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?