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McMillan and Wife

By Jeff Shannon

They were the happening Super70s answer to Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man movies, and when McMillan & Wife premiered as part of the "NBC Mystery Movie" lineup (in three-way rotation with McCloud and Columbo) on September 17, 1971, they were an instant hit with both critics and viewers.

The two-hour pilot "Once Upon a Dead Man" set the serio-comic tone for the series: San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan (Rock Hudson, his film career in decline) and the goofy doofus Sgt. Enright (John Schuck) frequently found themselves in the midst of a mystery, typically beginning when McMillan's cute and kooky wife Sally (Susan Saint James) stumbled onto telltale evidence or a murder scene.

The McMillans were the perfect image of '70s California cool, attending trendy parties and charity benefits while solving robberies, murders, and other malicious goings-on, sporting the latest fashions (Hudson's handlebar moustache and longish hair perfectly complementing Saint James's bellbottoms and shag hairdo) and verbally sparring with some of the goofiest dialogue this side of Hope & Crosby's Road movies. Schuck provided additional comic relief while Nancy Walker, as the McMillans' nosy maid Mildred, made brief but memorable appearances before her role was expanded in subsequent seasons.

By latter-day standards the plots are simplistic but cleverly engaging, especially given that the entire series was something of a lark. The first regular series episode "Murder by the Barrel" (9/29/71) is indicative of the series' entertainment value, and "Death is a Seven Point Favorite" (12/8/71) was a season highlight, with '70s stalwart Don Stroud as a pro football quarterback targeted for murder in a bookie scheme gone awry. And while Hudson's macho image was certainly appealing to viewers unaware of his off-screen homosexuality (several episodes end with Stewart and Sally under the sheets), there's no denying that Saint James (whose irresistible charm was previously established on Robert Wagner's caper series It Takes a Thief) was the ideal costar, a perfect Nixon-era combination of looks, humor, and flighty, non-threatening intelligence, adorable to men and acceptable to women's-lib activists.

Drawing upon Universal's reliable stable of TV directors including Hy Averback and Addams Family alumnus John Astin, writers including future TV mogul Steven Bochco, and a bevy of guest stars including Andrew Duggan, Jackie Coogan, Wally Cox, Herb Edelman, Peter Bonerz, June Havoc, Rene Auberjonois, Tyne Daly and many others, the debut season of McMillan & Wife (totaling 10 hours and 25 minutes of viewing time) provided a strong start for the series, which lasted (ultimately without Saint James) until 1977.

McMillan and Wife on DVD!
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Season One

 

Share Your Memories In Our Forums!

Check out our McMillan and Wife forum! Do you have a favorite episode of the show? What do you remember about the series? Do you have any questions about it or its stars? Now you can post comments and questions directly to our TV forums! Click here to see what other McMillan and Wife viewers have said or to post your own comments about the show!

Your Memories Shared!

I have several that I like, Murder By The Barrel, Cop of the Year, the pilot show. I have always liked McMillan and Wife since I watched the show on a cable channel. It made me laugh, cry, all sorts of feelings, even relaxed me if I had a bad day. I now watch the shows I like on tape.

--Terry Dorsey

Note: This is just a random sample of the McMillan and Wife messages in our TV forums! Click here to see what others have said or to post your own comments!

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: September 29, 1971 - August 21, 1977

Cast: Rock Hudson, Susan Saint James, John Schuck, Nancy Walker, Martha Raye, Gloria Stroock, Richard Gilliland

Network: NBC

Genre: Police Drama

Theme song

Image courtesy of NBC


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Copyright 1994-2017, Super70s.com. All Rights Reserved.
Use of this site is subject to our Terms of Service.
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