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WINGS: SEASON FOUR

Review by Ed Nguyen

Stars: Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Crystal Bernard, David Schramm, Rebecca Schull, Thomas Haden Church, Tony Shalhoub, Farrah Forke
Directors: Andy Ackerman, David Lee, Leonard Garner, Judy Askins
Audio: English stereo
Subtitles: English close captions
Video: Color, full-screen
Studio: Paramount
Features: None
Length: 494 minutes
Release Date: May 15, 2007 

"To whom it may concern, Sandpiper Air ought to be grounded.  The whole operation stinks, from that bag of bolts you call a plane to your surly, incompetent pilot.  My flight was a total disaster!"

Episodes ****

The 1990's television show Wings originally began life as a mid-season replacement.  The show eventually lingered around for eight seasons, proving that a friendly, little show initially dismissed as just Cheers-in-an-airport had plenty of staying power of its own.

The sitcom, based around Nantucket Island's Tom Nevers Field, followed the misadventures of the Hackett brothers, meticulously compulsive Joe and skirt-chasing Brian (Tim Daly and Steven Weber), and their struggling one-plane airliner, Sandpiper Air.  Also on hand to torment or cheer up the brothers were Helen Chappel (Crystal Bernard), the aspiring cellist masquerading as a lunch counter girl, Fay (Rebecca Schull), Joe's ever-optimistic receptionist, and Roy Biggins (David Schramm), the paunchy proprietor of Sandpiper's main competition, Aeromass.  Rounding out this fraternity of lovable misfits were Lowell (Thomas Haden Church), Sandpiper's sand-for-brains grease monkey, and Antonio (Tony Shalhoub), the airport's mentally-checked cabbie.

Early seasons of Wings highlighted the on-and-off relationship between Joe and Helen.  By Season Four though, they had become strictly friends, so to bring some fresh sexual tension into the show, a new female character, Alex Lambert, was introduced over whom the Hackett brothers could compete.  But before her arrival, Season Three's cliffhanging finale first needed to be resolved!

When last we saw the gang from Tom Nevers Field at the end of Season Three, they had all been packed aboard Joe's plane, which was now caught at sea in a vicious storm.  That plane was now spiraling downwards towards the murky waters.  Would our friends survive their crash landing?  Read on below to find out!

1) Lifeboat

"I feel like we're living in that Hitchcock movie."

Well, of course everyone survives!  Bless the ever-vigilant coast guard!  Unfortunately, Joe's plane is lost at sea, and naturally, his insurance company refuses to pay (how typical, those crooks).  Sandpiper Air now faces a mountain of bills and possible bankruptcy.  Will Joe throw in the towel and retire to some remote island somewhere to spend the rest of his life as a carefree beach bum?

2) The Fortune Cookie

"Insurance companies deal with meatballs like you everyday.  They're going to eat you for lunch."

Wait, all is not lost!  By a miracle, Joe's plane is recovered from an underwater sandbar.  However, the cost of refurnishing the hunk-of-waterlogged-junk requires some major cooperation from Joe's stubborn insurance company, and by hook or by crook, Joe and Brian Hackett are determined to get what's coming to them!

3) Noses Off

"Thanks a lot, Brian!  That guy came here to break -your- nose!"

Joe catches a fist sandwich in the nose after some jealous guy mistakes him for his philandering brother Brian, who had dated the guy's girlfriend.  After Joe visits a plastic surgeon, Brian soon begins to entertain the crazy idea of undergoing plastic surgery himself to alter his own looks.  New nose?  Who knows?

4) Blackout Buggins

"Mark my word, Roy Biggins will sing again!"

After listening to a complete butchery job of the national anthem before a baseball game, Roy Biggins boasts that he could do better.  Well, Roy gets a chance to prove himself before a Red Sox game.  Too bad he faints on broadcast television!  Now the laughing-stock of Nantucket, Roy desperately wants another chance to redeem himself!

5) Mathers of the Heart

"It takes more than a solid wall of blue flames to slow down Lowell Mathers!"

Lowell gets the loopy notion of asking Helen out on a date.  Of course, when one person's idea of music is a classical concert and the other's is a tractor pull, this is surely not a match made in heaven.  Opposites may attract, but...come on!

6) Two Jerks and a Jill

"So, uh, where'd a gal like you ever learn how to fly a copter, huh?"

Farrah Forke makes her first appearance on Wings as Alex Lambert, voluptuous owner of Nantucket Helicopter Tours.  Joe and Brian stumble head over feet trying to impress her, although Alex isn't interested in a pair of hormone-crazed, bumbling neanderthal brothers.

7) It's So Nice to Have a Mather Around the House

"My house?  My boat?  My houseboat?"

Brian borrows Lowell's houseboat to impress a date.  Brian may be a hot-shot pilot, but as a boat captain, he's not so hot.  Lowell's boat ends up at the bottom of the harbor, and as usual, dutiful brother Joe must clean up Brian's mess.  So, the brothers end up with a new roommate for the indefinite future - Lowell!

8) Just Say No

"She sounds like the kind of woman who likes grinding a man's spirit into the dirt with a stiletto heel."

Brian's old high school crush, Shannon Moss, visits Nantucket.  After all these years, she still has some sort of unearthly control over him, and like a sap, Brian falls head over heels for her all over again.

9) It May Have Happened One Night

"Look Joe, Satan, whatever your name is, why don't you just tell me?"

Joe has a surprise date with the resident cutie pilot, Alex Lambert.  The following day, everyone at the airport is aching to hear all about the nitty-gritty details!  There's just no privacy on a small island community, is there?  Too bad Joe isn't telling and Alex was too drunk to remember if anything happened!

