Major Dad (“Robin’s Awakening”)

Season 1, Episode 8
Date of airing: November 6, 1989 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 19.0 million viewers, 13.6/21 in Households

The show has some highs and lows, with the highs being this episode and the lows being the ugly patriarchy the writers seem to be able to slowly walk away from, but I’m pretty sure the ghosts of patriarch past are still going to be present over the next few episodes. Fact is that MAJOR DAD has delivered its best episode yet, as the chess duel between Mac and M.L. Rossovitch can truly be considered a highlight of 1989 television. The writers focused on that one story and didn’t dive into something that was different and had nothing to do with the A story (it’s a problem I have with most sitcoms these days, as they separate the characters for individuals tories that don’t connect). And the best thing about this half hour is that almost all of the characters were involved in the chess duel between the Major and the wunderkind. Okay, maybe not Casey who was mostly absent from this episode for obvious child labor laws reasons, but Robin was actively involved in the development of the game, and even Elizabeth had her fun watching it and then not caring enough about it to stay a little longer with her boyfriend and watch Mac win. Besides that, it took the writers seven episodes to remind themselves that Polly is a reporter. She actually worked on a story in this episode! That means she still has a job and she isn’t just the housewife! Hallelujah!

Big sister makes teasing fun of little sister.

So, Robin had her first crush, eh? I’m wondering if Mike’s existence in her life could be used for an ongoing story, maybe bring back his name to make sure that Robin is in fact corresponding with the kid via mail, and even return Chris Demetral in a later episode for a continuation of the story, especially to showcase that Robin truly is growing up and becoming a teenager, but it’s more likely that the writers will forget Mike as a character, and when Robin really needs to grow into teenagehood for the sake of the story and character development, then they can easily do it with a new boy character. Besides all that, using Robin for the B story that is deeply intertwined with the A story was cute and the right thing to do for this episode. Mac has been waiting for the fact-to-face match-up for so long, so it was only natural and obvious that it would affect some of the other characters, too, even if it was just Robin who fell in love with a boy and couldn’t really describe it like a great child actress could. I did however adore how Elizabeth was teasing Robin about Mike — there was a sense of sistership between the two, as if they love and care about each other, and that they could easily take a tease like that, since they would be able to dish out even harder.

The kid is about to learn what it’s like to be bested by a Marine.

Polly seeing this match-up as a human interest story was also interesting (like I said, the writers remembered that she was still a reporter), although I would have loved more moments of her speaking into her cassette recorder, just to get something out of the fact that she is a reporter and writer. The only thing the episode really failed at was the sudden arrival of Mac’s cheerleading troop close to the end of the chess match. The arrival of Merilee and Gene truly was meaningless, since they didn’t add anything to the story, let alone brought humor into it. But if they would have bee part of the audience from the beginning, maybe the writers could have turned the chess match into something of a “sports event,” or at least tried to figure out how to parody and make a sitcom version out of actual chess matches between two gifted players. That needed a bigger audience than just Robin and Elizabeth (Polly I wouldn’t consider an audience member, because she was working during the match-up), although that bigger audience would have added characters, which means the writers may have figured that they also needed additional stories. In hindsight it may have been a good idea to include Mac’s cheerleading troop at the end of the episode — this way they were out of sight for most of it and the episode was able to fully focus on the chess match and the back and forth between Robin and Mike.

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