Case Number 10402


Paramount // 1992 // 493 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 29th, 2006

The Charge

You are now free to move about the...comedy! Ka-pow!!!

Opening Statement

The Nantucket gang returns with their first full-season offering, and the layover has treated them well. This season of Wings delivers.

Facts of the Case

Wings, as you may know (if you frequented the USA channel 10 years ago or so), is a quasi-spin-off from Cheers, and another Casey/Angell/Lee production (who would go on to create another spin-off, Frasier). This show tracks the exploits of the Hackett brothers, Joe (Tim Daly, The Nine) and Brian (Steven Weber, Desperation). Joe's the uptight conservative, Brian the foolish, fun-lover, and together they're a recipe for high-larity!

The gimmick for this sitcom is that the boys fly for Joe's small airline, Sandpiper Air, and the airport consists of a variety of characters: Helen (Crystal Bernard), the spitfire blonde bombshell who's on-again off-again romance with Joe is consistent narrative fodder; Lowell (Thomas Haden Church, Sideways) the idiot mechanic; Fay (Rbecca Schull) the sweet-natured Sandpiper Air ticket manager; Roy (David Schramm) the obnoxious owner of the rival airline; and, new this season, Antonio (Tony Shalhoub, Monk), the immigrant cab driver with a knack for one-liners.

Season three sports a full count of 22 episodes, presented here on four discs:

Disc One
* "The Naked Truth"
* "Is That a Subpoena in Your Pocket?"
* "The Taming of the Shrew"
* "I Ain't Got No Bunny"
* "If Elected, I Will Not Live"
* "My Brother's Keeper"

Disc Two
* "Crate Expectations"
* "Ladies Who Launch"
* "Try To Remember the Night He Dismembered"
* "The Late Mrs. Biggins"
* "The Bogey Men"

Disc Three
* "Marriage, Italian Style"
* "Divorce, American Style"
* "Stew in a Stew"
* "This Old House"
* "Planes, Trains and Visiting Cranes"
* "Das Plane"

Disc Four
* "Take My Life, Please"
* "Four Dates That Will Live in Infamy"
* "The Bank Dick"
* "Say It Ain't So, Joe"
* "As Fate Would Have It"

The Evidence

Wings -- Season Three is a very funny collection of episodes, and a marked improvement over its prior seasons. With this run, the writers hit a stride, and obviously grew comfortable enough with the players to supply them with appropriate and funny dialogue. The characters are more fleshed out and the actors have settled into their roles; in short, the show was clicking at this point.

A big element responsible for the creative success of the plane gang's third outing is the addition of Tony Shalhoub to the cast as Antonio. While loveable foreigners who speak in a cutesy accent isn't anything new in the sitcom world, Shalhoub's pinpoint timing and methodical delivery landed big laughs for the character, and gave ample straight-man opportunities to his costars. He would go on to become one of the major cogs in the Wings machine, and for good reason; the paisano was funny. In fact, seeing his performance afresh in these DVDs almost makes up for the false advertising from the Complete First and Second Seasons release, which featured Shalhoub on the disc jacket, though he was nowhere to be found within the episodes.

What so drastically separates this season from its predecessors, though, is the writing. The scripts are much sharper and the storylines, while not a far cry from typical sitcom fare (That guy acts crazy when he's hypnotized! Oh no, they're getting a divorce! Look at those two having a flour-fight!), flirt with brilliance from time to time.

A few of my favorite episodes from this season:

* "Das Plane"
Joe reluctantly agrees to cart a crotchety old man across the country to reunite with his estranged brother. What ensues is an entertaining misadventure, capped off with a perfect ending. William Hickey (he of Christmas Vacation fame) stars as the cranky passenger.

* "Four Dates That Will Live in Infamy"
The non-linear storytelling from the previous season largely felt contrived and wannabe cutting edge, but this show, which is really an anthology of four bizarre tales tracking Helen, Joe, Brian and Lowell's exploits following their enrollment in a video dating service, does it right. The highpoint: Joe's date with a psycho ventriloquist.

* "The Bank Dick"
This Brian-centric episode (always a good thing; Weber is great fun in the slacker role) also features a healthy dose of Antonio, as the two face off with a bank robber in mid-flight.

The majority of this season works. Only a couple of clunkers stand out, most notably (and surprisingly) "Planes, Trains and Visiting Cranes," crossover episode with Lilith and Frasier Crane touching down on Nantucket so Frasier can pitch a self-help seminar; should be funny, but comes across as gimmicky. The first three episodes, which resolve the cliffhanger from season two when Helen took off to New York to pursue her dream of being a cellist, focus on Joe and Helen's strained relationship, all culminating in Joe's office being brutalized by her Jeep. That got old fast.

Overall, a good show, and comedy that has held up over a decade and some change. Strong writing, solid acting, and, best of all, the show has that intangible watchability to it. I enjoyed my return flight to Nantucket.

Unfortunately, the superior season doesn't receive a superior DVD treatment. Episodes are transferred in their original aspect ratio, supplemented by a 2.0 stereo track, with little attention seemingly paid to the video quality. The shows look passable, but there's no denying their age. Worse: zero extras.

Closing Statement

The set is a nosedive, but the season is high-flying. Good God, someone shoot me with a tranquilizer before I spout off more stupid airplane puns.

The Verdict

The accused is cleared for take-off.

Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 70
Audio: 75
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 493 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb

* Wings: The Complete First and Second Seasons review