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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

I’ve been watching the entire series Wings on Hulu.  As of now, I’m about halfway through the final season.  In 1990, the world was introduced to “Wings”, a sitcom that predominantly took place within a small airport in Nantucket, Massachusetts.  The show followed the lives of the employees that worked there. The show dealt love, heartbreak, and misunderstandings that led to hilarious situations. 

Created by David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee, Wings ran for 172 episodes over 8 seasons.  The show took place in the same universe as “Cheers” and even had some guests stars from the show-namely John Ratzenberger’s Cliff Clavin, George Wendt’s Norm Peterson, Kirstie Alley’s Rebecca Howe, Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier Crane-who received an Emmy nomination-and Bebe Neuwirth as Llith Sternin. 

The show might not have been as acclaimed as Cheers or Frasier but the cast certainly went onto have stellar careers.  Tim Daly portrayed Joe Hackett, a young pilot living his dream of running his own airline, Sandpiper.  He’s serious about his profession and can come off as stiff to friends and family.  Daly appeared in all 172 episodes.  After the show, he took on the iconic role of Superman, and voiced the iconic superheroes in several projects, including Superman: the animated series and Justice League: Doom.  He appeared in 4 episodes of HBO’s Sopranos and played Dr. Pete Wilder in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.  That part gave him a starring role in the spinoff, Private Practice.  From 2014-2019, Daly played Henry McCord opposite Tea Leoni in “Madam Secretary”.  The character eventually becomes First Gentleman when Leoni’s Elizabeth McCord becomes the first female president in season 6.  Daly and Leoni started dating in 2014 and have been together ever since.

Steven Weber played Joe’s brother Brian Hackett.  Brian was also Joe’s partner in Sandpiper.  Brian was more focused on having a good time than doing work.  Though he could be serious when the time calls for it.  After the finale, Weber found success in various projects.  He starred as Jack  Torrance in a more faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining-King had a lot of input in the miniseries-which won him a Saturn Award.  He had recurring roles in many shows, including Max Rager director Vaughn Du Clark in “iZombie”, corrupt Mayor Douglas Hamilton in NCIS: New Orleans, Gary Bolan in “13 Reasons Why”, and most recently, Dr. Dean Archer in Chicago Med.  Like Daly, Weber has appeared in superhero cartoon by voicing characters in the “Ultimate Spiderman” from 2012-2017.  Last year, he starred alongside Fran Drescher in “Indebted”.  It was sadly cancelled after one season.

Crystal Bernard, who played Helen Chapel(later Helen Hackett) has kept a low profile since playing the classic role where she ran the lunch-counter at Sandpiper.  Having been best friends with Joe and Brian since the two brothers moved across the street as kids, she is very outspoken and knows how to deal with the brothers.  Helen and Joe married in season 6.  Before the series, Bernard appeared in “Happy Days” and starring in “It’s a Living”.  After the show ended, she did some theatre and even released albums and singles in the late ‘90’s and 2000’s.  She has not done much acting since then.  She’s made appearances in several projects-some Hallmark movies and an episode of According To Jim.  It appears Bernard has retired from showbusiness.  According to IMDD, her last role was in 2008, and she’s been keeping a low profile since then.

Thomas Haden Church became a supervillain.  His character of Lowell Mather, a simple but kind-hearted mechanic whose skills kept the planes in the air, contributes much to his friends lives.  When Church left in season 6, Lowell was written out of the show by joining the Witness Protection Program after witnessing a murder at a seafood restaurant.  The reason he left? He landed the role of Ned in the Fox sitcom Ned & Stacy.  Trivia: Stacy was Debra Messing, who would later star in Will & Grace.  Ned & Stacy only lasted two seasons.  In fact, the show he left, was still going when Ned ended.  Church found much success in films.  He has portrayed Lyle Van de Groot in “George of the Jungle, the verminator in “Over The Hedge” and Jack Cole in “Sideways”.  That role earned him an Academy Award nomination in 2004.  Like Daly and Weber, he stepped into the comic world.  His was live-action, as he played The Sandman in Spiderman 3.  He even voiced the character in the movie’s video game.

