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WINGS
The Complete Third Season

Review by Ed Nguyen

Stars: Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Crystal Bernard, David Schramm, Rebecca Schull, Thomas Haden Church, Tony Shalhoub
Director: Andy Ackerman
Audio: English stereo
Subtitles: English close captions
Video: Color, full-screen
Studio: Paramount
Features: Trailers
Length: 493 minutes
Release Date: October 24, 2006

"Let me tell you something, Joe.  Don't go to work in the airline industry.  They'll break your heart every time."

Episodes ****

Flying is not an inherently amusing pastime.  What is so funny about whiny passengers, undersized seats, or even that ubiquitous cabin aroma of truly exotic body odors?  Leave it then to the creators of TV's Cheers to discover the ticklish humor within such situations for the 90's sitcom Wings.

A mixture of wholesome comedy with touching drama, Wings followed the misadventures of brothers Joe and Brian Hackett (Tim Daly and Steven Weber) and their one-plane operation, Sandpiper Air.  Set upon Nantucket Island, the sitcom included Crystal Bernard as Joe's on-again, off-again girlfriend Helen Chappel, Rebecca Schull as Joe's somewhat loopy receptionist Fay, and David Schramm as the irascible owner of Sandpiper's sole competition, Aeromass.  Also on-hand to provide scene-stealing comic relief were Thomas Haden Church as Lowell, the airport's murky-minded mechanic, and Tony Shalhoub as Antonio, a cranially-cluttered cabbie.

Wings: The Complete Third Season picks up the action ten months after the second season's cliff-hanging finale.  When last we visited the gang at Tom Nevers Field, Joe Hackett had been temporarily grounded due to high blood pressure, while Helen had just ditched Joe to fly away to New York City.  Theirs may not have been a Casablanca "We'll always have Paris" moment, but perhaps some time apart was just what Joe and Helen needed to sort out their feelings for one another.  Or not.

Read on below to discover what transpires next for our loopy lovebirds and their friends at Nantucket Island's Tom Nevers Field!

1)  The Naked Truth

"I came here to make beautiful music and I am serving boiler-makers in hot pants!"

Ten months have passed since Helen left Nantucket to make it in New York City, and much has changed!  Joe has a new girlfriend now, Gail.  As for Helen's Great American Dream, it didn't pan out, and now she works as a waitress in a New York City strip club.

When the Hackett brothers learn of Helen's whereabouts, they fly to the Big Apple to bring Helen back to Nantucket.  However, the brothers neglect to mention Joe's new girlfriend.  The truth creates an incredibly awkward moment for everyone once Helen meets Gail face to face.  After due consideration, Helen's well-tempered response is to run her jeep through Joe's office!

2)  Is That a Subpoena in Your Pocket?

"I'll have her spleen on a plate!"

Joe's office lies in shambles, a considerable nightmare for a neat-freak like Joe.  When "jealous harpy" Helen refuses to pay for the damages, a frustrated Joe takes her to small claims court.  Ah, that's amore!  In the end, handyman Lowell rebuilds the office only to see Helen run it down once again in front of a gloating Joe.

This episode marks Tony Shalhoub's official introduction as cast regular Antonio Scarpacci (following a brief cameo last season).

3)  The Taming of the Shrew

"I'd like to bite your head off and spit down your neck!"

Helen remains bedeviled by unresolved anger issues over Joe's callousness.  Finally, at Fay's behest, Helen attends a group therapy session, bringing Brian along for moral support.  The session teaches Helen some surprising lessons about love and relationship.  Meanwhile, Brian discovers his own comic angst over his unresolved issues about ex-wife, Carol.

Oh yes, and like clockwork, Joe's office gets mowed down in the end for the third episode in a row!

4)  I Ain't Got No Bunny

"Aw, 'fair' is for losers, and I'm lookin' at a couple of big ones."

Lowell has marital difficulties stemming from his unfounded jealousy over wife Bunny's supposed promiscuity.  After she eventually kicks him out, Lowell turns to the Hackett brothers for advice on how to deal with this Bunny situation.  Brian offers to speak to Bunny on Lowell's behalf but finds himself in a touchy situation when Bunny makes a play for him, too!

BONUS TRIVIA:  ER cast regular Laura Innes guest stars at Bunny.

5)  If Elected, I Will Not Live

"Nothing can stop the Biggins juggernaut!"

Roy Biggins runs for town council unopposed until Joe Hackett, with Fay as his gung-ho campaign manager, decides to throw his hat into the political arena.  As fate would have it, the Nantucket Herald ends up endorsing, of all people...Fay herself!  Come election day, who will win?

