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Major Dad ran from September 1989 until September 1993 on CBS.

John MacGillis ( Gerald McRaney) was a dedicated career Marine officer stationed at Camp Singleton in San Diego, California, whose well ordered life was turned upside down when he fell in love with Polly Cooper ( Shanna Reed), a liberal reporter who had interviewed him for a local paper. Within weeks of their meeting John and Polly, a widow with 3 young daughters were married and he had moved into her house. A man of discipline, John had a hard time adjusting to being a father to 3 girls-Elizabeth( Marisa Ryan) into rock music and boys; Robin ( Nicole Duboc), intellectual and sensitive; and Casey ( Chelsea Hertford), just to cute for words. The conflict between his conservative views and Polly's liberal convictions were a constant source of conflict, but fortunately they all learned to adjust and compromise. At the base his staff included eager to please Lt. Holowachuk ( Matt Mulhern), bright Sgt. James ( Marlon Archey), and his perpetually perky secretary Marilee Gunderson ( Whitney Kershaw), daughter of the base commander. Chip ( Rod Brogan), was Elizabeth's boyfriend.

At the start of the second season, John and his family relocated to Camp Hollister, in Farlow Virginia near Washington, D.C. where he was now staff secretary to the base's gruff eccentric commanding officer, Gen. Marcus Craig ( Jon Cypher). Lt. Holowachuk had also been transfered to Camp Hollister, becoming his aid de camp, and Gunny Bricker ( Beverly Archer) was his new secretary. Polly's new job was feature editor of The Bulldog, Camp Hollister's newspaper.

Vice President Dan Quale appeared in a November 1990 episode celebrating the 215th anniversary of the Marine Corps. Some episodes delt with the real-life Military buildup and war that took place in Kuwait and Iraq during the winter of 1990-1991. At the end of the season John started formal adotion proceedings for the girls.

That fall again, reflecting real-world situations Camp Hhollister was faced with possible closure as part of the government's efforts to reduce military expenditures. Gen. Craig was determined to save as much money as possible to keep congress from shutting it down, so he promoted Polly to editor of the Bulldog at a 10% sallery cut.

In the final episode telecast in the spring of 1993, John was transfered to the White House.

A Review from The New York Times

Published: September 15, 1989

CBS is slipping the first episode of ''Major Dad'' into a special hourlong ''Premiere Preview,'' with Angela Lansbury as host (Sunday at 8 P.M.). The executive producers and writer are Earl Pomerantz and Richard C. Okie; the director is Will Mackenzie. The major of the title is Mac MacGillis, a tough and seasoned soldier adjusting to life on a stateside base. He is portrayed by Gerald McRaney, about the only asset this series can claim. Mac is approached by a liberal newspaper reporter (Shanna Reed) for an article about today's Marines.

The piece turns out to be less than flattering. Nevertheless, Mac ends up having dinner at the reporter's house and by the end of a half-hour, the liberal mother and the conservative disciplinarian have decided to get married. She comes with three daughters, ranging in age from 6 to 13. They are, of course, adorable. Too bad they had to get trapped in such a tired premise. In its eagerness to whip up offbeat family situations, television can be exasperating.

An Article from People Magazine

Recruited to Co-Star in Major Dad, Tv's Shanna Reed Musters Her Childhood Memories for Guidance

Joanne Kaufman
and Tom Cunneff
April 30, 1990 12:00 PM

Everybody here? Okay, let’s get this sitcom idea meeting underway. See, you got this career Marine guy—you know the kind, confirmed bachelor, gruff, muscular, balder than a cue ball, always dressed like he’s going to a war, always barking out orders like he’s General Patton.

Okay, then you got this pretty widow with three daughters. She and the Marine guy (we’ll make him a major) meet cute (she’s a reporter interviewing him for a newspaper story), they feel this immediate repulsion for each other (she’s liberal, he’s conservative) combined with an immediate attraction (she’s disarming, he’s disarmed). And quicker than you can say, “About face,” they fall in love. He pops the question in full dress blues, she says yes. Lotta laughs. End of first episode.

But wait a second. For Shanna Reed, 34, who plays Polly Cooper, the widow turned Marine wife with three smart-alecky daughters on the CBS hit Major Dad, that’s not just a sitcom—it’s autobiography. When Shanna was 8, her widowed mother, Mary Lou, married ex-Marine Tom Reed, who probably deserved a medal for withstanding the rebellion kicked up by middle child Shanna and her five siblings. “I led the pack,” says Shanna, recalling the kids’ defiance of their by-the-book stepfather. “Inside he’s a teddy bear. But he tried to discipline us and write down what our orders were for the day.” Precisely the sort of behavior one might expect from Shanna’s co-star, Gerald McRaney, as the tough-but-lovable Maj. John D. MacGillis.

