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April 16, 1997 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-04-16

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2 8 The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, April 16, 1997

'Wings' makes final approach

By Kiran Nandalur
For the Daily
May will be a sad month for fans of
true comedy. After seven seasons and
172 episodes, NBC's "Wings" will air
for its last time during sweeps month.
The hour-long finale will culminate a
run that produced countless laughs,
memorable characters, and original
plots.
The Nantucket-based sit-corn star-
ring Brian and Joe Hackett (Steven
Weber and Tim Daly), as pilots running
a small airline, has been able to stand
the test of time by constantly adapting.
During the initial seasons, the bulk of
the humor rooted from the "Odd
Couple" relationship between the
brothers. Brian's shallowness and Joe's
obsessive-compulsive personality made
for some sharp, entertaining exchanges.
Eventually, the show evolved to allow
the secondary characters, like Helen,
Roy, Faye, Lowell and Alex, to play
more significant roles, and pure wacki-
ness ensued. The chemistry between the
diverse cast highlighted the program's
sarcastic and self-defacing nature. Even
after Alex and Lowell left a few years
ago, the addition of Casey and a larger
part for Antonio not only took up the
slack but also elevated the humor to its
highest level. Unfortunately, as evi-
denced by the rehash of old plots and
declining ratings
this season, it was
time for termina- P
tion.
The eclectic
group of characters 4
has been the dri-
ving force behind
the success of "Wings." Antonio
Scarpacci (Tony Shalhoub) may be the
best character on television with the
exception of Homer Simpson. From
being so lonely as to date the dreaded
"big faced" girl to being so poor as to
ride on the outside of busses, the cab
driver has been ridiculously funny.
Another intriguing character was the
departed Lowell Mather (Thomas
Haden Church). With his unique style
of delivery and lowbrow actions, such
as being jealous over the ability to shoot
rats, he played the stupid role to perfec-
tion. Finally, the depraved Roy Biggins

The cast of "Wings" is preparing for its final flight on NBC.

U

(David Schramm) has added to the gen-
erally irreverent mood of the show with
his sexist one-liners. His dual role as an
antagonist and friend to the Hackett
brothers also made for some exception-
ally twisted plots.
E V i E W In a time when
good writing has
Wings become rare,
"Wings" should be
NBC remembered as a
Wednesdays at 9 p.m. model of excel-
lence. The physical
pseudo-comedy prevalent in most sit-
coms today pales in comparison to
theme jokes like that of the "big sand-
wich." The use of recurring characters,
like the psychotic woman who is
obsessed with Joe or the annoying old
man, also makes the show uniquely
memorable. This NBC workhorse and
"Seinfeld" are the only programs that
effectively bring minor characters into
the big picture.
lf it wasn't for the fact that "Wings"
airs four times a day on USA, it would be
sorely missed by dedicated viewers.

One of television's cheesiest coupl4
Helen and Joe of "Wings," will live on
in syndication when their show conies
to an end in May.

Dream-theme books grab readers
Johansen, Theroux capture similar ideas with varying results

The Ugly Duckling
Iris Johansen
Bantam Books
Almost every woman dreams about
being transformed into a stunning beau-
ty whom no handsome man can ignore.
But Nell Calder obtains this dream by
way of a nightmare that changes her life
forever.
In "The Ugly Duckling," by Iris
Johansen, Nell starts out as the plain
but loyal wife of Richard Calder, an
ambitious banker who is working his
way to the top of a large firm. But when
a terrorist attack leaves her body shat-
tered and barely functioning, her world
collapses.
Nell is taken under the wing of a
mysterious agent named Nicholas
Tanek. Through the expertise of a skill-
ful plastic surgeon, Nell is given a new,
stunningly beautiful face - her only
ally after an attack that left her alone in
the world with nothing but sweet
revenge on her mind.
Nell discovers that the attack was the
work of Philippe Gardeaux, a ruthless
and powerful French drug czar. Having
no idea why she was a target in the hit,
she is drawn into the dark underworld
of organized crime, carefully searching
for clues while certain people would
still like to see her dead.
Her only companion in her pursuit of
revenge is Tanek, who is reluctant to.
help her achieve her goal. But through
him, she learns to become a disciplined
yet seductive killing machine, hoping to
bring down Gardeaux and his gang,
though the odds are stacked against her.
"The Ugly Duckling" is an intense
and gripping novel filled with suspense
and intrigue. Though not as well-pol-
ished as many other novels of its genre,
it is still a book that is hard to put
down.
Engrossed readers are never sure
what to expect. Johansen does an
excellent job of keeping her audience
guessing, as Nell never knows who to
trust. And with Nell up against such a
powerful and evil force, the book con-
veys a constant, delicious feeling of
apprehension, as at any moment Nell's
existence could be suddenly wiped
out.
The plot is fairly complex, with a
variety of plot twists and subplots
which make this thriller even more
interesting and entertaining. From delv-