David Schramm, who played Roy Biggins, owner of Sandpiper competitor Aeromass, tried his best throughout the series to buy Joe out.  All the while, he pulled scams left and right as well as managing to insult all of his co-workers.  Following Wings, Schramm opted to return to theatre.  In fact, his only television credit after “Wings” was voicing Bellerophon in Disney’s animated Hercules series in 1998.  He appeared in a number of theatrical productions including “The Beard of Avalon”, “Candida”, Waiting for Godot”, “The Seafarer”, “Twelve Angry Men”, “The Merry Wives of Windsor”, and more.  His final theatre performance credit was Harrison Marlowe in “Enter Laughing the Musical” with the New York Theatre Company in 2019.  Unfortunately, Schramm died last March after suffering a heart attack.  His Wings co-stars paid tribute to their friend.  Tim Daly knew “Schrammy”, as he lovingly called him, as a “funny, reliable, charming comic actor”.

Rebecca Shull played Fay Cochran, the warm but sometimes frightening woman who announces flights, sells tickets and often tells stories about her late husbands-all of which were named George.  Fay used to be a stewardess, but was forced to retire.  During her last flight, she met Joe, who was on his way to Hawaii.  They quickly became friends , and it was with her help that Joe was able to create Sandpiper Air.  Post-Wings, Schull continued to act.  She appeared in the movies “Analyze This” and the sequel “Analyze That” alongside Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal.  She was in episodes of Frasier, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Damages.  Schull had a recurring role in “Suits”, another personal favorite, from 2011-2013 as Edith Ross, grandmother of Patrick J Adams’ character Mike Ross.  Her most recent role was Claire in “The Last”, a movie which follows a Jewish family through four generations.

Another personal favorite is Tony Shalhoub, who played cabbie Antonio Scarpacci.  He first guested on the show in season 2 as Antonio.  However, he was a waiter at the restaurant where Joe and Helen celebrated their anniversary when they were dating.  His role was expanded and Antonio became a cab driver who frequented Tom Nevers Field.  Antonio is known for being unlucky in the romance department and his deep hatred for Roy, which seems to surpass all the other character’s feelings towards Roy.  Since “Wings” ended, Shalhoub has become a mainstay on television.  He’s probably best-known for playing obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk.  He was nominated for 8 Emmy awards, winning 3.  Shalhoub currently stars as Abe Weissman, father of Midge Maisel on the Amazon Prime series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The role earned him his 4th Emmy in 2019.

Amy Yasbeck-known to many fans as Peggy Brandt in The Mask-joined Wings in season 6 as Helen’s older sister Casey.  She struggles with her life on Nantucket, having once lived on Nob Hill with her wealthy husband Stewart-who would come around a year later and be played by her real husband, the late John Ritter.  Yasbeck stayed on Wings until the finale and went onto other roles.  She tried to bring life to another sitcom called “Alright Already” in 1997, but unfortunately, the show never made it past the 1st season.  She appeared in TV movies and shows but never landed any long-term roles.  Her last credit was a 2016 turn on Pretty Little Liars.  The biggest tragedy of her life was the death of her husband, John Ritter, who suffered from a congenital heart defect in 2003.  Yasbeck filed a wrongful death suit against the hospital that treated him/  All involved were cleared of any wrongdoing.  Yasbeck has been vocal about heart disease ever since.

Our final Wings character is Alex Lambert, played by Farrah Forke.  She made her Wings debut as a tough helicopter pilot who won the attention of both Joe and Brian.  Alex ends up choosing Brian and the two have a long and serious relationship.  After Alex breaks up with Brian, Forke left the show but her character was still occasionally mentioned.  After the show, she joined “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” as district attorney Mayson Drake.  Unlike Wings, she was only in 4 episodes before her character was killed off.  In addition to appearances on films and tv-including Thomas Haden Church’s “Ned & Stacy”-Forke appeared in two short-lived sitcoms, “Dweebs” and “Mr. Rhodes”.  She also voiced Big Barda, a member of the Justice League, in both Batman Beyond” and “Justice League Unlimited” in 2000 and 2005, respectively.  (www.looper.com) 

I hope this took you back to one of, in my opinion, the best comedies of the ‘90’s.  Go binge the show on Hulu if you’ve never seen it.  As Shalhoub’s Monk character was fond of saying, you’ll thank me later.

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