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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > TV on DVD Reviews > Wings - The Complete First and Second Seasons

 

Wings

The Complete First and Second Seasons (1990-1991) (Paramount Home Video-2006)

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Copyright ©2006   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: July 21, 2006.

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).  

It’s 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 it.  

The TV Guide synopsis writers must have had a field day on this joint: on the stunningly beautiful island 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.  

The 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). 

The 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 license.

We’re easily hooked as American pop-culture icons are thrown at us shamelessly, appealing to our inner hero/dreamer. 

The 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 told).  

This 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. 

The 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.  

Like 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 manner possible?).  

We 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.  

If 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.”

Ron Sklar

Copyright ©2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 28, 2004..