A Look Back at ‘Call to Glory,’ the Air Force TV Drama Starring Craig T. Nelson & Elisabeth Shue

Call to Glory, Craig T. Nelson
©ABC/Courtesy Everett Collection

On the occasion of actor Craig T. Nelson‘s 80th birthday, we’re looking back at the seldom remembered 1984-85 ABC TV drama Call to Glory, a family/military drama starring Nelson as Air Force pilot Col. Raynor Sarnac.

A young Elisabeth Shue also starred in one of her earliest role as Raynor’s teenage daughter, Jackie. The series also starred Cindy Pickett, Gabriel Damon, David Hollander and Keenan Wynn. There were also guest appearances by Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Kristy Swanson.

Set right before the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Call to Glory followed the Sarnac family as they dealt with the challenges of everyday life while Raynor had to deal with major geopolitical tensions in the 1960s.

Col. Sarnac is a pilot of one of the U-2 spy planes that captures photos of the Soviet buildup of nuclear missiles in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Meanwhile, Jackie has the dilemma of whether or not she should “put out” for boys.

The show’s episodes often delved into the moral dilemmas faced by armed forces personnel and their loved ones, highlighting the human side of military service.

As the first season progressed, Raynor found himself flying reconnaissance missions over China and North Vietnam, testing advanced new aircraft like the SR-71, and eventually getting shot down over enemy territory and becoming a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

Check out the pilot episode:

Despite its critical acclaim and dedicated fan base, Call to Glory lasted only one season and the final two episodes were unaired.

The audience was likely split between those who wanted to watch jet fighter action and those who liked the family drama and coming-of-age storylines. Call to Glory managed to satisfy neither.

The series isn’t currently streaming on any platform or airing on any TV channel, though there’s a nice YouTube playlist of most of the series.

I had zero recollection of this show even existing until I was nostalgia shopping for an F-4 Phantom plastic model kit last year and came across this old beauty:

F-4 Phantom Call to Glory model kit

Miniseries of the 1970s & 1980s
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March 2024

The 1970s and 1980s were the glory days of the TV miniseries. In this issue we ranked the most significant and beloved miniseries of those decades.

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