Major Dad (“Wedding”)

Season 1, Episode 4
Date of airing: October 2, 1989 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 22.2 million viewers, 15.1/24 in Households

Wow, Polly’s induction into the Marine Corps. by marrying Mac was kind of sexist at the end. As they were walking out of the chapel, they were blocked by two swords, just so one of the soldiers standing in the aisle can swing his sword at Polly’s butt like she is the only women in a sea of military men who haven’t seen a person of the opposite sex in a long time. If that is really how it’s like to be inducted into the Marine Corps. for a woman, then we are truly screwed, and #MeToo reaches everywhere. It’s one of those moments that continue the male fever dream imagery of MAJOR DAD, as well as one of those moments proving that women had nothing to say during the production of this television sitcom. The 1980s are in full force in this show, and seeing how MAJOR DAD is objectifying their central woman character makes me remember that I am watching a television show from that decade and that there is probably no hope that Polly will ever be anything more than Mac’s foil. We are four episodes in and her reporting duties for the newspaper has only been a premise for the pilot. I’m pretty sure the writers have forgotten by now, because they never thought of women being the breadwinner in the house.

Meeting the future father-in-law is quite the mental workout.

The episode was okay. I was still hoping for the wedding to be cancelled or moved to a later episode, as I still have a problem with the fact that Polly and Mac got married after they knew each other only for weeks, but at least it took the show four episodes to get to the wedding, which by itself is a bit of a surprise, as I was sort of expecting it in the first or after two episodes. One can only hope that the dynamic of the new family changes from here on. Mac has to be a stepfather to three sometimes unruly girls now, and with the arrival of Polly’s parents, who could be recurring characters just for the fun of it, Mac also has to realize he very much married into a family. He may not have had one before he met Polly, but now he has a wife, three step-daughters and in-laws, and that should definitely give him some pressure to perform. But yeah, that pressure to perform should also be depicted through Polly’s point of view. I don’t want her to be the housewife from now on. I don’t want the show to lose its initial premise of a liberal reporter and a conservative military man getting married. I’m interested in seeing how the kids react to having a step-father, and I am definitely interested in seeing less patriarchy in the show. Like I said, we are only four episodes in and it’s already wreaking of macho man stuff. As seen with Lt. Holowachuk who really tried to be as cool as Major McGillis has been. It seems like being a Major has to come with screaming privileges. That’s what I always hated about top brass in the military.

Episode title.

In hindsight, the episode didn’t have much of a story. The only thing the writers wanted to tell was the wedding, and in the middle of it one could have been allowed to believe that Mac silently and secretly ordered a base-wide drill, because maybe he was uncertain about getting married this early (after all, his talk with Polly in front of the chapel doors hinted at that). Maybe Polly would have grown some cold feet during the drill that actually turned into a terrorist hunt (and of course it was an elderly black lady who created all this chaos) — anything that would have cancelled the wedding and given Mac and Polly a chance to continue dating and getting to know each other before taking this big step. But MAJOR DAD wouldn’t be this male fever dream if the titular character wouldn’t be married off to the central woman character of the premise by this episode. I’m kind of intrigued now how this show is going to develop over the course of the next episodes — will it get more patriarchal and therefore annoying?

Major Dad (“Rescue Mission”)

Season 1, Episode 3
Date of airing: September 15, 1989 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 22.1 million viewers, 15.8/25 in Households

I am impressed that the wedding is still a topic and that for the first time one of Mac’s friends is mentioning the fact that he gets married way too quickly and that he should maybe go out, date or go steady with Polly before putting a ring on his finger. It’s one of the major issues I have with this show, as Polly becomes something of a male’s fever dream, but it turns out it might actually be part of the premise for a few episodes. After the pilot, I was hoping that Polly would say “No” to Mac’s proposal and instead they just date, get to know each other and Mac learns how to be a father to three snappy girls, but the preparations to the wedding are ongoing. Yet the threat of the wedding getting cancelled is still there. Polly and Mac are currently in the dating phase, with the slight difference that they are planning their wedding already, but there is a good chance that the wedding may be pushed away further and further, until maybe halfway into the season, when it’s clear that Mac and Polly have a functioning relationship and they do love each other, so they finally get married. It could happen in the thirteenth episode, before CBS ordered the back-9 (plus two additional episodes) for MAJOR DAD, just so the show, if it had been a flop and cancelled after thirteen half hours, would have ended on a joyful note.

Those exotic breasts are far more interesting than the fire on the table.

