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 of whom 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 6 of Wings pretty much picks up where season 5 ended. The romantic entanglements of the previous year conclude with Helen and Joe finally agreeing to get married. Fortunately that would make this a less painful year for you if you were getting pretty tired of the soap opera stories from year 5. While this was not the best year for Wings, there were some rather classic moments. The Waxman Cometh is one of the best Lowell episodes of the show. He comes into a load of cash and invests it in a wax museum. Anyone who has seen House Of Wax (The original Vincent Price, not the Paris Hilton disaster) knows how these museums end up, and sure enough a fire destroys Lowell’s dream…almost. Insanity Claus is one of the show’s best. Tony Shalhoub has always been great as Antonio, and he gets to shine here. Antonio buys the last donut, which sparks a hostage situation, and Antonio is the hostage. To make matters worse, he discovers that his new girl happens to be married… to the guy holding him at gunpoint. When things go bad for Antonio, it’s always a fun time for us. In Have I Got A Couple For You, the B story is really where the jokes are. Lowell can’t see, so Antonio becomes his eyes. The season ends on Joe and Helen’s wedding day, which is the major story thread for the season.
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.
Even though Wings would return for 2 more years, things were obviously winding down. The show began to rely too heavily on either the romantic angles or dragging stories, like the wedding, out for an entire season. Characters manage to keep the show funny most of the time, but the writing was getting stale. With that said, it would be rather easy for me to suggest you pass this series by after season 4 if not for the fact that each year continues to bring at least a handful of episodes that are comic gold. When the show works, it works because of the peripheral characters. Maybe they should have spun off Antonio and Lowell and called it No Wings. “Now that was sarcasm for just no reason, wasn’t it?”