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13 Things You Might Not Know About Wings

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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.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
TAKWest, Youtube
TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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15 Must-See Holiday Horror Movies
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Families often use the holidays as an excuse to indulge in repeat viewings of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Elf. But for a certain section of the population, the yuletide is all about horror. Although it didn’t truly emerge until the mid-1970s, “holiday horror” is a thriving subgenre that often combines comedy to tell stories of demented Saint Nicks and lethal gingerbread men. If you’ve never seen Santa slash someone, here are 15 movies to get you started.

1. THANKSKILLING (2009)

Most holiday horror movies concern Christmas, so ThanksKilling is a bit of an anomaly. Another reason it’s an anomaly? It opens in 1621, with an axe-wielding turkey murdering a topless pilgrim woman. The movie continues on to the present-day, where a group of college friends are terrorized by that same demon bird during Thanksgiving break. It’s pretty schlocky, but if Turkey Day-themed terror is your bag, make sure to check out the sequel: ThanksKilling 3. (No one really knows what happened to ThanksKilling 2.)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

Fittingly, the same man who brought us A Christmas Story also brought us its twisted cousin. Before Bob Clark co-wrote and directed the 1983 saga of Ralphie Parker, he helmed Black Christmas. It concerns a group of sorority sisters who are systematically picked off by a man who keeps making threatening phone calls to their house. Oh, and it all happens during the holidays. Black Christmas is often considered the godfather of holiday horror, but it was also pretty early on the slasher scene, too. It opened the same year as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and beat Halloween by a full four years.

3. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

This movie isn’t about Santa Claus himself going berserk and slaughtering a bunch of people. But it is about a troubled teen who does just that in a Santa suit. Billy Chapman starts Silent Night, Deadly Night as a happy little kid, only to witness a man dressed as St. Nick murder his parents in cold blood. Years later, after he has grown up and gotten a job at a toy store, he conducts a killing spree in his own red-and-white suit. The PTA and plenty of critics condemned the film for demonizing a kiddie icon, but it turned into a bona fide franchise with four sequels and a 2012 remake.

4. RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2010)

This Finnish flick dismantles Santa lore in truly bizarre fashion, and it’s not easy to explain in a quick plot summary. But Rare Exports involves a small community living at the base of Korvatunturi mountain, a major excavation project, a bunch of dead reindeer, and a creepy old naked dude who may or may not be Santa Claus. Thanks to its snowy backdrop, the movie scored some comparisons to The Thing, but the hero here isn’t some Kurt Russell clone with equally feathered hair. It’s a bunch of earnest kids and their skeptical dads, who all want to survive the holidays in one piece.

5. TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)

To All a Goodnight follows a by-now familiar recipe: Add a bunch of young women to one psycho dressed as Santa Claus and you get a healthy dose of murder and this 1980 slasher flick. Only this one takes place at a finishing school. So it’s fancier.

6. KRAMPUS (2015)

Although many Americans are blissfully unaware of him, Krampus has terrorized German-speaking kids for centuries. According to folklore, he’s a yuletide demon who punishes naughty children. (He’s also part-goat.) That’s some solid horror movie material, so naturally Krampus earned his own feature film. In the movie, he’s summoned because a large suburban family loses its Christmas cheer. That family has an Austrian grandma who had encounters with Krampus as a kid, so he returns to punish her descendants. He also animates one truly awful Jack-in-the-Box.

7. THE GINGERDEAD MAN (2005)

“Eat me, you punk b*tch!” That’s one of the many corny catchphrases spouted by the Gingerdead Man, an evil cookie possessed by the spirit of a convicted killer (played by Gary Busey). The lesson here, obviously, is to never bake.

8. JACK FROST (1997)

No, this isn’t the Michael Keaton snowman movie. It’s actually a holiday horror movie that beat that family film by a year. In this version, Jack Frost is a serial killer on death row who escapes prison and then, through a freak accident, becomes a snowman. He embarks on a murder spree that’s often played for laughs—for instance, the cops threaten him with hairdryers. But the comedy is pretty questionable in the infamous, and quite controversial, Shannon Elizabeth shower scene.

9. ELVES (1989)

Based on the tagline—“They’re not working for Santa anymore”—you’d assume this is your standard evil elves movie. But Elves weaves Nazis, bathtub electrocutions, and a solitary, super grotesque elf into its utterly absurd plot. Watch at your own risk.

10. SINT (2010)

The Dutch have their own take on Santa, and his name is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands via steamship each year with his racist sidekick Zwarte Piet. But otherwise, he’s pretty similar to Santa. And if Santa can be evil, so can Sinterklaas. According to the backstory in Sint (or Saint), the townspeople burned their malevolent bishop alive on December 5, 1492. But Sinterklaas returns from the grave on that date whenever there’s a full moon to continue dropping bodies. In keeping with his olden origins, he rides around on a white horse wielding a golden staff … that he can use to murder you.

11. SANTA’S SLAY (2005)

Ever wonder where Santa came from? This horror-comedy claims he comes from the worst possible person: Satan. The devil’s kid lost a bet many years ago and had to pretend to be a jolly gift-giver. But now the terms of the bet are up and he’s out to act like a true demon. That includes killing Fran Drescher and James Caan, obviously.

12. ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE (2015)

Another Santa slasher is on the loose in All Through the House, but the big mystery here is who it is. This villain dons a mask during his/her streak through suburbia—and, as the genre dictates, offs a bunch of promiscuous young couples along the way. The riddle is all tied up in the disappearance of a little girl, who vanished several years earlier.

13. CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

Several years before Silent Night, Deadly Night garnered protests for its anti-Kringle stance, Christmas Evil put a radicalized Santa at the center of its story. The movie’s protagonist, Harry Stadling, first starts to get weird thoughts in his head as a kid when he sees “Santa” (really his dad in the costume) groping his mom. Then, he becomes unhealthily obsessed with the holiday season, deludes himself into thinking he’s Santa, and goes on a rampage. The movie is mostly notable for its superfan John Waters, who lent commentary to the DVD and gave Christmas Evil some serious cult cred.

14. SANTA CLAWS (1996)

If you thought this was the holiday version of Pet Sematary, guess again. The culprit here isn’t a demon cat in a Santa hat, but a creepy next-door neighbor. Santa Claws stars B-movie icon Debbie Rochon as Raven Quinn, an actress going through a divorce right in the middle of the holidays. She needs some help caring for her two girls, so she seeks out Wayne, her neighbor who has an obsessive crush on her. He eventually snaps and dresses up as Santa Claus in a ski mask. Mayhem ensues.

15. NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

Because the holidays aren’t over until everyone’s sung “Auld Lang Syne,” we can’t count out New Year’s Eve horror. In New Year’s Evil, lady rocker Blaze is hosting a live NYE show. Everything is going well, until a man calls in promising to kill at midnight. The cops write it off as a prank call, but soon, Blaze’s friends start dropping like flies. Just to tie it all together, the mysterious murderer refers to himself as … “EVIL.”

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