Northern Exposure

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"It's like brother Nietzsche said: being human is a complicated gig, so give that dark night of the soul a hug and howl the eternal yes."
Chris in the Morning

The exception to the Too Good to Last rule. Every once in a great while, a show that seems to fit the profile actually makes it. Case in point: Northern Exposure. (Intelligent, well-written show, check. Subtle blend of comedy and drama, check. Beloved by a devoted fanbase and critics, check.) It came on in its first season as a Midseason Replacement, and had only a handful of episodes. It wasn't picked up for the fall, but was held back as a mid-season replacement again, so its second season also had just a handful of episodes. Which would seem just right for the chopping block -- but it went on to have four full seasons after that.

The story:

Joel Fleischman is a young doctor from New York City, fresh from med school, who is contractually obliged to practice medicine in the small town of Cicely, Alaska as part of a financial aid package from the state. As Fleischman dreams of escaping Cicely, the locals all seem to be escaping from the rest of the world.

The quirky locals include:

  • Maurice Minnifield, a millionaire former astronaut who wants to turn his 15,000 acres of nearby land into an attractive vacation spot on the "new Alaskan Riviera".
  • Maggie O'Connell, a bush pilot from a rich family who has a love-hate relationship with Fleischman.
  • Marilyn Whirlwind, the utterly laconic, native Alaskan receptionist who is the perfect foil to all Fleischman's Woody Allenesque whining.
  • Chris "in the Morning" Stevens, the philosophic DJ (and former JD) at the local radio station.
  • Ed Chigliak, a native Alaskan with an affable lack of tact and an Encyclopaedic Knowledge of film.

The show holds a similarity to Twin Peaks, with its use of extensive dream imagery, fantasy elements, and symbolism to explore its characters, and was one of the most successful "stealth fantasy" shows (in that most fans of the show would never admit that it was a fantasy show) in network television history. It lasted a single season after Rob Morrow left the show, and Fleischman was Suspiciously Similar Substituted by Paul Provenza's character Phil Capra.

Tropes used in Northern Exposure include: