They were the happening '70s 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
) 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. --Jeff Shannon
Revisit TV's favorite husband-wife detective duo as they take on crooks, murderers and the windy streets of San Francisco in the captivating complete first season of McMillan & Wife. Written by TV legend Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue), this classic mystery series stars the dashing Rock Hudson as San Francisco's newest police commissioner and Susan Saint James as his loyal and inquisitive wife, Sally. He may be a top-ranking official in charge of the safety of one of America's largest cities, but she's the housewife with more than a few case-solving tricks up her sleeve! One of the original shows in the NBC Mystery Movie lineup, McMillan & Wife proves that when it comes to solving crime, two clueseekers are always better than one.