‘Major Dad’ Gets a Change of Orders : Television: The end of the Gulf War forces the CBS military sitcom to revise episodes that were altered when war began.


“Major Dad” is still feeling the effects of the Persian Gulf War, 12 days after President Bush ordered a cease-fire.

The CBS situation comedy about a Marine Corps major airs its first original postwar episode at 8:30 tonight. The series, which had to toss out the season’s final six scripts when the war started in order to work in references to the conflict, is now having to make changes because of the war’s end. One scene each from tonight’s and next Monday’s episodes had to be re-shot.

“The scene (in tonight’s show) centered around a private (Matt Nolan) playing a lot of practical jokes around the base so that he would be sent to the front,” executive producer Rick Hawkins said. “He wanted to get to Saudi Arabia and his transfer had been denied, and he was playing practical jokes because he had heard that discipline problems sometimes got sent to the front. Seeing how we don’t have a front anymore, we had to change that scene.”


The war’s end has also caused another revision for the season finale, set to air May 20.

“Our original season-ender was going to be sending three of our characters--Maj. MacGillis (Gerald McRaney), Lt. Holowachuk (Matt Mulhern) and Pvt. Herndon (Nolan) to Saudi Arabia,” Hawkins said. “Obviously, we won’t be sending them anymore. Now, our season-ender will be about the returning of the troops to Camp Hollister.”

“Major Dad” is not the only series in which war-related topics will serve as the springboard for episodes. “Designing Women” will film an episode this week dealing with the return of Bill Stillfield (Douglas Barr), the Air Force pilot who is married to Charlene (Jean Smart).

And prejudice against Iraqi-Americans is the inspiration behind the March 27 “WIOU,” which examines the reaction to a TV interview of a grocery store owner who is a distant cousin of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

As television’s only contemporary military-themed series, however, it was “Major Dad” that had its fate tied closer to the war than any other. Its Feb. 4 episode was the first attempt of an entertainment series to deal with the outbreak of hostilities. The war also caused a speed-up of the show’s production, with the usual three-to-four week span between the filming and air date cut to 10 days.

The war also brought about a change in the direction of the series’ humor.

“The nature of doing a comedy is in finding the humor in a situation,” Hawkins said. “It is pretty-near impossible to find humor in a situation where people are risking and losing their lives. We went for our funny story lines and situations at home with the children, and we tried to find human amusing episodes at the office, like the general (Jon Cypher) having a cold.”