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.
In this 7th season Wings stands pretty much where it always did. There was actually a little less of the romantic stuff, so for me this was a better year than the previous couple had been. This was also Wings’ next to last year, and it could be said that the idea had started to pretty much run its course. Among the better episodes of this season you’ll find is Death Becomes Him. Joe must impersonate the dead body of the late but not lamented Harrison Kingsbury. It seems that the boys brought the wrong body back from Florida. Will Lowell have to leave the island forever? Find out in The Person Formally Known As Lowell. He is the witness to a mob hit and has to enter the Witness Protection Program. Are the mobsters out to get him, and is Antonio in on the hit? This is a great episode for both Tony Shalhoub and Thomas Haden Church. The boys want to console Antonio after he gets dumped by setting him up on a date. What they don’t know is she’s a high-priced hooker in Hooker, Line and Sinker. It’s the B story, but watching Antonio adjusting to his new $200 shoes is the place where the laughs live in When A Man Loves A Donut. Again Antonio’s B story is the best part of B.S I Love You. He gets a chain letter and refuses to pass it along like everyone else. Now it’s nothing but bad luck for Antonio. In The Team Player, Antonio is left in charge of the airline and bumps a star goalie from his flight, missing a big game, costing the Bruins… and their fans. Antonio thinks his new employer is a mob boss in Driving Mr. DeCarlo. If it seems like the best moments here belong to Antonio, you’re right. The other characters are too mired in their own romance plots to be near as funny.
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.
Wings was winding down. The big story here is that a show that never really soared in the ratings, but built enough of a following to remain on the air for 8 years. There’s no reason to stop your Wings collection here. This show… well…”It actually has, what’s the word I’m looking for? … Taste.”