Northern Exposure, which ran from 1990 to 1995, is set in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska, where the residents are lovable eccentrics whose lives are set in a world of magic realism, limited only by the writers’ imaginations. It’s a place where it’s perfectly natural for ex-boyfriends to be reincarnated as dogs, for a 60-year-old man to experience a mid-life crisis, and for Cirque du Soleil and the Djembe West African Drummres and Dancers to pass through town without anyone finding it odd.
Since the show’s plots are filled with events that are new and unusual for most viewers, its creators, Joshua Brand and John Falsey created a brilliant premise that allowed a character to experience Cicely as the audience did. The character is Dr. Joel Fleischman, who agreed to complete a residency in Alaska in order to get $125,000 for medical school from the state. He is assigned to Cicely when Anchorage doesn’t need him. Joel acts as the audience’s surrogate, having the reactions and asking the questions that any outsider naturally would without causing the story to come to a halt.
Season three ran from September 1991 to May 1992 and was the series’ first full season. Joel’s fiancée back in New York left him, opening up the possibility for a romance between Joel and pilot Maggie O’Connell if they could ever stop squabbling. Of course, it might put a crimp in things once Joel learns that every one of Maggie’s boyfriends has died in a freak accident. In the season’s first episode, a memorial is being held for Rick, Maggie’s latest late boyfriend, who was killed by a falling piece of satellite.
This season was showered with awards. It won both the Emmy and Golden Globe for Outstanding Drama Series. The hallmark of the show was ingenious writing that had clever plots and marvelous dialogue that provided a great reminder of what a pleasure listening to the English language can be. The Christmas-themed episode “Seoul Mates” won Emmy an for Best Writing for a Drama and two other episodes were nominated along side it.
The ensemble cast was gifted as well. Valerie Mahaffey won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for her performance as uber-hypochondriac Eve. Also nominated were Rob Morrow as Fleishman, Cynthia Geary as Shelly, who’s boyfriend Holling is about 40 years older than her, and John Corbett as Chris in the Morning, the philosophy-spouting DJ on the town’s only radio station, years before he went on to become Aidan, the best boyfriend ever in the history of mankind, on Sex and the City.
The last episode of the season “Cicely,” which told the founding of the town with the cast playing other roles was bestowed with Emmys for Art Direction, Cinematography, Editing (Single Camera) and was also nominated for Make-Up. The episode also received a Peabody, an Eddie and a DGA award.
The DVD set has extras that contain deleted and extended scenes, outtakes and lost storylines that were cut out of episodes. The storylines are a wonderful discovery from the vaults, providing new moments with dear old friends. Some of the soundtrack music has been altered due to licensing problems.
Fans of the show will be glad to get their hands on this set. The show is still very fresh and doesn’t feel dated. Its quality would allow it to fit onto any network schedule and has been an inspiration for shows, such as Ed. If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to watch one of the best shows of the ‘90s.