Moving into their new home, Sally discovers a dead body inside one of the barrels but when Mac and the police arrive both barrel and body are gone.



(created by) (as Leonard B. Stern),

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Episode complete credited cast:
Mr. Buchanan
Guido Barteloni
Warren J. Kemmerling ...
Dickerson (as Warren Kemmerling)
Michael Bow ...
William Traylor ...
Gene (as William Hurley Traylor)
Carmen Zapata ...
Mrs. Barteloni
William Bramley ...
Sergeant Warthheimer
Lawrence Cook ...
Wainright (as Larry Cook)


Moving into their new home, Sally discovers a dead body inside one of the barrels but when Mac and the police arrive both barrel and body are gone.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery





Release Date:

29 September 1971 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Sally's car is a 1953 MG TD. See more »


In a street shot after the cemetery, the McMillans and Sgt. Enright are traveling in a Ford, but when they arrive at the McMillan's building they are in a Plymouth. See more »


Commissioner Stewart McMillan: What have you found out, Enright?
Sgt. Charles Enright: Well, we're off to see Mr. Buchanan who runs the moving company, sir, but we searched both kinds of barrels in storage there but there's no barrel with a body in it.
Commissioner Stewart McMillan: What do you mean both kinds of barrels?
Sgt. Charles Enright: Well, there are two kinds of barrels, there are storage barrels and there are shipping barrels.
Commissioner Stewart McMillan: And the barrels we received are shipping barrels?
Sgt. Charles Enright: Right. Now I found it's not possible to store a shipping barrel but a shipping barrel you can store.
Sally McMillan: I'm not sure...
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User Reviews

A Barrel of Laughs and a Dead Body to Boot
7 December 2014 | by (Omaha, Nebraska) – See all my reviews

This first episode of the series boasts all the elements that made McMILLAN & WIFE so enjoyable: An appealing cast acting out with aplomb a mind-boggling mystery. This one is a little unorthodox, as Sgt. Enright puts it, it's not a whodunnit, but a who'd they do it to? Rock Hudson, Susan Saint James, and John Schuck come across as if they've been playing these parts for years. There's just an easy, relaxed chemistry between them even this early in the series. Nancy Walker's Mildred, mentioned in the pilot movie but seen here for the first time, adds some gruff humor (and even some foreshadowing when mentioning her sister: Could this be Agatha, who in the person of Martha Raye would assume the housekeeping reins in the sixth and final season?).

Moving is headache enough without the movers losing the barrel with Aunt Sophie's china and delivering instead one containing a dead body. This body in the barrel proves problematic. When we first see it it's leaking a liquid, but not blood. So what was it? And since Sgt. Wertheimer spent an undue amount of time searching the place thoroughly, wouldn't he have come upon the wine cellar, where the barrel with the body was supposedly stashed for retrieval later? The credibility of stashing the incriminating evidence on site and under everyone's noses worked better in the pilot movie than it does here (and would become the template for George Peppard's excellent BANACEK series a year later).

Sally's seeing something or someone and then it being gone when Mac looks does get a little played out, but it's nonetheless enjoyable to see them playing it out with such gusto. Sally, being stalked by the killer because she saw and could possibly identify the body in the barrel, is given excessive opportunities to scream in this episode. Even a frat boy would be hard pressed to make it to the end credits if they played a drinking game that called for a shot every time Sally screamed "Mac!"

Like a good mystery, this episode keeps you guessing. Some scenes seem unfair, however, such as the one where Mac comes to the movers' warehouse and finds all the suspects gathered with Mr. Buchanan. Are they part of a conspiracy? No, just a red herring. Some scenes are heavy handed, like when Mac summons back the waiter to look at his ring; why couldn't he simply ask to see it instead of grabbing his arm and slamming it to the table? Other scenes take coincidence to Dickensian heights: Pylant dining in the same restaurant as the McMillans, for example. And two former squeezes whispering a sultry "Hi, Mac," much to Sally's chagrin. (Mac weasels out by saying he thinks he defended the amply-endowed one; "For assault with deadly weapons?" counters Sally.)

That trademark humor is already established and on display here. Mac, Sally, and Enright discuss the differences between shipping barrels and storage barrels and it quickly veers into who's-on-first territory. Enright gets more laughs later while dodging line drives when interviewing a baseball player. Mac and Enright help Mrs. Barteloni lug her laundry down the street, each carrying a basket but with Enright eventually--inevitably--carrying all three baskets and tottering into the laundromat alone and paying for it out of pocket. I've seen Mac and Enright compared to Abbott & Costello, but they remind me more of Hope and Crosby, with Mac as the latter-day Crosby prevailing upon the hapless Hope that is Enright.

Welcome faces appearing in this episode include David Huddleston as Pylant, the cigar-chomping moving man. Kenneth Mars, of PRODUCERS fame and veteran of another Leonard Stern-created show, HE & SHE, plays Mr. Buchanan with a blend of charm and menace. Comic actor Vito Scotti lightens the mood in his memorable scenes. Warren J. Kemmerling and an uncredited Paul Sorensen will be familiar to all fans of 1970's television. Behind the cameras was John Astin, who will direct another episode then come out in front to appear in three as recurring character Sykes.

Eagle-eyed viewers will spot when Sally's bright-yellow vintage car pulls up to the movers' warehouse the partially obscured sign in the background reading Berth, "Port of Lo," which indicates these scenes were filmed closer to Los Angeles than to the show's San Francisco setting.

Fun stuff start to finish. A show that fits snugly under the rubric of "They don't make them like that anymore," which makes each episode even more treasured today than when they were first broadcast.

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