The curtain finally falls on Wings on DVD some 12 years after the show came in for its final approach on television in 1997. The end was a planned one so that the final episode was a fitting goodbye for the series and its collection of crazy characters. The final episode finds Joe and Helen off to Vienna to live while Helen studies cello. Brian is left alone to man the business. For us, we’ll get this one last chance to laugh it up with the clever and often hilarious television series.
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.
Something I can relate to: Antonio develops great romantic self confidence when he discovers a love letter his deceased uncle got from a famous movie star named Gina, only to discover that they were actually from a man named Gino. It all happens in the funny episode, …Like A Neighbor Scorned. Antonio decides to volunteer for the suicide help line on the island, in the hopes of scoring a date. It works, but it only makes him miserable because he keeps anticipating getting dumped, even when it doesn’t happen. That’s Too Beautiful For You. The airline is sold in the three part episode Wingless; that is until they find out the buyer intends it to fail as a tax write-off. It’s all leading to an emotional goodbye in the final two part episode, Final Approach.
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.
For the second time, we say goodbye to Wings. Tony Shalhoub would eventually find a resurgence in his career as the off-kilter detective Monk, and Tim Daly would go on in such shows as The Fugitive new series and finally Private Practice. Alas, most of the other characters and actors would not be heard of much over the next decade or so. Steven Weber would pop up from time to time as well. It’s always a bit of fun to revisit actors and characters after a few years have gone by. Here’s your chance to complete your Wings collection. If you’ve kept up so far, now’s not the time to stop. Wings, “departing on schedule”.