Wings was the
most highly rated prime-time series that nobody ever talked about. A
perennial top-ten ratings grabber, perched comfortably after Cheers,
it ran forever and yet it’s hardly a water-cooler classic. The USA Network
took it up a notch closer toward pop-culture familiarity with endless
reruns, and now it’s on DVD for those who care deeply (try to find them).
your basic, run-of-the-mill formula sitcom with heart, but with mildly
better writing than most (yes, it’s the team that brought you Cheers
and Frasier, but with less intensity and heat, less verbose). Its
sure-fire recipe was just-right Must-See filler, and like good bad food, it
goes down easy and satisfies mostly. You’ll like it, but you won’t remember
TV Guide synopsis writers must have had a field day on this joint: on
the stunningly beautiful
of Nantucket, two stunningly beautiful brothers run a small, struggling
airline (one twin-engine Cessna). They compete with a jerky fat boy who runs
a vastly more successful operation; they hire a mother-figure and former
flight attendant as a desk clerk (she’s all apple-pie and smiles, but within
lurks the dark heart of a mass murderer). And try to comprehend this idea:
the brothers vie for the attention (at least at first) of the comely cello
player who runs the adjacent luncheonette.
airport’s oddball handyman gets all the good lines (“Shh,” he says while on
the phone, “Jessica Hahn is almost giving her confession!”) He’s a hybrid of
Woody from Cheers, Reverend Jim from Taxi and George from
Newhart, and ironically, the actor playing him (Thomas Hayden Church)
goes on to become the biggest success story of the entire cast (starring in
the feature film Sideways).
theme song (classical Schubert in the opening
credits and a cool-jazz rendition of same at the closing credits) features a
small plane flying over the most story-booked aspects of
Nantucket. It makes you want to quit your job and earn your pilot’s
We’re easily hooked as American pop-culture icons are thrown at us
shamelessly, appealing to our inner hero/dreamer.
handsome, bland pilot played by Tim Daly is exactly what Central Casting
ordered. Daly inhabits the role so well that he’s almost underrated due to
his spicy-as-yogurt good looks and stoic manner. He’s neat as a pin and
mostly lacking a sense of humor (on purpose, or at least that’s what we’re
paves the way for his brother, who is the unpredictable, gonzo pilot (we
know he’s gonzo because he sports heavy-metal-styled hair, and wears wild
eighties ties and high-top sneakers). Played by Steven Weber, this rascal
talks out of turn and bends the script a bit, especially when it desperately
needs it. It’s a mellow Robin Williams (thank the Lord) and the conflict and
tension (there is so little of it) effortlessly paves the way for character
development and the situation in situation comedy.
will-they-or-won’t-they tedium comes in the form of the girl-next-door
(literally), played by Crystal Bernard. Despite the fact that she had lived
on Nantucket since she was eleven, she still lugs around with her a thick
Southern accent (go figure. Wouldn’t it have been more believable if she had
only just recently arrived from the South?). Still, she’s depicted as a
feisty firecracker by way of a beautiful loser (as much as she tries – and
she tries often -- she can’t seem to catch her big break as a cello player.
Yes, you heard me). At first, the brothers vie for her attention (“I don’t
date pilots,” she says, in that conflict-generating Top Gun style),
but the writers – to our eye-rolling disappointment – decide to ultimately
make her and Joe an item. It’s boredom to the tenth power.
most series that debuted just before Seinfeld, there is far too much
hugging and learning being heaped upon us (once Seinfeld becomes a
hit, Wings gets the hint and eases up on the sap). We still get the
same-old same-old (how many sitcoms offer us all of its characters
firming up their Christmas plans, only to have those plans go awry, which
forces the gang to spend the holidays together in a the most makeshift
also get the obligatory dangerous flight episode (will the plane crash?) and
the series’ initial conflict: one brother had run off with the other
brother’s girlfriend and married her! Like The Mary Tyler Moore
Show, Cheers and Friends, sitcom writers often prefer to
start their story with a wacky marriage or engagement.
you’re looking for stars who are not yet stars, all you’ll get is Megan
Mullally (Karen from Will and Grace), who
is funny as the town tramp (with big 80s hair!), but not as funny as she’ll
eventually be. You won’t even get Tony Shalhoub except for one so-so scene
as an Italian waiter (not the character who will join the series later on).
You’ll also hear a reference to the fact that freedom and democracy have
just broken out in Eastern Europe. Life was just so simple then. Or as the
gonzo brother observes, “Camus was right. Life is absurd.”
Copyright ©2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: December 28, 2004..