13 Things You Might Not Know About Wings

NBC
NBC

In 1990, television-watching America was introduced to the tiny Massachusetts island of Nantucket when Wings—the airport-set, Emmy-nominated series about a couple of pilot brothers trying to make a go of a one-plane airline in a seasonal destination—made its debut on NBC. Here are 13 things you might not know about the high-flying comedy, on the 20th anniversary of its season finale.

1. WINGS EXISTS IN THE SAME UNIVERSE AS CHEERS AND FRASIER.

It’s no coincidence that Wings is the airport version of Cheers, as its co-creators—David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee—spent several years working together on the beloved series about the bar where everybody knows your name. Though it’s not a spinoff, Wings featured several tie-ins with both Cheers and Frasier (another Angell-Casey-Lee creation). Rebecca Howe, Norm Peterson, Cliff Clavin, and Frasier and Lilith Crane all popped up on Wings over the years.

2. GEORGE CLOONEY WANTED TO BE BRIAN HACKETT.

Four years before landing the career-changing role of Dr. Doug Ross on ER, George Clooney auditioned to play the role of fun-loving playboy Brian Hackett. David Duchovny and Hank Azaria were among the other actors considered for the role, which eventually went to Steven Weber.

3. BRYAN CRANSTON TRIED OUT FOR THE PART OF JOE HACKETT.

The future Walter White auditioned to play Joe Hackett, the anal-retentive owner of Sandpiper Air. Daniel Stern and Nick Cassavetes tried out, too, but Tim Daly got the part.

4. TIM DALY DIDN’T APPRECIATE THE SERIES UNTIL YEARS LATER.

In a 2014 interview with The A.V. Club, Daly admitted that “like a lot of people, I hadn’t really appreciated Wings until sort of recently.” Though he says he had a great time filming the show, and worked with lots of talented people, he was frustrated by the fact that “it didn’t get very good reviews, and it wasn’t, like, hip, you know? It wasn’t Seinfeld, it wasn’t Friends, it didn’t really have a reputation as a ‘hot’ show, and—it kind of made me feel a little bad. I was like, ‘Hey, how come nobody likes this show?’ Well, in retrospect, being many years removed from it, I look back at it, and that show was really f***ing great! It’s hilarious! And we were very good. We were really funny. I don’t know why we didn’t get the credit we deserved at the time. But it’s odd—now people think of it as a classic TV show. Critics, maybe not, but the citizens or whoever seem to think it was one of the all-time greats. At the time, nobody cared about it that much.”

5. DALY’S SISTER, TYNE, IS ONE OF ONLY TWO ACTORS TO BE RECOGNIZED FOR THE SHOW.

Daly’s got a point about the series’ original critical reception. Though it features top-notch acting and writing, Wings only ever received a grand total of three Emmy nominations—one for Outstanding Makeup in 1996, and the others in 1992 for guest stars Kelsey Grammer (playing Frasier Crane) and Tyne Daly (Tim’s sister) for her one-episode appearance as Mimsy Borogroves.

6. THE CLUB CAR IS A REAL PLACE.

The Club Car is a favorite after-work hangout for the Wings gang. And though it wasn’t filmed on site, it is indeed a real place that you can visit in person (in season, of course).

7. TOM NEVERS FIELD IS REAL, TOO. BUT IT’S NOT AN AIRPORT.

There is a Tom Nevers Field on Nantucket, but it's a park, not an airport. Nantucket Memorial Airport is where you’d jet in and out of for a visit.

8. YOU CAN ACTUALLY FLY ON SANDPIPER’S PLANE.

The Sandpiper plane that is featured in the series’ opening and closing credits—the N121PP—is still up and running and part of Cape Air’s fleet. The airline’s slogan? “We’re Your Wings.”

9. HELEN’S ROLE WAS WRITTEN FOR PERI GILPIN.

Crystal Bernard’s character, Helen Chapel, was originally written as Helen Trionkis—and intended for Peri Gilpin. “Yes, Helen in the first draft was Helen Trionkis, a dark beauty of Greek descent,” David Lee shared in 2010. “Our first choice was Peri Gilpin. [NBC President Brandon] Tartikoff thought she wasn't ready to head a series yet.”