Just as Shanna’s TV family comes to a truce each week, the Reed kids and their stepfather eventually ceased battling, and Shanna even managed to absorb some of the work ethic drilled into her by Tom. “She works harder than just about anybody,” says actor McRaney, who also serves as the show’s co-executive producer. “She puts a lot of herself into the character.” Which is natural, since the character “is in my heart,” says Reed.

The Kansas City-born former dancer was 7 when her father, Carl Herron, an engineer, died in a car accident. His death, she thinks, pushed her into dance. “It was a way to express myself without words,” she says. In Phoenix, where the family moved after Mary Lou remarried and Tom went to work for a convention services agency that he now owns, Shanna began rigorous daily dance lessons. She spent one year at college, then left and auditioned for a job as a Las Vegas dancer. “They measured me for bottoms, and I said, ‘What about the top?’ ” recalls Shanna. “And they said, ‘Oh, honey. You’re not going to be wearing a top.’ ”

Yeah, well then, she wouldn’t be taking the job, thank you very much. She got another dance gig on the casino strip, one that wouldn’t require her to go topless. After touring Europe and the Middle East in a Vegas-style revue, she headed for New York City, hoping to become a Rockette. Instead, she eventually landed a spot in the Broadway company of Dancin’, then got her first taste of television with a year’s stint on the soap Texas.

When her character was dropped from the show, she returned to Dancin’, but soon after, figuring her dancing days were numbered, Reed, then 25, decided to move to L.A. She gave fame and fortune exactly one year to show up. It took a bit longer than that. At one point things got so bad that Reed took work as a cocktail waitress. “All the other girls made $150 a night,” she remembers. “I barely came out with $30.I couldn’t schmooze.” Things began looking up when Reed was cast as an alcoholic Southern belle in the short-lived nightime soap For Love and Honor and as another alcoholic in the last season of The Colbys.

Things also took a promising turn in her private life. Just as Reed began work on The Colbys, she married Terrence O’Hara, whom she met in acting class. “It was instant attraction on my part,” remembers O’Hara. “This woman had not only looks but talent.”

Home for Reed and O’Hara, now a film director (Double Vision), is a three-bedroom Spanish-style house near Beverly Hills. Curled up on the couch, Reed nibbles grapes and reflects on a life that has never been fuller (work, puttering in the house, dance class) or happier. “For the first time in a long time, I’m not trying to plan for what’s ahead. I am enjoying just so much what’s going on now.”

Sounds like a major achievement.

—Joanne Kaufman, Tom Cunneff in Los Angeles

An Article on Major Dad that ran in my local newspaper in September 1990.

'Major Dad' star: Show will deal with mideast

Gulf crisis has emotional effect on Shanna Reed


HOLLYWOOD-There may be nobody in show business more emotionally and professionally affected than Shanna Reed by the swift American military buildup in the Persian Gulf.

Ms. Reed is the daughter of one ex-Marine and the step-daughter of another ex-Marine. She's the wife of a third Marine on " Major Dad," Monday at 8:30 p.m. on CBS-TV.

But have no fear: There's no immediate likelihood that Maj. John McGillis ( Gerald McRaney) will soon be posted to Saudi Arabia. The fall's first few episodes will see him working on a transfer from the fictional Camp Singleton to the even more-make-believe Camp Hollister, Va., a supply center.

" I can't imagine the writers would send Mac to the Mideast," Ms. Reed said over breakfast the other day in the decidedly un-Leatherneck surroundings of Beverly Hills' fabled Polo Lounge. " It would be a different show."

But the movement of thousands of Marines has had a big effect on Ms. Reed.

" We taped a show a couple of weeks ago in front of a studio audience ," she said, " and the audience was laughing at all the wrong places. Some of them were weeping and we didn't understand why.

" I found out later there were 30 Marine Corps wives in the audience, and my heart went out to them. They were weeping because their husbands had just been sent off. One woman was 24, had been married only five days and had just moved onto a base. Her furniture hadn't even arrived and her husband was already gone. Then we do a show about how our furniture hasn't yet arrived at our new base."

But Ms. Reed admits there's no way she can feel emotional trauma the troop deployment has brought many of her character's real-life counterparts.

" I feel kind of inappropriate playing the character of a Marine wife and not having had the real experience," she said. " But I think I have an awareness of what the situation can be like. It would be hard for me to know directly because I was too young to understand during the Vietnam era."

