US sitcom set at a fictional airport in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
172 episodes of 30 minute duration. NBC. 1990 - 1997.
One of NBC’s successful sitcom efforts of the 1990's, it was not a spin-off of Cheers, but it was created by three of that show’s staffers, and several Cheers characters made occasional appearances.
Set at the fictional Tom Nevers Field in Nantucket, Massachusetts (a hop, skip and jump from Cheers’ hometown of Boston, the comedy centered on brothers Joe and Brian Hackett (Tim Daly and Steven Weber), who ran the small Sandpiper Air firm. Joe was the more grounded and responsible of the brothers; Brian was carefree and irresponsible. Their childhood friend was Helen Chappel (Crystal Bernard), a former chubby girl who grew up to be an attractive woman and an aspiring concert cellist who also ran the airport’s lunch counter. Other characters included Roy Biggens (David Schramm), the owner of a rival air service firm; elderly Fay Evelyn Cochran (Rebecca Schull), a former flight attendant who ran the ticket counter; and Lowell Maather (Thomas Haden Church), the airport’s eccentric maintenance man. A pre-Monk Tony Shalhoub played cab driver Antonio Scarpacci, a hopeless romantic. Others in the cast included Amy Yasbeck as Helen’s older sister Casey; and helicopter pilot Alex Lambert (Farrah Forke), who once posed for “Playboy” magazine.
Not unlike Cheers, the plots centered around the various situations and romantic problems of the core cast. During the series, Joe and Brian battled for the affections of Helen (she ended up marrying Joe after a brief “marriage of convenience” to Antonio); Brian then started dating her sister Casey–and at one point, their passion was so hot, it led to a fire that destroyed Brian’s house!
The series was created by David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee–and their Cheers connection led to guest appearances from several characters on that show, notably Frasier and Lillith Crane. Kelsey Grammar, the actor who played Frasier, won an Emmy Award for his guest appearance on Wings; he was so impressed with the talents of Angell, Casey and Lee, he asked them to create a post-Cheers series for him–and Frasier was born, enjoying an 11-year run. Wings also boosted the careers of Shalhoub and Church (who became a successful film actor and won an Oscar nomination for 2004's “Sideways”).
Thanks to its placement on NBC’s powerful Thursday lineup in its first several years, Wings became a solid hit for the network. The final episode found Joe and Brian discovering a $250,000 inheritance from their late father; they decided to use the money to expand Sandpiper Air and fund Helen’s dream to study with the world’s leading cellist in Vienna. It was appropriate, since Wings’ opening theme song for its first few seasons was actually a short version of Franz Schubert’s Piano Sonata Number 20 In A Major. Schubert was named as the theme’s composer in the credits; a jazzy version of the theme was used for the show’s opening credits. A classy touch to a fairly classy comedy.
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