10. TARTIKOFF LEFT IT UP TO THE PRODUCERS TO EXPLAIN HELEN’S ACCENT.

Though she plays a native islander, Helen Chapel has a pretty thick Southern accent for a New Englander. “[Tartikoff] pitched Crystal and left it up to us to figure out the accent bit,” David Lee recalled. “Can't remember what lame convoluted plotting we came up with to explain the accent, but after convincing no one, it was soon forgotten. I remember she came in to meet Peter, David, and I the morning after she had almost been killed by a CO2 leak in her dressing room trailer on a movie she was shooting. Now that's a trooper.”

11. PERI GILPIN’S FRASIER CHARACTER HAS A WINGS CONNECTION.

By the time Frasier premiered in 1993, Angell, Casey, and Lee were able to sell the network on Gilpin’s leading lady abilities. And her character on that show, radio producer Roz Doyle, is actually named for one of the producers of Wings, who passed away from breast cancer in 1991.

12. THE PART OF LOWELL WAS WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR THOMAS HADEN CHURCH.

Though he was hardly a well-known name, the creators of Wings wrote the part of the idiot savant mechanic Lowell Mather specifically for future Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church. In 1995, while announcing his departure from the series, Church explained that, “I don't forever want to be known as Lowell,” noting that, “The character was based directly upon a guy I played in Cheers.” That would be the character of Gordie Brown, who made a one-time appearance during Cheers’ eighth season.

13. JOHN RITTER PLAYED THE EX-HUSBAND OF HIS FUTURE WIFE.

In 1996, John Ritter made a guest appearance on Wings as Stuart Davenport, the ex-husband of Helen’s sister, Casey Chapel Davenport, who was played by Amy Yasbeck. Three years later, Ritter and Yasbeck got married.

tv

Mifflin Madness: Who Is the Greatest Character on The Office? It's Time to Vote

Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.
Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.
NBC

Your years of watching (and re-watching) The Office, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary, have all led up to this moment. Welcome to Mifflin Madness—Mental Floss's cutthroat competition to determine The Office's greatest character. Is Michael Scott the boss you most love to hate? Or did Kevin Malone suck you in with his giant pot of chili?

You have 24 hours to cast your vote for each round on Twitter before the bracket is updated and half of the chosen characters are eliminated.

The full bracket is below, followed by the round one and round two winners. You can cast your round three vote(s) here. Be sure to check back on Monday at 4 p.m. ET to see if your favorite Dunder Mifflin employee has advanced to the next round. 

Round One


Round Two


Round Three


The Office Planned to Break Up Jim and Pam in the Final Season—Then (Smartly) Thought Better of It

Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly's relationship in The Office was truly a romance for the ages. Fans were delighted when, in Season 3—after years of flirting—John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer’s characters finally got together. But an alternative plan for the show’s ninth and final season saw the couple going their separate ways.

Season 9 saw one of the most stressful storylines the show had to offer when Jim took a job in Philadelphia and Pam struggled to take care of their children on her own back in Scranton, putting intense strain on their otherwise seemingly perfect relationship. In one unforgettable scene, a particularly tense phone call between the couple ends with Pam in tears. Fischer’s character then turns to someone off camera named Brian for advice.

As Collider reports, Pam and Jim's relationship could have taken a turn for worse in the final season—and the writers had planned it that way. As recounted in Andy Greene's new book, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, series creator Greg Daniels sat down with each of the show's stars before starting the final season to discuss where their characters would go. John Krasinski, who played Jim, pitched the idea of putting Jim and Pam’s relationship on thin ice. According to Krasinski:

"My whole pitch to Greg was that we’ve done so much with Jim and Pam, and now, after marriage and kids, there was a bit of a lull there, I think, for them about what they wanted to do … And I said to Greg, ‘It would be really interesting to see how that split will affect two people that you know so well.'"

Several writers weighed in with ideas about how they might handle a split between Jim and Pam from a narrative standpoint—though not everyone was on the same page.

Warren Lieberstein, a writer on the series, remembered when the idea of bringing Brian—the documentary crew's boom operator—into the mix. “[This] was something that came up in Season 5, I think," Lieberstein said. "What if that character had been secretly there the entire time and predated the relationship with Jim and had been a shoulder that she cried on for years?’ It just seemed very intriguing." Apparently, the writers thought breaking the fourth wall would jeopardize the show, so they saved it for the last season.

Writer Owen Ellickson said there was even some talk of Pam and Brian “maybe hooking up a little bit," but the negative response to the storyline led the writers to "pull the ripcord on [Pam and Jim's separation] because it was so painful to fans of the show." Ellickson said that they backtracked so quickly, they even had to re-edit certain episodes that had already been shot to nix the idea of Jim and Pam splitting up. Which is something the show's millions of fans will be forever grateful for.

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