as physically and psychologically weak,
as the submissive wife to her demand-
ing husband. But after her physical
appearance is changed, she also
changes internally, becoming a driven
woman who is strong and unyielding.
Nell is an extremely likable character
and also quite an inspiration. Whether
working at her portraits or sweating it
out in a pseudo-boot camp, Nell is com-
pelling and fascinating.
Tanek is a well-developed character
whose strong and silent nature comple-
ments Nell's character nicely. The two
of them have a Hollywood-ish chem-
istry that would adapt well to a movie
screen.
Other interesting characters include
Joel Lieber, the plastic surgeon who
gave Nell her incredible looks, his
housekeeper Tania, and Paul
Maritz, Gardeaux's
psychotic assassin
who enjoys play-0
ing with knives.
"The Ugly
Duckling" is a sus-
penseful page-turner
about betrayal, sur-
vival and revenge.
Strong from the first to the very last
page, it unravels a dark world through
the eyes of a woman transformed.
Unlike what'the title may imply, "The
Ugly Duckling" is a beauty of a thriller.
- Julia Shih

duces a list of his rather unbelieva~e
accomplishments.
He treats the characters of his life
story in a similar fashion. They are a
diverse group, including a priest at a
leprosy hospital: a bitter book reviewer
who longs to write novels himself; sev-
eral wealthy, seductive older women;
and Theroux's caring wife and two
sons. This is the opportunity for the
author to develop characters and a-
sonal aspect to his life, but he treats
these people the same way that he treats
the events of his life. As a result, these
characters are superficial and unlike-
able. The reader never gains any insight,
and therefore is never drawn into the
story.
Access is even denied to the per-
sonality of Theroux himself. It is not
possible to explore
his ideas oris
g ° nuances l
everything
Sthat the
reader is
allowed& to
know is blunt-
ly stated in the
text. As a result, a character that
could be fascinating appears self-
absorbed and egotistical. There
no pleasant moments of remil-
cence, no regrets, no real thought.
There are only accomplishments and
activities; his life is a giant "To Do"
list, with every item checked for the
world to see.
It is not automatically necessary for
a novel to have a traditional plot; on the
contrary, some of the best novels
appear to have no plot at all. As the
jacket of "My Other Life" says,"it can
seem messier than fiction - st*-
times it appears that he is leading many
separate lives." In this case, however,
there is nothing to tie these lives
together, nothing to make the reader
care while switching from event to
event.
Theroux's fictional life does have its
intriguing moments. Several of the sub-
plots keep the reader glued to the book,
due to the sheer impossibility of the t-
uation and the idea that it.could be 3-
sible. Unfortunately, these moments
never last long enough for the reader to
develop a true interest in the tale. This
is the worst type of fantasy: it-is not
realistic enough to believe, but -is not
fantastic enough to draw in the iiagi-

My Other Life
Paul Theroux
Houghton Mifflin

The idea of a fictional memoir is an
intriguing one. To be able to claim
another life, one full of excitement,
adventure and romance, is a path of
frivolity that we would all like to take at
least once. In "My Other Life" Paul
Theroux attempts to walk this path and
make us believe in the world of his
dreams. However, as in a dream, this
author's fictional life has no pattern or
reason, and leaves the reader with noth-
ing but Theroux's rambling imagina-
tion.
Theroux, the author of several travel
books, takes us through an extraordi-
nary variety of settings in an autobiog-
raphy spanning 30 years of his adult

I-uW
THE CHEAPER WY

ITO CALL COUECTJ I

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