6)  My Brother's Keeper

"Hit the ground running, Mr. Past Tense."

A rich and arrogant woman visits the island and soon has everyone groveling at her feet for hand-outs.  Brian becomes her new boy toy.  Joe hankers for a new plane.  Fay petitions for a new senior center.  Newly-elected council man Roy Biggins sucks up for a new municipal building.  Even lunch counter girl Helen hopes to launch her second career in real estate with a big sale.  There's nothing the filthy rich enjoy more than the pious genuflections from adoring masses!

7)  Crate Expectations

"Hackett's a sap."

Joe announces that he doesn't want a surprise party for his upcoming birthday.  Naturally, Fay decides that Joe really does want one!  The big surprise is for all of Joe's friends to jump out of a shipping crate at the airport on his birthday....until the crate gets shipped off to Boston accidentally!

8)  Ladies Who Lunch

"Why are these moments between us always so uncomfortable?"

Gail and Helen launch into the latest round of their on-going catfight over Joe.  Finally, Joe calls a truce and demands that the girls go out to lunch together to patch things up.  His plan works too well.  Gail and Helen become good friends and, even worse, begin to compare notes about Joe's obsessive quirks and wacky habits.  Maybe it was not such a hot idea for Joe to encourage an ex-girlfriend and a current one to bury the hatchet!

9)  Try to Remember the Night He Dismembered

"I think it's time for Fay's Foggy-Day-Fun Box."

A thick fog over Tom Nevers Field grounds all flights to and from Nantucket.  With the airport shut down, everyone breaks out the parlor tricks and board games.  Brian does his hypnotism act and gets Roy to reveal his darkest secret.  However, the trick may be on Brian when sneaky Roy pulls a fast one!

10)  The Late Mrs. Biggins

"Come on Roy, she fits all your criteria - she's breathing."

When the gang at Tom Nevers Field discover that the late Mrs. Roy Biggins is actually alive and well, they convince Roy to fly to Boston and win her back.  That is a tall order, considering that Roy's ex-wife left him over a dozen years ago for being an obnoxious boor.  Ah yes, the times they are a-not-changin'!  Never mind that the former Mrs. Roy Biggins is now happily married to a fabulously wealthy plastic surgeon!

11)  The Bogey Men

"Roy's walking around on a wet fairway carrying a bag full of lightning rods!"

Lowell, Roy, and the Hackett brothers take an excursion to South Carolina for several rounds of exquisite golf.  The mini-vacation, however, becomes a wash-out.  First, the guys must endure four excruciating hours of a time-share sales pitch.  Then, the beautiful blue skies transform into dark clouds of dreary downpour.  But what could possibly be worse than being confined in a small, one-bed condo with Roy Biggins?

12)  Marriage, Italian Style

"Bogus wedding, possible deportation, and an open bar?  Try keeping me away!"

The show's new opening graphics are unveiled in this episode, replacing the previous Masterpiece Theater-style opening sequence.

In this episode, Antonio's request for a new visa is denied.  He has one month remaining before he will be forced to return to Italy.  However, if Antonio can find a willing bride to wed in time, he will be allowed to remain in America.

To help out Antonio, Brian offers to find a suitable candidate.  Brian's fruitless search only digs up Sconset Sally, a foul-mouthed loony of a shack-woman.  When even this "barnacle-encrusted mercenary" stands up Antonio for a crucial interview with an immigrations officer, it's Helen to the rescue!

13)  Divorce, American Style

"I will not look at you, talk to you, or touch you.  It will be like we're married ten years."

Antonio and Helen have just staged a sham wedding for the benefit of the immigrations officer.  Now, it's time for a quickie divorce, which as per immigration regulations should not take much more than...three years!

With the immigrations officer liable to drop by without warning for surprise inspections, Antonio and Helen apparently have no other choice but to live together as husband and wife...unless, of course, there is a loophole somewhere.

14)  Stew in a Stew

"It seems in the Sandpiper pecking order I come in third after a couple of leather jackets."

Times being tough, Joe tells Fay he can't afford to give her an annual raise.  Joe then ends up looking like a hypocrite when a pair of very expensive pilot jackets arrive for the Hackett brothers the next day.  Feeling that she is under-appreciated, Fay quits.  Without their chirpy receptionist, Sandpiper Air risks a rapid swan-dive, so it's up to Brian to reconcile Joe and Fay.

15)  This Old House

"This is where it all began, the beginning of a lifelong friendship."

Vicious storms and recent floodings have turned Nantucket into a disaster area.  One casualty is the old Hackett house, now condemned and scheduled for demolition.  Joe and Brian re-visit their old home, reminiscing about fond and not-so-fond memories.  This Old House is a rather touching episode.

