Judge David Johnson is a flyboy—in his heart that is.
There once was a show from Nantucket…
The fourth season of Wings continues the amusing tradition of the previous seasons, while spicing things up with the introduction of a sexy new female character, the Hacketts' rivalry over said character's affections and Lowell's sunk houseboat.
Facts of the Case
Season Three ended with a cliffhanger, which this season picks up immediately. As the gang makes their way to Helen's (Crystal Bernard) career-changing concert in Boston, the plane goes down, stranding everyone in an inflatable raft, waiting to be rescued. Thankfully they are, paving the way for 21 more episodes. During the season's run, Joe (Tim Daly) and Brian (Steven Weber, Desperation) fight over the attention of Alex Lambert (Farrah Forke), Lowell (Thomas Haden Church) re-connects with ex-wife Bunny, Helen dates a man with a bizarre laugh, Fay (Rebecca Schull) gets addicted to a video game and Antonio (Tony Shalhoub) spends Christmas with Roy (David Schramm) and his mother.
Twenty-two episodes, four discs:
I like this show. I would go so far as to say I like it a lot. Wings is boilerplate sitcom fare—put an eclectic group of TV stereotypes together in a unique setting and letting them say funny stuff to each other—but the execution is sharp, the writing is funny and the characters are memorable. While I thought the third season was probably the strongest so far, this set of episodes isn't far behind. The situations are outlandish, and actually creative (Lowell has a few dream sequences in the first episode; Joe's unbelievable string of bad luck in what is one of the better Christmas sitcom episodes I've seen), without stooping too low for cheap laughs.
The heart of Wings, though, is the writing, which is well-honed and aided by the diverse arrangement of eccentric characters. You've got the anal-retentive neat freak (Joe), the irresponsible smart-ass (Brian), the hapless underachieving blonde bombshell (Helen), the wry immigrant (Antonio), two head cases (Fay and Lowell) and a fat jerk (Roy). If those characters don't write their own dialogue, I don't know who does.
The big news this season is the addition of another major character, Alex Lambert, who shows up a few episodes in. I've got mixed feelings about Alex. On one hand, it's good to have a feisty female to counter the Hacketts, though an argument could be made that Helen fulfills that role just fine. On the other, her character brings out the worst in the brothers, and yeah it's good for some solid laughs—their competition in the weight room was money—seeing them reduced to slobbering, infantile pre-teens whenever Alex was around seem a bit contrived. Of course, Farrah Forke is smoking hot, so their groveling is partially acceptable. I guess I'll just leave it as a half-and-half rating; the new blood is appreciated, but her flaming feminist rhetoric grew a little tiring over the long-haul. The season finale hinted at a softer side, as the show capped with a foreshadowing of the relationship Alex and Brian would form in the forthcoming season.
Solid performances throughout, with a special nod given to Tony Shalhoub's Antonio, who walks away with every scene he's in and is usually in the enviable position of receiving softball joke set-ups. Daly and Weber do their things as the Hackett bros, though Joe's ridiculous blubbering when Alex is around seemed really out of character. In a similar situation, Weber obviously had a lot of fun with Brian, a character that is in his element when pursuing an unachievable woman.
A good series of episodes overall, and though I have my reservations about the Alex Lambert character, I readily admit it infused some fuel into the writers' pens and provided some great episodes. Beyond this addition, though, everyone from the stellar first season is back and the show continues to be a dependable laugh generator. As far as traditional sitcoms from the early 90s go, Wings remains one my favorites.
Full frame and 2.0 stereo for the tech specs, neither of which are hugely impressive. The video transfer could be a little soft, showing that little was done to refine the images on their way to DVD. No extras.
Wings is funny and compulsively watchable. Solid writing, goofy scenarios and a fine cast of characters make the show—and this season—a fine addition to any old-school sitcom collection.
Not guilty. You may now take your seats out of the upright position and enjoy the rest of your flight.
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