Major Dad (“Love Doctor”)

Season 1, Episode 10
Date of airing: November 20, 1989 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 17.6 million viewers, 12.5/20 in Households

In which the only black cast member in a distance is being given a storyline, because it looked like the writers forgot all about him. I didn’t even remember or knew his name until now, which is why I hope Byron James isn’t just going to be the random face at Mac’s base after this episode again and instead turns into a character for himself. But then again, everyone in Mac’s base hasn’t turned into a character yet. Here I was, hoping that Gene would become a fixture in Elizabeth’s mind, but that was just a story for a single episode. Here I was, believing that Mac would be busy both in his new home life, as well as on the job, but I am still dreaming about that one. So it comes that this episode delivered an interesting version about Byron which I will most likely never see again. Let’s remind us all after ever episode whether or not the writers and the characters remembered that Byron had the hang for broadcasting and that he re-upped with the notion of getting to broadcasting school. It would be nice if the characters have a hobby they could follow up on in regular episodic intervals, because it would mean that the characters aren’t just here to be Gerald McRaney’s sitcom pawns.

In the 1980s, families were still together when being entertained by audiovisual media.

The Love Doctor premise was okay. Surely, there was a lot of ridiculousness in the idea of Byron getting a full-time contract with the radio station, considering he is employed with the Marine Corps, but I loved how Byron’s show became a household sensation with the Cooper-McGillis family and how the premise actually turned out to be a dealbreaker for one of them. First of all, I never expected for a previous character to turn into a recurring one, but Dwayne showed up again and he was still the boy Elizabeth had a crush on. But since that story was very much finished with this episode, Elizabeth has all the time in the world to find another boy to like and give Mac trouble at home. There is a chance for Gene to come back and give her some heart flutters. Secondly, the scene of the entire family listening to the Love Doctor before realizing what the whole show is really about gave me joy. It’s a typical pre-1980s show of a family getting together in the living room to follow a program, like it’s the most conservative thing sitcom television can do before the 1990s made everything more different and complex and heavy. Third of all, I actually liked that Byron didn’t quite know what to do at all when the real phone calls were coming in and he didn’t have any answers of value for the stressed-out caller. It’s almost like there was a morale of the story behind the idea, and that not everyone calling themselves experts in love and relationship can actually give you an answer as to why relationships work out or not.

The love doctor faces his fans for the first time.

Meanwhile, the episode was also partially about re-enlisting, and for Byron to hang a few more years to his service, making MAJOR DAD once more a patriotic television show. His time was up, but for reasons easily explained (he is a main character, and his schooling into becoming a broadcaster will be free, because the military will pay for it, and there is no one saying “No” to that offer) he decided to stick around, although the chances really are that the characters is of second or third-rank from here on, as the writers will find it difficult to find stories for the young man that don’t remind us all of the fact that he is the only black character in the show. Mac apparently saw enough in Byron to convince him to re-up, but that doesn’t mean the viewers were told what was seen in Byron and why he was considered to be an important member of the crew. MAJOR DAD is still about Mac and Polly’s marriage after all, begging the question when there will be the second episode that does not deal with the family specifically and either has Gene, Byron or Merilee in the center of the story.

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