Buzz seemed alright as a character at first, because he managed to put my thoughts about the show into words, but it turns out that he was a weird character. He put a plan in motion that would have his bet friend have sex with a hooker, so that he can cancel the wedding with hid bride-to-be, and then he actually had the audacity to mouth off to Polly and tell her to let Mac go and go for another husband. Polly might have had an issue during this episode with Mac’s decision not to show up to the appointment with the padre, but I believe she had a much bigger reason to be mad at him via Buzz, who happened to be a crappy best friend to Mac. I don’t even know if the writers noticed that they made Buzz a Polly-hating asshole — he told her to quit her reporter job and cook for people (that’s kind of patriarchal), he told her to let Mac go, he hoped to persuade Mac into having some fun with a surprise named Francesca. It’s almost like Buzz was married to Mac and he was in danger of losing his greatest love. Yeah, I’m very much surprised that Polly didn’t run up the walls with Buzz around her groom-to-be, but then again, MAJOR DAD is somewhat of a male fever dream, created and written by men, so of course Polly is being written as Mac’s supporting wife, instead of being her own person. She went from being a reporter at a newspaper to the wife of a Marine, and when that happens in 1980s television, it happens because a man wrote the script.

White flag for this yet-to-be-established marriage.

Meanwhile, I was actually hoping for the wedding to be cancelled, after Mac got back to work and yelled at his staff for their inability to stop talking about the wedding. That was the first sign for trouble in Mac and Polly’s relationship, and that was the first sign that could have the narrative remove itself from said wedding and begin a storyline that has Mac and Polly actually court each other for a little while before turning each other into zombies of married life. At least in that regard Buzz was somewhat right: With a wife there comes mortgage, braces and carpools, and that is probably something Mac doesn’t like to deal with right now. He just wants to be the military man in the house and maybe show Polly’s daughters what it is like to live a disciplined life, but the married life could definitely ruin that. Which is why I hope that as soon as Mac and Polly wear those rings on their fingers, it’s not Polly who changes from a reporter to the wife of a Marine, but it’s Mac who changes from a hardened soldier to a soft and loving father figure for the girls, letting lose for the sake of the generation that is behind him.

Major Dad (“Just Polly & Me, and the Kids Make Five”)

Season 1, Episode 2
Date of airing: September 18, 1989 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 22.5 million viewers, 16.2/26 in Households

She didn’t say no. She left the decision to her kids, which was a great premise for this episode, but at the ed of it the kids approved, and suddenly Mac and Polly are about to get married after three days of dating. This is a relationship that cannot function, and at one point divorce has to be a possible storyline in the future of the show. It was on the air for four years, and considering how serious the show is, for a sitcom at least, during its first two half-hour offerings, chances are MAJOR DAD will focus on the story most of the times and not how to find the greatest punchline in the history of sitcoms. The fact that sitcoms were looking for punchlines almost all of the time makes me like the genre less, but MAJOR DAD makes the impression of wanting to tell a story, which makes it one of the better sitcoms. Even if the story happened to be bananas.

It’s hard answering kids’ questions when the love of your life distracts you.

I mean, Mac and Polly are dating for three days and they are already about to get married. Mac says he is in love with Polly, but I don’t see any of that in his behavior. Polly makes it look like she is in love with Mac, but she doesn’t really have a reason to do so — maybe she has been so lonely these past few years that she took the first-best man who came into her life, but that would make her a miserable and depressing character, and that is also nowhere to be found during the first 48 minutes of the show. Besides that, one can only hope that Polly doesn’t become a housewife, now that she is married ad her husband is a Major in the military. She started off the show as a reporter for a newspaper — that should still be her job, and not just because the writers could keep the premise alive of a liberal marrying a conservative, which by itself is a good idea for a sitcom. So, let’s count how many episodes it takes for Polly to get back to her work within the show. Is the number high, then MAJOR DAD is definitely a fever dream show for men, from men. If Polly gos back to work with the next episode and some of her adventures at the newspapers become the A story of the episode, then I will truly be impressed.

Meanwhile, I did like that Polly did not give an answer to Mac’s proposal and left that up to her kids. It makes for a good mother to three girls when she includes them into her life decisions, and it would definitely make for an interesting character and family dynamic if the kids happen to be most complex complication Mac has ever faced — more brutal than a dictatorial regime, more annoying than thousand pages that need his signature, and more illogical than the president’s latest decision as the commander-in-chief. And as long as Mac gets a little softer as a human being while hanging out with the kids, then MAJOR DAD can prove that it wanted to be a sitcom with character development, as well as a sitcom with a story that actually involves the kids, instead of having them part of the picture, only saying the cutesy funny stuff and all that jazz. The kids should be defining Mac and Polly’s marriage, and here’s to hoping that MAJOR DAD will be that kind of show.

There are kids in this bar that serves alcoholic beverages — call the social workers!

Here is also to hoping that the characters back at the base will be more involved in future episodes. I get that the first two episodes were setting up the show and a new family, which means there wasn’t enough time for Mac’s underlings at the base (so you are excused for not noticing that the producers changed the receptionist from an elderly lady to an attractive young woman with this episode), but with the base characters and Polly’s kids, the show has essentially established two different premise to unite and make use of — sitcoms usually aren’t that good at getting out of the main house it’s set in, but here we are, with a character split into two: his work life and his home life. It makes for a variety of storylines, all of them hopefully getting to be used throughout the four seasons fo MAJOR DAD.

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.