10) The Customer's Usually Right

"You ate your pet for Christmas?"

Scroogy Joe is fuming over an erroneous lousy fifty cents rewind fee on his video tape rental.  He storms the local video shop, creates a big scene, and ends up inadvertently getting a poor, innocent, defenseless, little old lady employee fired.  Ah, such Christmas spirit!  Naturally, Joe, feeling like a complete heel at the unexpectedly terrible turn of events, tries to make amends.

11) Exit Laughing

"I don't need you screening my dates!"

One of Joe's old college buddies, Connor, stops by Nantucket for a visit.  Helen gets Joe to set her up on a date with his college buddy, only to discover that she can't stand the guy's laugh, which sounds like a pack mule after a double espresso.  No harmony here, just eCacophony!

12) What the Cabbie Saw

"No way am I getting between an armed felon and his freedom.  You might as well draw a bull's-eye on my chest!"

In this hilariously goofy episode, Antonio thinks he recognizes a man at the airport who recently robbed a local jewelry shop.  Everyone stalls the guy until the cops arrive, but when the robber is unexpectedly set free by the police, Antonio, the sole witness to the crime, is petrified that he is about to become the target of the robber's vengeance!

13) Labor Pains

"There's no way that Lowell is going to be bought off with schmoozola.  He wants a raise."

Lowell decides to ask Joe Hackett and Roy Biggins for a raise.  He even listens to Antonio's words of wisdom on how to negotiate successfully.  A clueless cabbie offering business advice to a mixed-up mechanic?  How is that not a recipe for disaster?

14) I've Got a Secret

"On an island the size of a postal stamp, you sneeze and the guy on the radio says God Bless You!"

While the guys are off gambling in Atlantic City, Helen and Alex have a girls' night together giggling over girly stuff and intimate secrets.  However, when Alex's most embarrassing secret somehow leaks out all over the island, there's no more chatting about, just a catty bout between Helen and Alex!

15) The Gift

"Honey, you really do smell like low tide."

The Gift is a two-part episode.  Helen may have lost her cello months ago in Joe's plane crash (see episode one, Lifeboat), but she still yearns to play music professionally.  When an upcoming audition for a spot in a string quartet presents itself, Helen takes on a second job gutting fish to earn enough money for a new cello.  Even Joe and Brian help out in their own special way to get Helen that new cello!

16) I Love Brian

"Watching Brian squirm out of a lie is some of the best entertainment available today."

Alex is a big fan of country music star Clint Black.  Brian tries to impress her by claiming to be one of Clint Black's old buddies.  The lies just pile on from there as Brian tries to weasel his way into some tickets to a sold-out Clint Black concert.  Watch for a very special cameo appearance from a former cast member from Cheers!

17) The Key to Alex

"Sensitivity!  Men have turned into such wimps!"

Now it's Joe's turn to make a fool of himself in the Hackett brothers' never-ending efforts to win over Alex!  Joe pretends to be a touchy-feely fella who likes fuzzy animals, because women like sensitive guys, right?  Not to be outdone, Brian tries a sympathy ploy or two which nearly gets him folded up like origami paper.

18) The Houseguest

"Oh no, you break him, you take him!"

Quacky Carlton Blanchard is back!  Last time we saw him, this crotchety senior citizen had just conned the Hackett brothers into flying him all over the country (Season Three, episode seventeen, Das Plane).  Now, for Carlton's birthday, this crafty little leprechaun cons Helen into throwing him a surprise party!  When he supposedly sprains his foot, Helen is stuck tending to the insincerely immobile invalid for an entire week!

19) Goodbye Old Friend

"Hey, uh, do you guys know another word for corpse?"

When a retired mechanic who was once Lowell's mentor passes away, Lowell decides to write a friendly eulogy for the funeral.  At least, he tries to, anyway!  Meanwhile, squirrels in Helen's attic have kept her awake for so many nights that Helen is dead-tired to the point of utter exhaustion.

20) Another Wedding

"You drink 'til your eyes spin, drool over the obligatory stripper, then go home and throw up."

Tom Nevers Field's air traffic controller has just gotten married, and everyone's invited to the reception party!  Lowell bumps into his nymphomaniac ex-wife Bunny, Roy Biggins scams some kids out of money, Helen makes a fool of herself on the dance floor, Joe is held prisoner to a lousy conversation, and Brian scouts out the available chicks, while bashful Antonio tries to ask a young lady to dance.  Wedding receptions are just as much fun as daytime soaps, aren't they?

21) Date Package Number Seven

"The fat lady...she's singing!"

Brian finally convinces Alex to go out on a spontaneous date with him.  But the gig is up when Alex finds out that she's just been conned by yet another of Brian's endless schemes.  While the relationship between Brian and Alex is left somewhat ambiguous by the end of this episode, fans of Wings should be pleased to know that Alex does return in Season Five.

Video **

The image quality of these episodes is nothing special.  The show looks begrudgingly acceptable at best, overly-grainy with touches of edge enhancement or faded, off-hue colors at worst.  The low-resolution, blurred images on the back of this box set give an accurate representation of how these episodes appear on the DVDs.

Audio ***

The audio for Wings is broadcast television-quality, adequate if not particularly noteworthy.

Features zero stars

There are no bonus features, although the slipcases do provide individual synopses and original broadcast dates for each episode.

Summary:

The box set Wings: The Fourth Season presents twenty-one episodes of the show.  Fans of Wings will overlook the technical flaws without a second thought, although Paramount should really have made a better effort to do right by this classic 1990's television sitcom.

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