part of the show. Without the audience, the episode may have been a little less interesting, but with the audience I felt like I was watching this episode with a crowd in good spirit, wanting to break free from all the madness happening in the real world and being in the need of a comical pickmeup. I would almost go so far to say that MAJOR DAD has the best live studio audience of ay sitcom. But then again, I haven’t see a lot of sitcoms in my life (they aren’t my favorite television shows), and this was just a single episode. The laugh track could easily come as soon as the producers were lazy to create a great television show.

MAJOR DAD has an interesting premise — a conservative military man makes with a liberal reporter of a conservative newspaper and becomes the dad for her three children who have lost their father a little while ago. But this pilot episode had a bit of a weird ending, as Major Mac decided he liked Polly so much after the two meetings and one family diner he had with her that he cannot live without her and that he is ready to set sail to this port and put the anchor down (that’s a G-rated translation for sex talk, right?) by proposing to her at the end of the first episode. One can only hope that Polly is going to say “No” in the next one (it’s fascinating that this half hour ended before she could respond), but decides to date the Major, simply because she might like him enough to see him in her and her children’s future. But getting married after knowing each other for a few days? Okay, there is an interesting sitcom premise in here, too, but it makes for a shoehorned premise after one episode, since MAJOR DAD is all about that conservative military man joining a family that is anything but conservative, and for a 1980s writing mind, “joining a family” apparently means getting married immediately.

They better clean up the kitchen after this display of affection.

Major and Polly still have fascinating personalities though, as long as you exclude her getting swept off her feet during the final scene. Major is kind of the guy who takes his job seriously, who pressures his soldiers to move along and never falter, always being at their best, while also running the company like it’s a successful business. But in the office and on the phone and maybe even around friends he can joke around like he is a British drunk who still got his head and thoughts together. He won’t let you go home early on Fridays, but he also won’t hold himself back making you look like a fool with his jokes. That could maybe because he doesn’t know any better and sees any situation like the Marine he is, needing solutions like only a Marine would come up with (is that how he easily came up with Elizabeth’s sleepover problem?), but maybe it’s also because he is just a funny dude. On the other hand, Polly could be one of the few sitcom wives who won’t turn into the housewife, because the sitcom writers demand her to be, but she could also be the perfect yang to Major Mac’s yin. There is conflict potential between the two already, and that just stems out of their different political ideologies and the way they see the necessity of war — and that kind of interpersonal conflict is golden for a comedy, which is why I hope the writers of this show weren’t madmen. This episode could maybe prove that the writers were madmen, because they had Polly seriously consider Major’s marriage proposal, like she is a single woman who was on the lookout for a man and husband in her life for ages and decides to take the first one who actually falls in love with her, damn her own feelings and emotions about the guy. It’s an example of male wish-fulfillment, and television shows with that kind of writing should always be eyed critically, and it doesn’t matter whether they are from the 1980s or from a few days ago.

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