Ms. Reed who admits to being thirtysomething, said that even though her on-screen husband isn't likely to be sent to the Arabian Desert, the show will take up the Gulf conflict. " I'm curious myself exactly how we'll do it," she said, noting that as of the season's opener, only three episodes had been completed.

" So far, we have a yellow ribbon around a post outside the base office," she said. " And we had one scene where the kids in school are writing letters to soldiers. We can't ignore it. And being Polly Cooper, I'm a reporter working on the base paper. I want her to write about what the wives at home are feeling and how it is to have only minimal contact with their men. Can you imagine not even knowing where your husband is for weeks on end?"

If the Marines both on and off " Major Dad" are in a state of flux and stress, things are not like that at all within the show.

" It feels just great to come back for a second season," says Ms. Reed. " Last year was the first time I started a series from the beginning and went all the way through a year. I learned so much. It feels much more fined-tuned now. We all learned a lot about working with each other because we've had so many hours working closely."

The slender, dark-haired ex-Las Vegas dancer says the year's experience has made her less demanding in her relations with other cast members.

" I've learned to let go some," she said. " I've learned more to see the best in people and think about what makes them tick. Our show is a collective ensemble effort, so we have to really work together."

Ms. Reed says her easy relationship with McRaney has helped matters from the start.

" I don't think the producers expected me to get this part at the time I auditioned," she said. " I had heard they were looking for a big name and I wasn't a name at that point. But Mac and I just clicked. We seemed to connect right from the beginning."

She admits the show's premise of McGillis moving into a household with three kids and winning instant trust and affection is a bit unrealistic.

" I think the relationship of a step-parent coming in is slower-developing than that. It sure was with us," she said of her own childhood experience. " It takes time to trust someone and let them in. In reality, the process was slower and there was some conflict. But we don't have that much time here."

An Article from USA TODAY
Published on October 22, 1990

'Major Dad' stands at ease in its second year of duty

By Jefferson Graham

HOLLYWOOD-Major Dad is a sophomore success story for CBS.

Last season its ratings were enough to get the series renewed but not good enough to lead off CBS' Monday night.

But moved to 8:30 this fall, Major has ranked as high as No. 10 in the weekly ratings.

Some say that the Iraq standoff made people more aware of the military. Others say viewers dislike Ferris Bueller and Dad wins by default.

Executive producer and star Gerald McRaney has a simplar answer: " People who had never seen the show during football season started watching during summer reruns. And they stuck with us."

Dad is the story of conservative Marine John MacGillis ( McRaney) and the liberal reporter ( Shanna Reed) with three daughters he married.

" On the surface, they seem totally different, but...they're really not," says McRaney. " They're both warriors in their own right."

The kids played by Marisa Ryan, Nicole Dubuc, and Chelsea Hertford also play a large role in the show's success. " This is the first sitcom thats ever been about a military family," says Rick Hawkins who shares executive producer credits with McRaney and Earl Pomerantz.

Last seasom, stories centered on the girls adjusting to their stepfather. This year the family is adjusting to a new home in Virginia. " By the end of the season, what I hope is for John to be accepted as a parent figure by the kids," says McRaney.

The Major moved bases from California to Virginia this year, an attempt to remain realistic to military life.

Producers considered , but declined, doing a show about Iraq. " If we did a story about Iraq now, it would be about boredom and equipment failure," says McRaney . By the time it aired they could be shooting at each other."

McRaney has two projects with wife Delta Burke ( Designing Women). The two will star in the play Love Letters for a week in Los Angeles, and make aTV movie for CBS next spring, a mystery called Love and Curses. McRaney plays a doctor and Burke, a psychologist, who solve a murder in New Orleans.

Fan lands Quayle a visit

If not for Gunnery Sgt. Alva Bricker, Vice-President Dan Quayle would not have appeared on Major Dad.

Bricker is a " man chaser and he's quite good-looking," says actress Bevery Archer.

Her passion for Quayle prompted his press secretary to call Dad executive producer Rick Hawkins to tell him that Quayle enjoys the show. And Quayle agreed to make a guest appearance Nov. 5.

Archer, who was Iola in TV's Mama's Family, joined Major Dad this year as the administrative chief for Camp Hollister's Commanding General. She's a by-the-book Marine and often, a burr in the Major's side.

" The Marine Corps is everything to her," says Archer, who is married.

Archer also wrote for Mama's Family and Tv's Working Girl, but for now, " As long as they want me to act, I'll be happy."

