Northern Exposure is an American television series that ran on CBS from 1990 to 1995, with a total of 110 episodes. It dealt with a New York City physician, Dr. Joel Fleischman, who is sent to practice in the (fictional) town of Cicely, Alaska. Early episodes dealt with Fleischman's culture shock in the small town. As he became acclimated, more attention was paid to the town's quirky residents.
The series was given a pair of consecutive Peabody Awards: in 1991–92 for the show's "depict[ion] in a comedic and often poetic way, [of] the cultural clash between a transplanted New York City doctor and the townspeople of fictional Cicely, Alaska" and its stories of "people of different backgrounds and experiences" clashing but who ultimately "strive to accept their differences and co-exist."
The series was created by Brand-Falsey Productions. Critic John Leonard called Northern Exposure "the best of the best television in the past 10 years."Simon Pegg has stated that the series was one of the influences on the British sitcom Spaced.
Northern Exposure has aired in South Africa under a different name; the first four seasons were broadcast in Afrikaans as Goeie Môre, Alaska!, Afrikaans for "Good Morning, Alaska!."
Northern Exposure first concentrated on the protagonist Joel Fleischman, with storylines revolving around his fish-out-of-water difficulties adjusting to Alaska, and his hot-and-cold romantic involvements with Maggie O'Connell. As Northern Exposure continued, supporting characters such as Chris, Ed, Holling, Shelly, Maurice, and Ruth-Anne (along with recurring characters such as Adam and Eve, Barbara Semanski, and Bernard) received more development.
Rob Morrow (Joel Fleischman) and his representatives spent much of Seasons 4 and 5 lobbying for an improved contract, and intermittently threatened to leave the show. The producers responded by reducing Fleischman's role in the storylines, and introducing characters such as Mike Monroe (season 4) and Dr. Phil Capra (season 6) to partially compensate for the absence of Morrow.
Cast and characters
Cynthia Geary, Rob Morrow, and Janine Turner at the 1993 Emmy Awards
Peg Phillips and Barry Corbin at the 1993 Emmy Awards
Rob Morrow starred for most of the series as Joel Fleischman, leaving halfway through the final season. Joel is a Jewish physician and the proverbial fish out of water from New York City; fresh out of family medicine residency, he arrives in the remote Alaskan town of Cicely, contractually bound to practice for four years to repay a student loan from the state of Alaska.
Barry Corbin as Maurice Minnifield, a successful businessman and celebrated former astronaut. Maurice owns the local newspaper and radio station, KBHR 570 AM, and 15,000 acres (61 km2) of land he hopes to develop. Determined to make tiny Cicely the "Alaskan Riviera", Maurice arranges to bring Joel to the town.
Janine Turner as Maggie O'Connell, a tomboyishGrosse Pointedebutante turned Alaska bush pilot, who develops a love-hate relationship with Joel. The sexual tension between the two and their opposed views on most subjects are sources of frequent conflict. The character of Maggie O'Connell was inspired by the real-life aviator Norah O'Neill, who wrote the book, Flying Tigress, about her experiences flying in the Alaskan Bush in the 1970s. O'Neill and Janet Leigh pitched the idea for a show about a female bush pilot before the idea was stolen and developed by someone else into Northern Exposure.
John Cullum as Holling Vincoeur, the Canadian-born sexagenarian owner of the Brick, a bar and restaurant. He and Maurice are best friends, though their relationship was strained at one time by their mutual romantic interest in the much younger Shelly Tambo. Despite being at least 40 years older than Shelly, Holling is afraid that he will outlive her since men is his family live very long lives often over 100.
Cynthia Geary as Shelly Tambo, another Canadian expatriate and former Miss Northwest Passage, who is a waitress at the Brick, where she lives with Holling. She was brought to Cicely by Maurice, who had hoped to marry her. The character was planned to be of Native American descent until Geary auditioned for the role and was selected.
John Corbett as Chris Stevens, a philosophical ex-convict who works as the disc jockey at KBHR 570 AM. Between songs, Chris offers comments on events in Cicely and more intellectual subjects, and occasionally functions as a non-denominational pastor at weddings.
Peg Phillips as Ruth-Anne Miller, the level-headed owner of the general store and 30 year resident of Cicely. A widow, Ruth-Anne lives alone until late in the series, when she becomes involved with Walt Kupfer (Moultrie Patten), a fur trapper and retired stockbroker.
Elaine Miles as Marilyn Whirlwind, Joel's undemonstrative native-Alaskan receptionist. Her few words and calm demeanor are a strong contrast to her employer's loquaciousness and high-strung temperament.
In the show's last season, two new characters were introduced to try to fill the void left by Morrow's departure:
Paul Provenza as Phil Capra, recruited as town physician after Joel takes to the wilderness.
Teri Polo as Michelle Schowdowski Capra, Phil's wife. She also works as a reporter for a newspaper owned by Maurice.
Although the town of Cicely is widely thought to be patterned after the real town of Talkeetna, Alaska, the main street of Cicely and the filming location was that of Roslyn, Washington, located in the Cascade Mountains. "Northern Exposure II" (the main production facility) was located in Redmond, Washington, in what is now the headquarters of Genie Industries, behind a business park.
According to The Northern Exposure Book, the moose in the opening titles was named Mort and was provided by Washington State University, where he was part of a captive herd. To film the opening sequence, the crew fenced off Roslyn, set him loose, and lured him around with food.
Over the course of Northern Exposure's run, the series was nominated for over fifty Emmy Awards and multiple Golden Globe awards. In addition, Joshua Brand and John Falsey received two Peabody Awards, in 1991 and 1992, sharing the latter award with CBS and Finnegan-Pinchuk Company. During one of their thank you speeches, Brand and Falsey said that they appreciated the drama awards, "but it's a comedy."
Big Joe & His Washboard Band – If You Take Me Back
Basin Brothers – Un Marriage Casse (A Broken Marriage)
Vinx – There I Go Again
Les Paul & Mary Ford – Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (and Dream Your Troubles Away)
David Schwartz – Mooseburger Stomp
Joanne Shenandoah – I May Want a Man
Iris Dement – Our Town—played full-length during the closing scene and credits for the last episode (July 26, 1995)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released all six seasons on DVD in Regions 1, 2 & 4. The Region 1 DVD releases have caused controversy among the show's fans, due to their high prices and for the changes to the soundtrack introduced in order to lower their costs. The release of season 1 contained the original music, but retailed for $60 due to the cost of music licensing. Subsequent seasons replaced most of the music with generic elevator-style music, resulting in a lower-cost release. The first and second seasons were also re-released together in packaging that matches the third through sixth seasons.
^Mark Harris & Kelli Pryor (26 July 1991). "Total Exposure". Entertainment Weekly. (via Moosechick Notes, a fansite). Retrieved 21 July 2009. "The loyalty the show excites even reached into network offices. "Of course it will be back next September," said one senior CBS executive long before the series was renewed. "My God, there are people here who would start a hanging party if it weren't." When CBS, thirsting for younger viewers, brought Exposure back this spring, it became a top 10 hit among the coveted audience of 18 to 49 year-olds. In the 10 p.m. Monday time slot following Designing Women, the show is drawing its best ratings ever."