Wings: Season Seven
One of the most prolific formats for a television series it the situation comedy, affectionately known as the sit-com. At its best it is light hearted entertainment perfect for watching after a hard day at work. This format is versatile enough so that in the past many examples of the form have become huge hits while others are dismal failures. If you examine the ones that made it in the all important ratings wars usually they have to do with some sort of family set in a familiar location. There was one sit-com that broke many of these rules and remained a solid piece of programming for the networks; ‘Wings’. It had to do with a group of people working at a small airport in Nantucket Massachusetts. In many ways it was similar to the much loved classic sit-com. ‘Taxi’ with planes substituting for cabs. The show was largely overlooked in the main TV awards but it was consistently enjoyable to watch. According to the site that gauges when a series stopped being effective, ‘Jump the Shark’, most people felt that this series remained fresh throughout its run. Unfortunately, a large group felt that ‘Wings’ jumped in the seventh season after the departure of one of the most popular character. Now, that seventh season is available on DVD through CBS Paramount and you can judge for yourself.
During its seven year run between 1990 and 1997 this series was a staple of the Thursday night lineup for NBC. It was a quite hit with little fan faire surrounding it but able to attract a sufficiently large fan base. It was preceded in that time slot by the mega hit ‘Cheers’ in order to provide a strong lead in. Producers also tied the two series together by placing them in the same television universe. This allowed characters from ‘Cheers’ and later ‘Frazier’ to make guest appearances to bolster ratings. The premise was simple and effective. Two brothers, Joe (Tim Daly) and Brian Hackett (Steven Weber) own and operate a little airline called Sandpiper Air. They only have one small plane and generally fly tourists to and from the mainland. The dynamic between the brothers is in many ways built along the lines of the ‘Odd Couple’. Joe is slightly neurotic, demanding order and purpose in life. In contrast Brian is the carefree one. Everything that Joe could possible covet has be handed to Brian but he always wasted the opportunity. Both men are pilots and take turns flying the family plane. One of the major cast changes in this season was the departure of Thomas Haden Church who played Lowell Mather, the dim mechanic and general handyman for Sandpiper. He was always the go to guy for an offbeat sight gag or non sequitur comment. The producers tried to replace this character with Budd Bronski (Brian Haley) but the character was quickly written out. Budd was ex military who blames himself for a major crash of an airplane he worked on. This self doubting character could not live up to the bizarre antics of Lowell and the fans never accepted him.
Also working in the airport is a strange selection of quirky characters. The only employee of Sandpiper is Helen (Rebecca Schull), a former airline attendant who works the ticket counter. She is generally sweet, almost grandmotherly but can connive to get her own way. The character that everybody loves to hate is Roy Biggins (David Schramm) who is the owner of the rival airline Aeromass. Roy is a schemer who is always sout for the quick and barely legal buck. The main love interest for Roy is Helen (Crystal Bernard). She grew up with the brother and always had a crush on Joe. This season starts with Roy and Helen returning from their elopement. Helen works at the lunch counter in the small terminal but has always aspired to be a cellist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. As a child she was excessively heavy and her food issues follow her throughout her life. Casey (Amy Yasbeck) is the sister of Helen and was once married to a wealthy man who left her. She has problems adjusting to her current lack of wealth and comes off as snobby to most people. She has had a strange relationship with Brian, the typical sniping love hate type. As the season starts she and Brian have gotten together to consummate their relationship but when she carelessly tosses her bra into the fire place is responsible for burning down Helen and Joe’s home. This serves to return her relationship with Brian to a non physical one but they remain friendly. In this season her divorce finally comes through. There is another man on the island who is enamored of Casey, Antonio Scarpacci (Tony Shalhoub). He runs a taxi service on the island and loves Casey even though she rebuffs his affections.
The season starts with the house fire which places a strain of the relationship of the brothers and sisters. Joe wants Brian out of his home and the business. Things are also off between Helen and Casey. The show takes a bit of a corny turn when Joe’s decision to legal remove Brian from Sandpiper is thwarted by a ghostly visit from their late father. Of course they make up and continue to run the airline together. Lowell does make appearances in the first few episodes of the season but after witnessing a mob murder has to go into the witness protection program. At least this is a more imaginative way to get rid of a character than usual. There are several episodes that involve Antonio’s notoriously bad luck in love. In one he meets the girl of his dreams only to discover she is a high price call girl. In another he thinks he found the right woman only to lose her phone number. This results in a madcap chase around the island. A lot of the rest of the season is mostly episodic stories usually involving picking up the wrong corpse, or the mayhem of babysitting a friend’s child. In one Helen and Joe receive an offer from a famous architect to build them a dream house that turns into a nightmare of comic proportions. Overall series and season plots are considered but mostly these are stand alone episodes in typical sit-com fashion. In another Roy celebrates is 12th birthday, he was born on February 29th, and the gang tries to reunite him with his son R.J. (Abraham Benrubi) Roy is taken for a twist in plans when R.J. brings along his boyfriend.
As always CBS Paramount goes a good job of bringing this season to DVD. The Dolby Stereo audio is nothing great but gets the job done. The same holds true to the video. The colors are bright and well done. This set does not contain any extras. This is good family fun and will provide a lot of enjoyment.