An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on February 22, 1991

Television News
The War and 'Major Dad'
Television's military/family sitcom deals with the Persian Gulf war

By Ken Tucker

As a sitcom about a U.S. Marine and his family, Major Dad is in an awkward spot: How can the show acknowledge the Persian Gulf war and still do its job to inspire laughs in its audience? Starting with the Feb. 4 episode, Major Dad tried to confront this problem. The major (Gerald McRaney), stationed at a Stateside Marine supply base, is just itching to ''get over to Saudi.'' Sure, he'd miss his wife, Polly (Shanna Reed), and his three stepdaughters, but as he explains to Polly in dialogue as stiff as his uniform, ''I have two families: One of them is here, safe at home. But the other one is overseas and in harm's way, and I want to be with that family, to help them.''

Of course there'd be no Major Dad without McRaney. By the end of that episode, he'd been told by his commanding officer that he was to ''stay put,'' that he was serving his country best by doing necessary work at home, shipping supplies to the troops.

Not a word about the gulf was uttered in the following week's show, but the producers have established a way to maintain war updates: At the beginning and end of the Feb. 4 episode, Polly sits in her bedroom writing in her diary and reading the entries aloud. (''Looking at my children, I have to believe in a brighter future and hang on to the hope that some day, they'll live in a world of peace, where no one will ever have to fight over a line drawn in the sand.'') Scenes like this, taped at the last minute for maximum timeliness, could continue for as long as the war goes on. Except for a reference to Polly attending a peace rally, the war in Major Dad has been presented in terms that are either hopelessly sentimental or aggressively pro-war. The expression of any political point of view in entertainment programming is rare and to be encouraged. But I have a question for CBS: When does Shanna Reed get her spin-off series, Peacenik Mom?

An Article from the Hartford Courant

Real-life, Tv Politics Similar For `Major Dad'
`Major Dad' Star Doesn't Adapt Politics For Tv
September 07, 1992|By JAMES ENDRST; Courant Television Columnist

A shocking revelation!

"Major Dad" used to be a Democrat!

"Most of my life I've been a Democrat," says Gerald McRaney, who's about to begin his fourth season as straight-arrow Marine Maj. John MacGillis on CBS's "Major Dad" (Friday nights at 8:30 beginning Sept. 25 on WFSB, Channel 3). "But the last several presidential elections have finally convinced me that I might as well go ahead and admit I'm a Republican."

Speaking by phone from the set of his show in Los Angeles, McRaney says he didn't change so much as the Democrats did. Which is why he's doing as much as he can informally to help President Bush's campaign.

"Hubert Humphrey was the first presidential candidate that I voted for," he says. "I was sort of from the John F. Kennedy school of Democrats, and I've seen radical change in the Democratic Party. Whereas Mr. Kennedy was all for social welfare -- to a limited degree [McRaney thinks the welfare system must be reformed] -- he was also very strong in defense and very strong for business."

The 45-year-old actor has been to the White House a few times now. "The White House has good chow," he reports. And the day before this interview, McRaney was at a Republican fund-raiser in Los Angeles lunching with Barbara Bush.

There's also a natural connection in "Major Dad," which, after all, is about a Marine and his family (Shanna Reed plays leveling liberal wife Polly) and their life on a military base. When war in the Persian Gulf was on the horizon, the show's story line reflected that. And around the same time, as regular viewers of the show know, Vice President Dan Quayle made a brief guest appearance to salute the Marines.

In real life, McRaney and his wife, actress Delta Burke ("Designing Women" and ABC's new "Delta"), entertained American troops in Saudia Arabia with a visit during Operation Desert Shield.

And, certainly, McRaney's world view is consistent with that of the White House and the TV character he plays.

"You know Soviet communism and the Berlin Wall didn't topple just out of the kindness of their hearts," he says, calling it a "demonstration of what our military has done over the last 40 years."

McRaney admits, though, to being a political novice, adding, "For somebody who doesn't know a damn thing about this, I've been trying to do what I can."

He doesn't assume, however, that "Major Dad" is the military's favorite show or that its personnel all fall in line with the major's -- or his -- opinions.

"I've had no response really about any of the political stuff I've been doing. The directly military stuff that I do I've gotten a lot of positive response from," he says. "But you know the people in the military are not all of one mind when it comes to politics, so I'm probably going to get some people in the military who agree with me and some who disagree with me."

Unarguably, McRaney's biggest battle is with the press, especially the tabloids and, of late, with TV Guide, which in a recent cover story painted a detailed and unflattering portrait of him and Burke.

The couple met on the set of "Designing Women," and very publicly courted and then married in 1989, generating TV Guide cover stories then as well. But it was nothing compared with the coverage of Burke's battle with weight problems, which ultimately led to a nasty feud with the producers of the show and Burke's ouster last year.

