McMillan and Wife
By Jeff Shannon
They were the happening Super70s answer to Nick and Nora Charles from
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
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.
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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.
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