McMillan and Wife

1971 | United States

McMillan and Wife was an improbable cop show in which San Francisco Police Commissioner Stewart McMillan and his beautiful wife Sally (who had a penchant for getting them both involved in criminal cases) would team up to solve any murder or mystery that she inadvertently stumbled upon. And it was not uncommon for Sally to stumble upon (or rather over) a corpse in the library of some glitzy mansion, or to uncover a vital clue that would end up with her kidnapped or facing some other life-threatening situation. 

Improbable maybe - but that didn't stop the show from climbing high in the US Nielsen ratings to number 5 in the 1972-73 season. What helped were its two charismatic stars; Rock Hudson in his first small-screen series played the debonair Police Chief while Susan Saint James was his sexy but scatty wife. The supporting cast also enjoyed huge popularity, Mac's sidekick whenever Sally wasn't on the scene was his plodding but enthusiastic Sergeant, Charles Enright (John Schuck) while the McMillan's trusty maid Mildred (Nancy Walker) did a nice line in sharp tongue and acerbic wit. 

The series debuted in the NBC Mystery Movie strand as a single episode entitled 'One Upon A Dead Man' and was one of three original series that took centre stage under this banner on a rotating basis (the other two being Columbo and McCloud), but the idea wasn't exactly original being based on the relationship between Nick and Nora Charles (played by William Powell and Myrna Loy) in the 1934 movie 'The Thin Man.' This too spawned an earlier TV series of the same name with Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk in the lead roles (1957-59). 

McMillan and Wife

At the end of the 1975-76 season both Saint James and Walker left the series. The former due to a contract dispute and the latter to star in her own series on ABC (The Nancy Walker Show). NBC made sure that Saint James couldn't take her character elsewhere by having Sally Mcmillan killed in a plane crash (eight years later Saint James landed another prime role on US television as the Kate of Kate and Allie). Rock Hudson soldiered on with a new housekeeper, Maggie (Gloria Stroock) who just happened to be Mildred's sister, and a new assistant, Sgt. DiMaggia (Richard Gilliland) but it was too many changes and the all-important chemistry had gone. The new version, now simply titled McMillan, didn't survive beyond one season. John Astin, better known as Gomez from The Addams Family shared the directing duty as well as playing a character called Sykes and among the guest stars who appeared in the series was an upcoming young actress called Kim Basinger.

Published on January 3rd, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus (February 2008) for Television Heaven.