Wings was one of those unusual sitcoms that depended more on the characters than the situations they were in. While the setting was a small Nantucket airline owned by two brothers, most of the episodes had very little to do with flying. Rather, the writers populated this small airline with very distinctive personalities and let these interactions be fodder for the funny. The characters were played by more than competent actors, many who have proven themselves beyond this quaint sitcom. Timothy Daly played Joe Hackett, the older, more responsible brother who was often the show’s straight man. His rather adolescent sibling Brian was played by Steven Weber. I wouldn’t exactly say this was Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, but their conflicts over maturity fueled the characters. The airline’s love interest was Helen Chappel played by Crystal Bernard. She was an aspiring symphony cellist who worked the airport’s lunch counter. For much of the show’s run she had an on again off again romance with Joe. By far the most animated character was mechanic Lowell Mather played by Thomas Haden Church. It’s still amazing to me that this rather unintelligent character was played by the same guy who brought us Sandman in the latest Spider-Man film. Finally there was cabbie Antonio Scarpacci, played by the current Adrian Monk, Tony Shalhoub. Antonio is an Italian immigrant who has trouble understanding things most of the time, leading to some of the better moments in the series. Fay, played by Rebecca Shull, is the mothering member of the cast. And Roy Biggins (Schram) runs the rival airline and is often engaged in one underhanded scheme or another.
Season 5 of Wings is not anywhere near the best of the show. The theme for this season appears to be romantic relationships. The season begins with Brian proclaiming his love for Alex (Forke). Lowell splits from his wife, Bunny (Innes). Helen has the hots for Joe’s investor, Davis Lynch (Harelik) and all of this is the first three episodes of the season. The Helen/Davis situation takes up entirely too much time this season. Later on Antonio sleeps with Bunny, Helen/Davis/Joe become a triangle, and Joe hooks up with a teenager. If all of this sounds exhausting, you’re right. Then season does sport a great two-part episode that begins with a jazzy theme and a Raymond Chandler narration. The Joe Blows episodes are Wings at its best.
Each episode of Wings is presented in its original full frame broadcast format. Most of the time the picture is fine and likely is a good representation of the original broadcast quality. There are times when grain and compression artifacts are quite obvious here. Colors are a little soft, likely due to typical sitcom production values. Black levels are average with little real detail or shadowing.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is serviceable for the kind of a show Wings is. Let’s face it, the dialog is pretty much all there is here, and it is reproduced just fine.
I liked Wings when it was on for the most part. I have a feeling that the 5th season might be about where my interest waned a little. The romantic stuff only contributed to an often Friends Lite feel to it. Shalhoub was truly a standout, as his current success with Monk proves, but he was underused. He was only a recurring character for a couple of years, so at least he’s in more in season 5 than he had been. If you’re a fan, there isn’t any reason for you to skip this set. If you have not seen the series, might I suggest you start with season 2 or 3. “Right here is pretty much everything you need to know.”