On the first installment of CBS' "Major Dad," Shanna Reed played Polly Cooper, a reporter with three daughters who was considering marriage with a by-the-book bachelor Marine. The girls were somewhat opposed to the idea. Something about new expectations and structure and discipline. But by the second episode of the Monday night series, love had triumphed: Polly was at the altar with Maj. John D. MacGillis (Gerald McRaney). The daughters suspected what they were in for. The Marine is just now learning. Shanna Reed knows something about that sort of thing. Her father was a Marine, albeit during World War II before she was born, and when he died he left Reed's mother with five children and a sixth on the way. Less than two years later, Reed had a second dad. He'd been a Marine, too. "My stepfather was a stereotypical Marine," she recalled, "very disciplined, very organized, very by-the-book. But I think it was because he was coming into a family with six kids. I think he was pretty courageous." In truth, Reed's stepfather had left the corps sometime earlier and was commanding (well, conducting) a 12-piece orchestra at Kansas City hotel when he remarried. The newly-formed family moved to Phoenix, where Reed's parents ran a talent-booking agency, Southwest Booking, and where Reed grew up. The business thrived -- Phoenix, she said, "is industrial and convention heaven" -- and so did the kids. And her mother had a seventh child. "Sometimes I wonder how she did it," Reed said of her mother. "She was a very strong woman -- alone for about a year and a half before she met my stepfather, Tommy. She did an excellent job raising us. She taught dance, ballroom dancing for Arthur Murray; she worked for the blind. She was vice president of the booking agency and got it off the ground." It was the dancing that intrigued Reed. She was fascinated by ballroom dancing, by Ginger Rogers and by the June Taylor Dancers, whose kaleidoscope-like choreography was captured by overhead television cameras on "The Jackie Gleason Show" ("that, to me, was just spectacular," she recalled). She tried a year of college at Arizona State, then was off to become what she calls "a covered dancer" with the Folies Bergere at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. In 1975, she took a job performing in Europe and the Middle East with "a small revue {Las Vegas Folies} out of New York, 12 dancers and a singer. We carried our own lights and costumes." When she came back to the States, she landed in New York and got a role in the national touring company of "A Chorus Line," then returned to win a role in Bob Fosse's Broadway production of "Dancin'." She followed with a 1983 ABC movie, "Legs," about the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. "I've been out here {on the West Coast} for eight years," she said. "I came out here to act, but I still go to dance class -- it'll never leave me." It's not likely that "Major Dad" will give Reed much opportunity to strut her stuff -- her character, Polly, is supposed to be a liberal-minded reporter. But no matter. When it comes to this series, Polly Cooper might as well be Pollyanna. "It's a ball. I love it. I have so much fun. I love to go there each morning. The hours are very civilized -- we're out by 6." McRaney, she said, is "incredible to watch because he manages to be the star of the show and also because he's one of the executive producers. I imagine it's very distracting, but he's relaxed into the role very much. He got married {to "Designing Women" star Delta Burke} a couple of weeks after we shot the pilot. "I've been involved in pilots before and this one, I was really hoping it would make it. It was charmed from the beginning. I feel very fortunate. "The kids {Marisa Ryan, Nicole Dubuc and Chelsea Hertford} are great. They're all unique, they're all kids. They don't come in as little actors. Marisa is at that age where she wants to be older than she is -- she's going to be 15 in November." Although fans of McRaney's previous series, "Simon & Simon," may recall references (and flashbacks) to his days as a soldier in Vietnam, he never served as a Marine, Reed said. This time, though, he's playing a peacetime officer, a man who wasn't drafted but who chose to make the Marine Corps his career. "He's intrigued with the military. He's quite a history buff and he seems to be up on international history, too. He's done a lot of research on the Marines and their beginnings, because Mac is so tried and true to the Marines and what they're about and the way they operate." And the real-life Marines are taking note. "He's aware that Marines are watching closely," said Reed. "He heard they even measured his mustache." Marine wives may be watching too. In October, Reed found herself slogging across a river in fatigues, wearing a backpack containing the day's MRE (meal ready to eat), shooting guns and bayoneting a dummy in the annual "Jane Wayne Day" for Marine wives. She got a rest the following week when the storyline found Mac meeting his chess-by-mail opponent, who turned out to be a 12-year-old prodigy. "As we get into it more, we'll get involved more with military wives, the medical system, the commissary, the PX," promised Reed, who is married in real life to Terrence O'Hara, a producer-director. They do not have children. Eventually, she said, reporter Polly gets back to her career. For Reed, it's about time. "They were trying to establish Mac and his audience and get the show off the ground, and I emphasized -- as Mac has, as they too believe -- that we need to get back to my career, to show me more than just folding the laundry. "I would like to see Polly as a force in her career, make more of an impression with the stories she pursues, and I'd like to make Polly more dynamic. I do think she's environmentally minded and wants to effect change and enlighten people. "And I'd like to see her raising her kids. We've seen the major taking over and it doesn't happen that way." Reed turned up in two sitcoms last year. On NBC's "Cheers," she was a businesswoman who caught the eye of bartender Sam. "He tries to swear off women and he's not successful," she recalled. "And Woody Harrelson comes in as Moses." On CBS' "Newhart," she played a new girl in town -- or in village -- who attends a singles dance. She also played Adrienne Cassidy on ABC's "The Colbys" and Terry Dekker on NBC's daytime drama "Texas"; showed up in "T.J. Hooker," "Knight Rider" and "Hotel," and once appeared in a "Simon & Simon" installment (but didn't meet McRaney, who wasn't in her scenes). Reed, who like many actors prefers the stage, calls television the next best thing, "a minipiece of theater each week." "I love the rehearsal process, I love good writing, I love the audience. I say, 'Ohmygod, I'm here, I'm doing the show and I get to go back next week.' I really do feel fortunate, as long as this runs." "Major Dad" will be around for the entire 22-episode schedule. At the end of October, the show had chalked up a 14.9/24 on the Nielsens after five outings, making it CBS' top new series. After six episodes, "Major Dad" was sharing 28th spot in overall rank.