Description:A longtime television holdout, movie star Rock Hudson made his TV-movie debut in Once Upon a Dead Man, originally telecast by NBC on September 17, 1971. Hudson was cast as Stewart "Mac" McMillan, the wealthy, fashion-plate police commissioner of San Francisco. Helping Mac solve the murder at hand (though not without resistance from Mac) was his highly intelligent young wife Sally, played by Susan Saint James.
A Thin Man for the '70s, Once Upon a Dead Man promptly spawned a spin-off TV series, which premiered September 29, 1971, as McMillan and Wife. Added to the cast at this point were Nancy Walker as the McMillan's acerbic housekeeper, Mildred, who was frequently and reluctantly drafted into amateur sleuthing by the indefatigable Sally; and John Schuck as police sergeant Charles Enright, who definitely was not as slow-witted as he looked. During its first season on the air, McMillan and Wife was one of several rotating 90-minute components of The NBC Mystery ... Read more Movie, a weekly crime anthology. The series would remain a Mystery Movie fixture throughout its run, in the process occasionally expanding from 90 to 120 minutes an episode. Whatever its length, the series, for the most part, adhered to a well-worn but highly entertaining formula: No matter what they did or where they went, the McMillans invariably stumbled upon a criminal case, with Mac handling the "official" investigation and Sally providing backup in her own busybody fashion. Several changes were wrought upon McMillan and Wife for its sixth and final season on the air. Having left the show during a contract dispute, Susan Saint James was abruptly written out of the series; it was explained that Sally had perished in a plane crash, leaving Mac a widower -- and after a respectable period of mourning, a swinging bachelor. Likewise ditching the project was Nancy Walker, who had been cast in her own starring series. Her replacement was Martha Raye as Mildred's sister Agatha, a character who had been introduced near the end of season five. As for Sgt. Enright, he had been promoted to lieutenant, his former duties as Commissioner McMillan's right-hand man being taken over by Sgt. Steve DiMaggio, played by Richard Gilliland. Also add to the cast at this juncture was Gloria Stroock as Mac's new secretary Maggie. Finally, in view of McMillan's solo status, the series' title was changed to McMillan, though the sixth-season episodes have been released under the McMillan and Wife banner for rerun syndication. The concluding McMillan episode aired on August 21, 1977. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi Close