16)  Planes, Trains and Visiting Cranes

"He looks like a bleeder and she fights dirty."

The cast from Cheers occasionally made guest appearances on Wings.  In this episode, Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) and his wife Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) arrive for a weekend seminar on low self-esteem.  Helen, recognizing the quack, launches into a tirade about how one of Dr Crane's seminar ruined her life.  As a compromise to refunding her money, Dr. Crane encourages Helen to attend his current series of seminars.

Hoping to see a slugfest, the gang at Tom Nevers Field shows up for the lecture, too.  Sure enough, the evening devolves into a Jerry Springer-style talk show melee involving the Hackett brothers and Helen and all their unresolved emotional issues!

17)  Das Plane

"It's practically a coffin with wings."

A wacky old coot named Carlton donates $10,000 to a local hospital charity.  His prize is a trip on Sandpiper Air to any destination of his choosing.  Carlton decides to fly clear cross country to New Mexico.  Or was it Wyoming?  And how about a few detours along the way?  Tensions run high on this endless journey from hell, highlighted by Indiana Jones-style flight graphics, fisticuffs, and a treasure hunt of sorts!

Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?

18)  Take My Life, Please

"You're nothing but a bus driver in the sky."

After Helen's fledgling career in real estate crashes and burns, she takes a career placement test.  Soon thereafter, Helen decides that she wants to be a stand-up comedian.  If bad jokes and terrible delivery are your cup of tea, then this hilarious episode is for you!

BONUS TRIVIA:  Oliver North makes a cameo appearance aboard a Sandpiper flight.

19)  Four Dates That Will Live in Infamy

"Can't we just...talk?"

Antonio joins a video dating service.  His stunning success encourages everyone else at Tom Nevers Field to take a chance on blind romance, too.  For kicks, Brian, Joe, Lowell, and Helen agree to meet at midnight after their dates to compare notes.  The lucky loser with the evening's worst date gets an award!

20)  The Bank Dick

"The IRS wants their five thousand bucks back!"

After a clerical error, Brian ends up owing the IRS a lot of money...money he already blew on a vacation!  To pay it back, he has to take a second job as a bank security guard.  Things get even worse when the bank is robbed on Brian's shift.  However, the thief makes a fatal mistake, booking a seat on Sandpiper Air for his getaway...with Brian as the pilot!  Ah, sweet redemption (and award money) cometh!

21)  Say It Ain't So, Joe

"I guess as long as I hold the record, a part of me is still seventeen."

Joe's old high school pitching records are about to be broken.  When Joe's old coach asks him to attend a photo-op and mid-game ceremony, Joe reminisces nostalgically over lost youth and glory.

22)  As Fate Would Have It

"Why doesn't life just kick me when I'm down?"

Helen literally bumps one day into the manager director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  By sheer coincidence, the orchestra has an urgent need for a cellist.  On the spot, Helen gets the job and an opportunity of a lifetime.  So once again, another season finale of Wings and another chance for Helen to fulfill her dreams of becoming a first-class concert cellist!

The whole gang squeezes into Sandpiper's sole Cessna and heads for Boston.  Unfortunately, in the pouring rain and lightning storm, the plane develops, in Lowell's words, "catastrophic engine failure."  Did Lowell also mention that he hadn't replaced the plane's faulty transponder yet?  Without a functional transponder, how will anyone find the plane if it ditches into the sea?  Naturally, this begs the question - what is the nautical term for "needle in a haystack?"

Fans of Wings will simply have to wait until the release of the Season Four box set to find out if anyone survives the crash.  In the meantime, the twenty-two episodes of Season Three provide ample moments of gut-busting humor and touching sincerity.

Video **

Once again, the folks at CBS-Paramount have shown an exasperating indifference towards Wings.  One could achieve a comparable visual clarity to that presented on these discs by simply recording the show off syndicated television instead.

The video quality of Wings: The Complete Third Season is uneven at best, alternating between an acceptable appearance to an overly-grainy one or a blurry, soft-focused one.  There are also touches of edge enhancement here and there.  To be fair though, Wings admittedly looks a lot better on this box set than the previous one.

Audio ***

Wings was originally presented on broadcast television, so the audio is television-quality, which is adequate enough for this box set.

Features *

Extras?  What extras?  There are only a few scant previews for box sets of MacGyver, various Star Trek shows, and The 4400 Season Two.

Summary:

Wings remains a great 90's sitcom, and this box set is a definite upgrade over the previous Wings: The Complete First & Second Seasons box set.  However, there is still room for improvement or even a bonus featurette or two.

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