Now some stories paint McRaney as a gun-crazy Svengali who can't draw the line between his character and real life and is bent on controlling the life of his psychologically fragile wife.

McRaney says they're all lies. "It's a role I play," he says of "Mac" MacGillis. "I am always dangerous but I'm not always armed," he jokes. As far as Burke is concerned, he says, "Let me tell ya, nobody has ever been Svengali to Delta Burke, up to and including me. She's very much her own woman."

He doesn't see any end in sight, however, to being a target, fair or unfair.

"With any luck I'll still have a hit show after they move it to Friday," he says. (Ironically, "Designing Women" is also being moved from Mondays to Fridays and follows "Major Dad" at 9. Meaning, if "Major Dad" does well, it's likely to help "Designing Women," a show McRaney has told CBS he won't promote.)

"And from the looks of her show [in "Delta," Burke plays a woman pursuing her country-western dreams in Nashville] it's gonna be a stupendous hit. So no, we won't get out of the fishbowl. That will remain and a lot of the cheap shots will come with it. That's just sort of one of the prices you pay."

The political world of TV's "Major Dad," isn't going to end, either. In fact, it's about to get even livelier. Turns out Polly, the liberal, will be running for mayor.

No news yet whether she'll be running against another candidate or a TV character.

CBS's "Major Dad" will have its season premiere Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m., locally on WFSB, Channel 3

An Article from the Orlando Sentinel

Major Dad Gives It To The Enemy
Vote '92 - Campaign letter
October 25, 1992|By J. Craig Crawford, Sentinel Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Major Dad fires back.

From Palatka to the nation's capital, television's make-believe Marine - CBS actor Gerald McRaney - is holding the line against cultural elites for his commander in chief, George Bush.

''There seems to be a continuing effort by this country's liberals to silence people with opposing views, with direct attacks on their character,'' McRaney wrote last week in The Washington Post.

Major Dad was targeting political columnist Mary McGrory's ''acid-tainted prose.''

The reason?

In a column about a Bush trip to Orlando, she pointed out that McRaney, the president's master of ceremonies that day, is ''all Dad and no Major.''

It's true: The actor, who has played Marines in two top-rated shows - Major Dad and Simon and Simon - never served his country in the military.

''I did try to enlist but was turned down because I was married and had a child at the time, which disqualified me for enlistment or for the draft,'' McRaney explained in his letter to the Post editor.

Still, nobody - not even Bush - gives it to the enemy like Major Dad.

Looking over campaign notes from the past 10 months, it's Major Dad's volleys at liberals that bring a smile.

Remember how he wowed the crowd at Palatka's train station a few weeks ago?

''We don't need an overeducated moron in Washington, D.C.,'' McRaney said in reference to Democratic nominee Bill Clinton during the Labor Day-weekend gathering.

And back in August, at the Republican National Convention, we watched Major Dad ride a plywood stagecoach into a Houston fund-raiser.

''Yeeeeeehaw!'' he shouted as co-host Cheryl Ladd introduced him as ''Major Republican.''

How about that recent rainy day in Orlando?

Major Dad mocked Clinton's anti-war days as a student in England, leading the crowd in chants of, ''Where was Bill?''

The major's anti-Clinton fervor seized even Bush. ''We're goin' after this guy,'' the president shouted as he leapt onto the back of a police van outside Rosie O'Grady's Good Time Emporium.

But could anything top how Major Dad summed up the Persian Gulf War?

''For you kids in the audience, please pardon my language, but over there in Desert Storm we kicked butt, and then we came home,'' he proclaimed in Palatka.

Major Dad's contributions to the rhetoric of Campaign '92 might not be recorded in the exhaustive books that surely will be written.

Those treatises usually are reserved for bits and pieces retrieved by journalists who save some nuggets for after the votes are counted.

But let it be remembered that in the bass tones of Major Dad's exhortations, we heard the call of a Republican era.

''I like to hunt,'' he once said. ''And Clinton is for gun control. Well, I can tell you that I'd like to be able to keep my gun and hunt some more.''

To read some more articles about Major dad go to and and and and

To watch some clips from Major dad go to

For Tim's TV Showcase go to

For an episode guide go to

For Page dedicated to Major dad go to

For The Official Site of The United States Marine Corps go to

For a Website dedicated to the USMC go to

For some Major Dad-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to
Date: Mon May 10, 2004 � Filesize: 30.0kb � Dimensions: 268 x 343 �
Keywords: Major Dad


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